Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Now They Tell Me

Yesterday, after 12 years and four months on this island, I discovered they don’t have canned corn beef hash here. I wish someone had told me about this sooner.

I’m not saying it would have been a deal-breaker, but it might have encouraged me to come better prepared (perhaps instead of eight bags of Halls Mentho-lyptus cough drops, I might have brought only four and two cans of Hormel). That way, I could have been prepared and I wouldn’t be feeling the way I am feeling at the moment.

This all came about because of the Jersey Royal Potatoes (tm), but first I want to remind you about the hot dogs.

Make no mistake: the do not have hot dogs here. What they have are things that come in a can or a jar that are shaped something like hot dogs, and that call themselves hot dogs, and sometimes try to fool you by claiming to be “American Style” hot dogs but, trust me, they are to actual hot dogs what your uncle Barry—who considers himself an ace Elvis Impersonator—is to the real Elvis.

Above Left: Your Uncle Barry   Above Right: The King
Lower Left: "American" Hot Dog (because nothing says "American" like "Ye Olde Oak"
Lower Right: The real deal
They try that shit with other things, too.
"New York" bagels? Fat chance.

However, every time summer rolls around I get the urge to have a hot dog, and conveniently forget the disappointment suffered the year before (this is the same psychological phenomenon that makes the Brits become excited over the World Cup every four years) and end up buying a jar of hot dogs and eating them until I feel sick.

This year, I resolved to not fall for the trickery of “American Style,” and I did really well. I mean, here it is the beginning of July and, well, anyway, about those Jersey Royals (tm).

It’s Jersey Royal Potato (tm) Season here in Blighty, and people go ga-ga for these expensive, tiny, yet wildly popular, spuds. The “wildly popular” portion is due to the unique flavor derived from the soil of Jersey (the Channel Island, not the kidney-shaped state) and the traditional seaweed fertilizer they use, or is it because the word “Royal” is in the name and, despite being outwardly snarky about the Royal Family, the Brits, deep down, really love them and anything associated with them, I’m not sure which. The “expensive” part is due to the fact that, because they are so small, the islanders import leprechauns to harvest them, and these wee, gold-hoarding folk have a strong union and won’t work for under £25 an hour. And the “tiny” part is, well, because they are tiny.

Like potatoes, only smaller.
I don’t recall having this particular brand of potato in the States, but if we did, we probably wouldn’t call them Jersey Royals (tm), we’d most likely refer to them as “those tiny little potatoes; chuck ‘em to the hogs and bring in some real ones.”

Not surprisingly, we bought some. We had them for dinner the other day. They tasted like potatoes, only smaller, but because I really like potatoes, I saved the few, ping-pong ball sized leftovers to have for lunch the following day.

Let us move, now, to the following day, where I am heading home on the noon bus. I’m wondering what to have for lunch when I remember the Jersey Royal Potatoes (tm) in the fridge and I think about how good they will taste sliced and fried. And what, pondered I, would be the perfect meat accompaniment?

The first thing that sprang to mind was haggis. I kid you not; fried haggis and potatoes tastes almost as good as the smell of fried haggis is bad—a sort of inverse ratio. I even had haggis in the freezer (tell me you don’t) but, as the phrase suggests, it was frozen and I wouldn’t have time to thaw it out.

So the next meat-type accompaniment to fried Jersey Royal Potatoes (tm) then entered my mind: corned beef hash. This surprised me, because I hadn’t thought about it for years, but once it entered my mind, it would not leave. And so, on the way home, I visited three different stores, and not one of them stocked cans of corned beef hash. Arriving home disappointed, I fried up the potatoes with some eggs; it just wasn’t the same.

That evening, I related the story to my wife. She refused to take responsibility for her county’s lack of foresight and instead insisted that corned beef hash was not something native to a can but something you can actually make.

Sweet Jesus!

Imagine cooking and combining potatoes and beans and corn beef and spices and all manner of miscellaneous ingredients. It wouldn’t simply be a lot of work, it might actually be healthy, and taste really good. Who wants that?

