Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


Porky Pies

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian you might want to skip this post as it’s full of meat. Pork, that is.  I did jokingly tell TheBrit the other day that if the cost of meat keeps going up we might have to consider going vegetarian.  He was not amused.

This is obviously not a food blog.  In fact I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about food before.  Cooking is something I do to relax.  I love to cook!  Mostly I make homey, comfort foods.  I can do what TheBrit calls poncy food (that’s frufru for all you Americans out there), but that ain’t really my thing.  Yes, I said ain’t.  Sue me.

Anyway TheBrit has been here in the U.S. since July of 2012 and there are some things from Merry Old England he kind of misses.  Pasties, the bread (he says our mass produced stuff is crap), British Ales, and pork pie.  Apparently pork pies are a British staple.  It’s not something we do here.  We can’t just go in the local grocery store and buy pork pies.

I’ve tried my hand at a few things, like Giraffe Bread.  It turned out pretty good but rice flour is a little hard to get here.  There’s only one grocery store I’ve found that carries it and they bloody think it’s gold.  I do buy the fresh baked breads in the bakery at the local shop but still those are no comparison to English granary breads.

I attempted, shortly after his arrival in the States, to make a proper pork pie.  His mother sent me a recipe.  In British – I mean, Imperial weights and measures.  It’s probably better to weigh things like flour in grams and have liquids measured in mls.  But…well…I’m American!!!!  We do cups and ounces.  And, yes, it probably would have been advisable to do the conversions prior to starting but that would have been just too easy.  So I did it as I went along.  Needless to say it was a disaster.

First of all I attempted, without even knowing what a pork pie should even look like or taste like, to make hand raised pork pies.  By the time I got done playing with the dough I’d made it was way overworked and was never going to work for hand raised pies.  The pie I made, after dutifully watching a youtube video showing me how to do it in a springform pan, was well short of the mark. 😦

TheBrit ate it.  Afterall he was somewhat obligated after all the trouble I went to.

I did order TheBrit a care package last Christmas from The English Pork Pie Company which included some Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Traditional Pork Pies, a few pasties, and some Scotch Eggs.   I don’t think I tasted any of it.  He used them for work lunches and it didn’t take long for them to disappear.  While he said he enjoyed them(evidenced by said disappearance), he also said they lost a little something having been frozen.  That coupled with the fact that it cost me nearly as much to have them shipped as it did to buy them made them cost prohibitive.

After all this time, and after a day of vigorous activity, TheBrit sighed and said, “I need a pork pie.”  So I Googled up Traditional Pork Pie recipes.  I found quite a few and the result was a combination of about three recipes. I decided to surprise him with another attempt.   It’s the thought that counts, right?

I went to the grocery store armed with my shopping list.  The pork shoulder which the recipe called for was very expensive and I ended up with a less expensive pork loin.  The fresh back bacon was nowhere to be found.  All we have in our local market is smoked bacon.  Pancetta may have worked but I couldn’t find that either so bacon was eliminated from the recipe.  There were no fresh pig trotters(feet) either – only smoked.  I found some pork neck bones that hadn’t been smoked so I bought those.

I half expected this to turn out disastrous again since I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants and changing the ingredients.  Undeterred, however, I put together what I am now going to call Traditional South Georgia Pork Pies.

Here’s how they looked after all my hard work:



In walks TheBrit from a hard day at work and exclaims, “Proper pork pies!”  He devoured three of them for his “tea” and left a couple for a snack the next day.  They turned out not too bad if I do say so myself.  I’ve never tasted pork pie so I thought they were pretty good.  TheBrit says they were the best ones he’s ever eaten.  He said, “I could never get that in England.”

Ah, success!


A Midsomer Dream

The High Street, Midsomer Norton

During my first visit to England in September I went around to four villages spending the day taking in the sights.  The villages there are all so charming.  They are exactly like you see in the movies or on television.  Cascading flowers, climbing vines, and breathtaking architecture.

A lovey residential district in Midsomer Norton

Row houses line the streets.  If all the cars were removed from the streets it was as if I’d stepped back in time.  I felt as if I’d been transported to the pages of a Charles Dickens novel.

A beautiful bistro in Wells

I fell in love with this little place.  There were some places I just couldn’t get out of my imagination even after I left.

A thriving butcher shop in Bath

True dress shops, pastry shops and butcher shops fill the high street with thriving businesses. I had a fabulous time watching the people going about their day busily passing me by on the sidewalk, making their way in to buy fresh meat and bread for the day.

A busy day in on the High Street in Wells

I’m a people watcher.  I love to stand back and watch people go by and imagine what their lives must be like, where they’re from, and what they do. In America the big box stores have nearly shut down all the mom ‘n pop stores, not so in England.  Shops are bustling with activity.  Every storefront on the high streets are filled with locally owned establishments.

