By Calvin Palmer
A staple dish at the Sad Bastard Café made a welcome return this evening. Chilli Con Pollo is a house specialty. It is based on Chilli Con Carne but substitutes chicken for minced beef, or ground beef as the Americans call it.
The café has undergone many changes since its relocation. The wait staff, Brandy, has gone. When I say wait staff, Brandy used to wait at the table looking up at me with those doleful brown eyes waiting for a tidbit or two, which she got at the end of the meal and more often than not before the meal was finished. Brandy is a Chihuahua dog.
Under new quarantine regulations, she could have come with me to the UK but my existence for several weeks was somewhat nomadic and I was living out of a suitcase in various hotels before finally finding an apartment I could call home. So it was with heavy heart that Brandy and I parted company. I still feel sad when I think of her, especially with the knowledge that I will never see her again. I’m filling up.
Desserts have proved something of a challenge. The Publix brand Roadrunner Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt, which was a firm favourite at the café has disappeared. English strawberries have formed one replacement, along with Wall’s classic cornettos. Tonight, another favourite from years gone by was resurrected, Greek yoghurt and Rowse’s Greek honey. The latter proved just as impossible to find in the United States as Roadrunner Raspberry is in the UK.
In this age of the global economy and the Internet, I am surprised British and US supermarkets haven’t linked up to offer a range of foodstuffs and household items from both countries. Why is it Swiffer products, for instance, are the sole preserve of the United States? It does appear as if I may be able to buy the dusters on Amazon.co.uk but will pay a heavy premium.
But it is not all bad news. I did track down tortilla chips and salsa dip at M&S the other week and both products were every bit as good as those on sale in the United States.
But back to the Chilli Con Pollo. I started to cook it as I have done in the past, even to the extent of using Tefal saucepans and frying pans, but as I placed the chicken in the frying pan, something seemed to be missing. I sprinkled some Italian seasoning, a replacement for the Herbs of Provence, but I felt sure something else used to be added at this stage. Pepper sprang to mind so I used the pepper mill to add some. I have struggled to find any cans of ground black pepper. A little paprika was added and yet still something kept nagging at me. What was missing?
It was only when I sat down to eat the meal that it came to me – garlic salt. No wonder the meal tasted a bit bland and ASDA’s hot chilli powder was a poor substitute for McCormick’s hot Mexican-style chilli powder. Perhaps I should get in touch with Brandy and see if she can send me some of the latter.
So life at the Sad Bastard Café goes on after a fashion. It isn’t quite the same but it passes muster. I have also come to realize just how Americanized I have become and I doubt there will be any going back to the British way of doing things. In the months and years ahead, I am just going to have to use my initiative and improvise to overcome those ingredients and items that are unavailable and in other cases settle for second best. You would think a can of red kidney beans would be the same the world over. Not so, Bush’s dark red kidney beans are far superior to anything I have managed to buy in the UK.
Failing that, I could have a week back in the USA and stock up with all those items that are proving impossible to find in the UK. I wonder what the import duty is on Mexican-style chilli powder?