I needed a song about pride today. And prejudice. You see, the 28th of this month marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of "Pride and Prejudice" - that glorious novel written by Jane Austen. It is uncanny how this song fits right in - especially the scene at the Lucas' ball - where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet meet for the first time. If you take the Keira Knightley movie version, the crowd is enjoying a rather boisterous dance with all attendees laughing and clapping. Suddenly, Mr. Bingley, his sister, and Darcy make their entrance. The music ceases and all dancing stops as all turn to stare at the wealthy new tenant of Netherfield Hall. A way is parted for them to make their way to the top of the room. I'd have You're So Vain start here - with that premonitious (I think I just made that up) bass riff. There's a very quiet whisper at the intro to the song saying "Son of a gun." I fancy Elizabeth is saying this more to herself than anyone out loud. She's taken with Darcy although she instantly translates his aloof manner into aristocratic arrogance - made certain when she overhears him discussing her rather "average" first impression on himself. Their entrance to the ball in this adaptation is most certainly like they were "walking onto a yacht." Now, whether they watched themselves gavotte in a mirror or not, I'm not sure, but they certainly were very aware of themselves. This song has garnered a huge amount of speculation as to just whom Ms. Simon was referring when she wrote it. I'm beginning to wonder if this song was a tribute to Austen's Mr. Darcy. I'd say let's throw his hat into the ring of possible contenders - along with Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger and who knows who else!
I fell in love with English food within hours of arriving in London. My daughter, Becca, and I were in England to attend some courses at Cambridge University (and make a pilgrimage to Bath for the Jane Austen museum) but decided to see the sights in London before we headed over to Cambridge. We hauled our suitcases from the airport onto the tube and up the staircases to street level. This remains glued in my memory because we were exhausted from the red eye flight and hauling those suitcases up all those stairs is one of my worst traveling moments - ever. And some of those tube stations are waaaay underground! Luckily, our hotel wasn't far from the tube stop and we found our room, in the basement, which was, as it turns out, not far above the very tube tracks from which we had just departed!
Intent on getting a running start on our list of sights, we freshened up a bit and then headed out to find our open-top double-decker tour bus! But we were starving! So we made our way to a Marks & Spencer (think SuperTarget) to grab some sandwiches and a drink to take along on the ride.
Prepackaged sandwiches. You know - the ones shaped like a triangle? I'd seen those in the coolers at U.S. gas stations. I never seriously considered buying them though. But, here I was, doing as the locals, and having a "grab and go" for lunch. I was amazed at how fast those sandwiches were flying out of that place. I immediately felt a sense of urgency to make my selection and get in line to pay. I can't remember the other sandwich choices, I just remember seeing the "Red Leicester Cheddar" label and thinking that it looked harmless enough. I nabbed it and a drink and met up with Becca. We paid and went to catch our tour.
Once seated and settled, and having Becca pinch me to be sure I wasn't dreaming, we opened our triangles and started to eat as the bus pulled out. I had resigned myself to a lunch of either dry and stale bread or soggy boggy bread and suspicious lingering "other flavors" mixed in with the designated cheese - maybe some tuna scent or eggy whiffs from a neighboring cooler mate. What I wasn't prepared for was one of the best sandwiches I'd ever eaten IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!! Soft bread - perfect bread - with such a robust cheesy filling it startled my whole being into alert mode. The Brits had mastered the art and science of the triangular-packaged sandwich!
I'm pretty sure I made an "Oh my gosh!" sort of comment to Becca - eyes open wide in shock. I'm pretty sure I missed most of what we saw on that tour bus for the duration of that sandwich as I marveled at how such a good-tasting sandwich could have come out of such a humble prefabbed condition. I'm pretty sure that Becca was tired of hearing about my miracle sandwich before I finished it. I'm pretty sure she might have been secretly relieved when my food high finally subsided and I succumbed to the jet lag that was beating me with a stick - only to be woken by my head slamming into the bar on the back of the seat in front of us. And I'm pretty sure that she was very patient while, during the remainder of our three weeks in England, I had to go in to every single Marks & Spencer we passed to see if they, too, had a Red Leicester Cheddar Sandwich.
When I returned home my Red Leicester Cheddar search began. Sometimes I would find it at a specialty store in a big city - but it's procurement was few and far between. Then, one day I paid a visit to a new grocery store in town called Yokes. They had a specialty cheese section. And, what do you know - there was a package of Red Leicester Cheddar! Just waiting for me!!! I waited to dance around the room with it held close to my heart until I got home. It was a sweet reunion indeed!
This cheese spread is most typically a sandwich spread. You can make it as plain as you want or even turn it into a fancy tea sandwich or canapé.
Squirt some of it into the hollow of a celery stick for a relish plate. I skipped the sandwich idea tonight and used it to fill a chicken roulade for dinner. I pounded out a chicken breast until thin, placed a couple slices of prosciutto on top then spread out this cheesy concoction. I then rolled it all up and seared the roll on all sides in a skillet over medium high heat for about 15 minutes. I let it rest a few minutes then sliced it on the diagonal and served it with a simple romaine and tomato salad. Delish!!!
Mr. Darcy might consider Red Leicester as gauche - a bit too "common man" to tempt him. But I say, "Holla! That means more for me!" And you, too, of course.
Red Leicester Cheddar Spread
enough for about 4 sandwiches
4 oz. Red Leicester Cheddar, shredded fine
1 green onion, sliced very thin
1/8 of a white onion, diced small - about 3 T.
1/2 c. mayonnaise
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir together until well combined and creamy. Resist the urge to want to put it into a food processor. Part of it's appeal is the "not too smooth" texture. You don't want people mistaking it for the jarred processed cheese spreads.
For tea sandwiches, spread about 1/3 cup out over a slice of bread. On the other slice of bread, make a light skim of butter then top with a thin layer of watercress. Place the slice with the cheese spread on top of the watercress slice and gently press. Take a serrated knife and trim the crusts on all four sides. Cut in half, then cut those halves in half. Each sandwich will make 4 tea sandwiches.
For canapes, use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the bread or slice into squares or rectangles. Top with some spread and then garnish with green onions, fresh dill, or a paper-thin slice of a jalapeño.