Municipal Building in Radstock

They make use of and maintain the buildings they have instead of tearing down and making way for the new.

Mallard’s Pub, Midsomer Norton
There’s a pub on nearly every corner.  This one is situated adjacent to a church.  I found that strange because any establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold where I’m from must be at least 500 yards from any religious establishment.  The Tour Guide just laughed about that. He found it funny and said, “The people will walk straight out of that Church on Sunday and into that pub and order a drink.”  I’ve wished for such after a few church services myself. :~)
City Park, Bath, England
City Park, Bath England
   Well manicured lawns, eye catching focal points, and well placed statues grace their parks.
Did I say that sometimes I think it might be good to just pack up and move away?  Ahhhh……a girl can dream, can’t she?


Churches of England Part Deux

The beautiful village of Wells, England captured me.  The high street was filled with people carrying on their daily business, oblivious to me.  This streetscape and skyline are breathtaking.
There was a blind man in this square preaching his heart out.  He was holding his Bible over his head, shouting out everyone’s need for a Savior and giving his personal testimony.   I stood there and listened for a few minutes.  He wasn’t obnoxious or overbearing.  He was pleading.
Just beyond the square, nestled into the corner is this quaint little setting.
 Through the stone opening just left of center is a masterpiece…
Wells Cathedral, built and expanded on between 1175 and 1490 A.D. –  mostly completed by 1239 A.D.
The facade of this mammoth cathedral is covered in stone carved saints.  The detail is exquisite.
Perched above the high altar is this work of art.
The architecture and detail are stunning.

My pictures don’t do the stained glass justice!

One can only imagine this great hall filled with the sounds of this massive pipe organ.

Down this corridor and out that door is a beautiful courtyard.

A view of the cathedral from the courtyard.
I am in awe at the dedication and perseverance it must have taken to complete this painstaking labor of love.   Words cannot adequately describe the beauty that is this work of art.


Churches of England

When I went to England in September I was simply blown away by all the architecture. On just about every corner in the villages and sprinkled what seemed every few miles in the countryside was a Church.  The pubs were just as frequent.  We’d be driving along in the middle of nowhere and boom…a pub…and a Church.  We’re not talking a little old wooden church in the woods.  Every one is made of stone with large wooden doors hundreds of years old.

I only spent five days there though I could have stayed five weeks.  It was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.  Having stayed through a Sunday I did go to Mass at an Anglican Church that belongs to the Church of England.  This is the one that I went to.

St. John the Baptiste Church, Midsomer Norton

It was the first liturgical service I’d ever attended.  The vicar was very sing-songy while reciting his part of the liturgy.  Having never participated in a service of this kind, I was lost until a woman in front of me showed me the prayer and liturgy book.  Even then I was still a bit confused because depending on what the vicar recited there were two or three options that the congregants were to respond with.  Just call me blonder than I pay to be.*grin* We sang some hymns and though the words were familiar, the tunes were completely different and no music was played.  The acapella hymns echoed off the hard surfaces of the stone carved interior.  At the time I thought I didn’t really care for the service.  It seemed so formal and rigid.  Reflecting later, though, I realize just how much I really did enjoy it.  Though I felt like a fish out of water I saw beauty in the tradition and  reverence, awe and purpose for each implement.  When the time came for the Eucharist people slowly filed out of each pew and down to the front to kneel at the prayer bench.  Even if there was no intent to partake of the Eucharist one could simply cross their arms and receive a blessing from the vicar.  I stayed quietly in my seat.

The next day was a full day of sightseeing.  I had my own personal tour guide.  We drove to a car park and caught a bus into Bath.

Bath Abbey originally founded in 675 AD as a monastery.  The detail on the stone carvings is unbelievable.
Bath Abbey, Bath England
Bath Abbey, Bath, England
Nave, Bath Abbey

Bath is only a short distance from Midsomer Norton.  It’s absolutely breathtaking!

The stained glass is something to behold.  Vibrant colors all telling a story of saints and angels and Christ.

Stained Glass, Bath Abbey

We walked, and we walked, and we walked some more.  Up 217 steps of narrow, steep spiral staircase to get to the top of the spire at Bath Abbey.  In every direction as far as I could see there are church spires reaching up toward the sky.

My trip was certainly an eyeopening experience. The people there were lovely and didn’t seem hung up on a lot of the things we are here.  They didn’t appear to be sizing me up by what religion, political party or race I belong to.  They embraced me for who I am, I didn’t have to put on any airs.  Just me, and that was good enough.

Oh, I thought I’d be going back in September of 2011, but I just can’t wait that long.  So I’m leaving Friday on a jet plane…..