June 01, 2009

Jacket potatoes

The cupboard was pretty bare yesterday when I set about making my lunch, but I rummaged around and found a fat Russet and a small can of lima beans. I nuked the potato, split it open, poured the limas on top and was culinarily transported to England.

Foodwise, I find England a challenge. It's hard to maintain a healthy diet in a deep-fried kingdom of pub grub. I don't eat meat, so bacon and bangers and burgers are out, and I run away from anything batter-dipped and/or boiled in oil, so most everything else English is out, too.

In England, people start eating chips -- french fries -- at breakfast. Chips are paired with everything: eggs and chips; fish and chips; chicken and chips; sausage and chips; mussels and chips; pizza and chips... You can eat your chips sitting down or you can order "chips to take away," dripping grease and wrapped in a cone made from yesterday's newspaper.

In Polperro, a gem of a fishing village tucked into a secret corner of the Cornwall coast, I discovered the meal that would carry me through England: the jacket potato, so-named because the potato -- the meal's foundation -- is left unpeeled, then baked and served in its skin, topped with a filling of your choice.

As we made our way through southern England, Mike and the kids ate chips and whatever gross, greasy things the chips accompanied while I spent a grease-free week eating big baked potatoes topped with lovely stuff like cottage cheese, baked beans, peas and tomato sauce.

Yesterday, as I sat on my deck eating my lima-smothered potato, I imagined I could hear the seagulls and smell the brine of tiny Polperro and its beautiful harbor.