Dear England: Your food needs PR.

Posted on
Nov 19, 2009

Branding is everything.

Whenever anyone disputes this point, my husband brings up Altria. They saw a jump in investors when they stopped calling themselves Philip Morris. Altria sounds new and youthful. Philip Morris sounds like a hacking cough.

So while I was impressed with some of the copywriting I saw in the U.K., as well as the food, their cuisine needs a bit of rebrand. Let’s take a look a few examples from our lovely day in Brighton

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Pickled Eggs

Ewwww .... and also, ewwwww.

Ewwww .... and also, ewwwww.

This might be the one instance in the history of time where “devil” is a preferable word to “pickle”. Even “brined eggs” might have been preferred here. But “pickled eggs”? No no no. Combining two things you find in most people’s refrigerators, and then NOT REFRIGERATING THEM is a very bad idea. With a better name they might be … ah, hell. Who am I kidding? The name doesn’t matter at this point. Just don’t eat these unless you want Botulism.

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Jellied Eels

God help us.

Only Superman can save us now.

Okay, seriously England? Don’t give the Scottish a run for their money in the “cuisine that will make you question the existence of god” department. Like pickled eggs, “jellied eel” isn’t just a bad name – it’s a bad idea in general. But hey – other countries (like Italy, France, and Germany) serve it – it just sounds better when they say it. How about we take a page from the Italians and call it “Anguilla” (and leave it to the Italians to actually make it look good, too)? That sounds better already. Or at least, less Halloween-y.

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Condiment Sachets

Oooh - sachet! Sounds like something in your sock drawer.

Admit it: sachet sounds too good for the likes of you.

Of course, the Brits  were bound to get something right. I love the idea of calling little packets of condiments “sachets“. For one thing, it’s way more economical, wordwise, than “little packets of condiments”. For another, it sounds elegant and delightful. Of course, the only sachet I own is lavender, so the first thing that comes to mind is reaching into your sock drawer and having it smell of mayonnaise. Which is horrifying. Unless you like mayonnaise.

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Clotted Cream and Cream Tea

While walking in Brighton, Rand and I saw a sign that read “Cream Tea”.

“What’s cream tea?” I asked, thinking it was a beverage.

Apparently, to someone from England, this is equivalent to asking, “What’s lunch?” As John and Lisa explained, Cream Tea is actually a mid-afternoon snack, consisting of tea and scones with clotted cream (we’ll get to that in a second) and jam. It differs from High Tea, which is more elaborate, and often includes sandwiches and cakes.

Lisa and John marched us into the tea house where we had seen the sign, and ordered us Cream Tea for five. Of course, at this point, we still didn’t really know what was going on. Also, I might have said, while sitting at a table with white linens and flowered china, that “the name ‘cream tea’ sounds like some sort of sex act.” The proprietress heard this, and fortunately thought that was hysterical.

Thank you, Obama, for making it so that obnoxious Americans can be considered clever and charming again.

The most distinguishing factor about cream tea, and the main reason it makes it to this list, is the inclusion of something called “clotted cream“. I had heard of it before, but never actually seen it. To look at, it resembles slightly melted vanilla ice cream, but the taste is much milder – like something between butter and cream. It’s made by … well, I have no idea how it’s made, since there’s roughly 500,000 recipes online, and none of them are similar in the least. But it’s cool and yummy and tastes great on scones (despite it’s artery-clogging tendencies).

Which brings me to the name. Clotted cream. Are you effing kidding me? Seriously? CLOTTED? The only thing, dear friends, that this (or I suspect, any) blogger thinks of when she sees the word “clotted” is blood. Seriously – type “clot” into any search engine. The results don’t vary. Blood, blood, blood. Why someone thought it would be a good idea to describe anything you eat as “clotted” (and then follow it up with the word “cream” – dear god, no) is entirely beyond me.

Especially since there are sooo many options here. Call it butter-cream. Or whipped butter-cream. Or buttery cream. Yummy cream. Lumpy cream. ANYTHING BUT CLOTTED.

See how innocuous it looks?

See how innocuous it looks?

Seriously – do you know what a hit this stuff could be in the states with a different name? It’s creamy. It’s white-ish. It’s like ice cream that doesn’t melt, but more fattening. It was practically made for the American market. Sigh. I hate to see lost opportunities.

Whatever you choose to call it, remember: cream tea is a civilized affair. So sit up, attempt to raise one eyebrow(even if you can’t, actually, and doing so makes you look constipated), stick out that pinky finger, and be as proper as you can.

Oh my god, why are you so insane? - Rand

"Oh my god, why are you so insane?" - Rand

Strangely enough, that’s also good advice for “cream tea”, the sex act.

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So, to sum up: if you rename things, England, they might be a bit more popular. Which is why I’ve started saying I’m from “Obamaland”, and why you seem to be putting up with me.

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