One of the natives I have been in contact with has been offering to show me “some proper English grub” for several days. I was given to understand that this meant he intended to feed me. Yesterday, the rations I brought with me ran out, so I finally gave in.
The scientists have told me that, by happy coincidence, the majority of the natives’ food is perfectly safe for our kind. I simply needed to inform my host that I was allergic to nuts, tomatoes, pulses, mushrooms, gluten, lactose and dogs. His response was: “Don’t worry, none of that crap in my kitchen! Proper English food, remember?”
The plate held a steaming mountain of yellowy white with flecks of brown and a big dollop of green on the side. Nestled on top lay three fleshy cylinders, browned on top and grey on the sides. I poked one of these with my fork (a skewering utensil with several – usually 4 – prongs in a straight line.) and a greasy liquid trickled out from the puncture.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s bloody delicious, is what it is,” said my host, around a mouthful of brown and yellow. “Tuck in!”
His mountain was already down to a modest hill by then. Determined not to be rude and not to begin starving, I cut the end off a cylinder and put it in my mouth. Based on the shape and texture, I was expecting a vegetable, so I was pleased to encounter a savoury-sweet meatiness upon chewing. Encouraged, I devoured the rest of the cylinder in one mouthful. I thought perhaps this was an insect of some sort; the aforementioned ‘grub’.
“Good sausages, aren’t they? I got some of those fancy ones with 95% pork.”
This only made me wonder: if only 95% is pig, what is the other 5%?
Put off my sausages, I considered my other options. The green area gave off an unappealing odour and looked equally unappetizing. So I set to excavating the white mound. An initial sample proved it bland and starchy but quite inoffensive. Larger portions came with tiny, yellow-brown seeds, which sent a pleasant heat up my nose, and burnt-brown squares, which sweetened the white paste. These embellishments altered my opinion considerably and I said so to my host.
“Yeah, mash is a bit boring. I always mix in a little something with the spuds to spice it up… usually wholegrain mustard and caramelized onions, like today. Sometimes cheese, but I guess that wouldn’t work for you!”
Bolstered by these encounters, I finally braved the green mush. There are, after all, many foods that look and smell disgusting and yet taste wonderful. At least, that was my reasoning, but I still cannot think of any. It had the taste and texture of wet and mouldy tissue. While I was trying to wash down the layer left in my mouth, I had the discomforting feeling that the whole meal had been chewed for me.
“Not a fan of mushy peas, then? Oh well, they’re not for everyone…” said my host, scraping my green onto his plate.
“Peas… are a pulse,” I choked, just before my food splashed back onto the plate. It looked rather like it had before I ate it, only wetter and mixed around a little.
Writing Excuses gives listeners a writing prompt each week. This week’s was: “Describe a food that is familiar to you from the point of view of a character who has never encountered it, nor anything like it.”