Tuesday, January 11, 2011

London 22.12.10: Mince Pies and Panforte Farces

I have no proof that the young man at the coffee shop yesterday was Canadian.  Save for those shibboleths that supposedly set the speech of much of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and B.C. apart from the speech of the upper half of the U.S.—oot and aboot—the two speech patterns sound much the same to me.  Except that he said bēēn.  And that, of course, could be a self-conscious adoption of the standard English pronunciation by an American living in England.

Lunch at a Moroccan open-air booth in Camden Market yesterday.  Undistinguished.  I had chicken tagine and Steve lamb, mine over couscous and his over rice.  His was better, a bit spicier.  Chicken in mine rather tired. 

Still, a treat to have so many different cuisines at our fingertips.  And mince pie everywhere.  Though I’m not supposed to have sweets, Steve and I split a small one, a tart, at the coffee shop yesterday, and we’re having another now with espresso (S.) and cappuccino (me) at a café near Leicester Square, as we wait to rendezvous with T.W. for lunch.

The one yesterday wonderful, with a well-baked, almost crunchy, pastry and a filling long on orange peel and apricot.  This one a bit too raisiny.  And we bought one from Waitrose to split last evening.  It, too, was delicious.

Evening meal: we went to Waitrose and got one of their prepared ham and cheese sandwiches and a container of roasted red peppers to layer on.  With a container of cracked olives in herbs and garlic, some cheddar potato chips from Devon, and two English cheeses—Lancashire Poacher and Leicester Red—we were well set.

And some wonderful apple juice with elderflower infusion to mix with lightly sparkling water and a dollop of lemon cordial, along with a Côtes du Rhône red wine.  A resplendent relaxed in-room feast after a long day of market walking and book shopping that ended at Foyles in Charing Cross Road.

Funny encounter at Waitrose.  I see a display of Christmas baked goods, many of them imported, and look for panforte.  None to be found.

Nearby, a tall, matronly English woman has cornered a short, small Waitrose staff member who looks to be from the Middle East.  She’s blessing him out: No, you see, this is not what I asked for.  And: I’ve waited a very long time, you know.

All this vis-à-vis a bottle of dishwashing liquid.

She hulks over him, made more imposing by a fur-ringed hat mirrored by a fur-ringed collar—come to think of it, not unlike pictures of Oscar Wilde I’ve seen, though I suspect he had it all over her in the intelligence and wit department.

An ectomorph, with the tendency of some people of that body type to be acerbic . . . .

I stood patiently waiting for her to end her first (or second) lesson, when the staff person caught my eye.  He seemed grateful in the extreme to be diverted from ectomorphic rantings about dish soap and asked if he could help me.

I tell him I’m looking for panforte, and ectomorph chimes in: What’s tan fortay?  Well, sort of a cross between fruitcake and candy, I reply, fascinated that she’s usurped the Waitrose person’s role as a customer assistant.

A sweet, I add, seeing I’m not getting through.  Italian.  A Christmas speciality.

And now a light goes off: Ah, well, you see, you might find tan fortay in Italy then.  Not here in England.

Meanwhile, the poor beleaguered Waitrose man is calling the manager of that department, and discovers that they have, indeed, been selling tan fortay, and are sold out.  Though it’s Italian, and I shouldn’t expect to find it in England.

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