Looks tasty, no?
Real corn beef, the corn beef I was weaned on, comes out of a can: it looks like dog food, it smells like dog food and, for all I know (I don’t often eat dog food) it tastes like dog food. But it’s what I think of when I think of corned beef.

Looks tasty? NO!!!
(Now, imagine a Brit coming to America and asking for some corned beef, expecting to get his version but getting mine, instead; now you know how I feel about their hot dogs.)

And this is why I ended up in Sainsbury’s this morning. You see, we shop at Waitrose (you Brits will understand; for you American, it’s like shopping at Hannaford as opposed to Costco) and, if such a thing as canned corned beef hash did exist in Britain, they wouldn’t stock it anyway. So, with hope in my heart, I went to Sainsbury’s because, if there was a store that would stock such an item, it would be Sainsbury’s. (Actually, it would be Tesco, but I couldn’t be arsed to walk that far.)

As you have already guessed, they didn’t have any.

But, because it was summer, and because I was there (and so were they) I bought a jar of American Style Hot Dogs (along with a packet of cheap buns), came home, and ate them until I felt sick. All because of a Jersey Royal Potato (tm).

So if you’ll excuse me now, I think I need to lie down for a while.


  1. This is sort of the way I feel about Howard's Old Fashioned Picallilli when I forget to get some before departing New England for Iowa. Once you've left New England, you simply cannot get any. I discovered, however, that they DO mail the stuff. It's expensive, but worth it when there is no other way. Amazing what I will eat it with!

    1. Strange I never heard of Howard's Picallilli, being from that general area. I looked it up on-line; looks tasty.

  2. Try these people Michael (I am not connected in any way, and this is not a spam message!)


    the might be able to get just what you want!

    1. Sadly, they don't seem to have Hormel Corned Beef Hash. They do have B&M Baked Beans, though ;)

  3. Can't you just buy the loose stuff and fiddle with it?

    1. But...but...that sounds like work!

  4. This is great! I have similar thoughts when it comes to hot dogs. I didn't know that they sold them in a can here, but I've had fat sausages that claim to be hot dogs and they are most assuredly not.

    1. There are few things I miss from the US, but a barbecued hot dog in July, surely there must be a constitutional codicil that assures me of that right as an American citizen.

  5. I'm sure that tinned corned beef hash is nicer than it looks... not! My version is dead easy - boil potatoes and mash them, or cut them up roughly if you prefer, chop corned beef into bits, mix together as thoroughly or not as you fancy, grate a load of cheese on top, bake in oven. We like it better than the fried version with the lumps. Even better if you have a bit of leftover cheese sauce to spread on top before the grated cheese.

    There you go, even you could do that, Mike!

    I didn't know you could get corned beef that doesn't come in tins until I went to some place in Philadelphia where they make their own. It tasted the same but saltier. I wonder what it's actually made of and if it contains any actual beef? And if so, how does it get to be so pink?!

    1. That sounds:
      A: Delicious
      B: Like work

      Open can; heat; eat ;)

  6. I've seen tins of corned beef hash in my local pound shop (though I didn't try it), and according to the Tesco website, they sell both tinned and frozen varieties.

    The spuds, by the way, are called Jersey Royals. This is apparently a registered trademark, so if the ones you bought were Royal Jerseys, then they must have been fakes.

    1. The Pound Shop! Brilliant! And I walked right past one and didn't think to look -- but, if I had, I just would have gone home and made lunch and not written this post, and what fun would that have been? ;)

      RE: Royal Jersey Royals
      Counterfeit Potatoes!?!? That's what I get for buying them from some dodgy guy in a dark alley out of the back of his van ("Psst! Hey Buddy, you wanna buy some spuds?")

      I think it was more a case of me being confused. I even did a modicum of research on Jersey Royals (tm) and still managed to call them Royal Jerseys in the post. Thanks for noticing; I will fix it.

      But now that you have alerted me to the lucrative counterfeit potato racket, I have to wonder what we actually did buy.

      (NOTE: obviously I jest about the counterfeit potatoes, but I suspect such a thing does exist; I have heard there is a good business in fake honey.)