canal boats, Cooking, Cruising, Dining Tips, England, Humor, narrowboats, Travel, writing
I promised I would write about the Anderton Boat Lift, and I will. Just be patient. First I need to catch up a bit about some of the other ‘random items’ I’ve noted in my little book. I’ll start with the food, as I’m sure many of you are curious to know what it is like, given the inevitably limited space for a kitchen on a narrowboat. Well, never fear. Narrow or not, the kitchen is obviously quite suitable for preparing lovely meals. As are the cooks. I believe that all three of the distaff crew members had a hand in the cooking at various times. That had to be juggled with other crewing duties, of course. All credit to them for doing an excellent job.
I should explain a couple things about breakfast, which was served promptly at 8:15 each morning. There was always some form of the traditional English cooked breakfast, with the variations being the addition of something like kippers, black pudding, or croissants. Now I have to confess, I’m not a fan of English cooked breakfasts. Never have been. I think it’s the bacon that puts me off. You Americans who have traveled in England or Australia will know what I mean. It isn’t what we’re used to, even after 30 years, in my case. But for all of you who are not so pernickety about bacon, I think you would find the breakfasts on the boat delightful. But wait! There’s more! In addition to the above option, in whatever form it might take on the day, we were also given a choice of a boiled egg (daily) or other option, e.g. porridge. AND, there was always juice, toast, prunes, cereal, and grapefruit on the table. So everyone was bound to be happy, and we were.
There’s one other thing about breakfast; we ‘ordered’ it the evening before. The choices for the next day were posted on a small chalk board at dinner time and it was up to us to indicate who (as in, how many) wanted what. Several of my fellow guests auditioned for the job, but it was ultimately determined that the job was mine. I think it was due to the clarity with which I explained the changes and exceptions. And I usually got to the chalk first.
Afternoon tea was always a pleasure. We would always have something yummy, freshly baked by one of the girls. There was one unfortunate incident, however. It came to be known as The Chocolate Cake Incident. Here’s what happened: On the third day out, I was in my cabin, thought to be dozing—but that was never established for a fact—and when the call to tea was issued, I didn’t hear it. Now, there was a witness to the fact that I had been out only moments earlier to check on the status of tea, but finding it not there, I returned to my cabin. It was only later that I learned that tea had indeed been served, and that it had included a divine chocolate cake. Admittedly, my blood chocolate was perilously low at that time, so it is hardly surprising that I became a tiny bit agitated. Responsible parties insisted that I had been called, but failed to answer. I can’t imagine how that could be, given that I was hanging out for tea. But you’ll have to make up your own mind about whom to believe. I can report, however, that later that evening I received a piece of the (very divine!) chocolate cake to make up for it. You don’t get to be 66 without learning a thing or two about squeaky wheels.
Suffice to say, the lunches and dinners were very nice. Most were also very English. We were in England, after all. Duh. But we did have an Italian night, and a Scottish night. Prepared, presumably, by the national representatives of each. The Italian main course was a lovely cannelloni, and I don’t recall what the dessert was except that it was sensational. I know this because I was betting on Tirimisu and wondered if anything else could measure up. It did, and then some.
The Scottish night was, perhaps, a bit more challenging. For me, that is. It was chicken, stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon. Well, I figured it was now or never. I knew I would risk serious loss of credibility (assuming I had a shred of it left anyway) if I didn’t at least give it a try. I’m here to tell you now, I have eaten haggis and enjoyed it! There was too much to finish, but I enjoyed what I had. Remarkable. BTW, it was served with the traditional “neeps and tatties,” as described below, including the whiskey sauce.
The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” (Scots: swede, yellow turnip or rutabaga and potatoes, boiled and mashed separately) and a “dram” (i.e. a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper. However it is also often eaten with other accompaniments, or served with a whisky-based sauce.
I have to dob in my fellow guests, though. Despite the pressure they applied on me to try the haggis, not one of the buggers would follow my example and try salt on their grapefruit. It’s a good job one of us was a good sport. MM
I admire you for trying the haggis! I am just not sure I would have the stomach for it! The river boat cruise sounds like such a lovely time!