Monday, May 01, 2006

Back in the USA

Okay, it's been over a week that I've been back, so no excuses now -- I'm over the jet lag -- I've answered my messages, cleaned all the junk mail from my box, gone back to work and now I have to finish updating the end of that trip to Europe. (See the below entries for more on the Paris and London parts of the trip...)

First let me say, that as wonderful as it is to travel, I'm really a homebody at heart. I love to be home again with my cats and my fuzzy sweater.

But it's also nice to be surrounded by remnants of the haul I brought back from Europe.

Oh gosh, was all that in my suitcase? Why, no, Mr. Dept. of Homeland Security, Illegal French Cheese Division. That must be someone else's photograph of,clockwise from the left, Clochette d'Or, Berkswell, Gabietout and in the foreground of course, Brie de Meaux.

One of the beauties in the haul was the famous jamon de Jabugo. Ham, but, oh-so-much-more-than-ham. As I learned in the journey through Spain, there are hundreds of ham variations.

What you're looking at here is Iberian pata negra (meaning it came from the famous black-hooved pigs) from animals that are only bellota or acorn-fed, from the Jabugo region, lovingly cured (and sliced) by hand and from the tasty rear legs. I's a beautiful thing, and you've never tasted ham this flavorful, with this much depth.

Once you've seen lovely mahogany slices of jamon like this, everything else looks like a pale water-injected soppy imitation. Accept no imitations.

One of the shocks I had was the poor quality of many items sold in the famous Harrod's food halls, and most disappointing was the cheap simulacrum of pata negra jamon. See that light pink thing in the back with a black hoof? That is NOT jamon iberico. Trust me.

Now, there are things you can get in the UK that are apparently impossible to get here in the US, like Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce.

But wait, you say, we can get Lea & Perrins here in the local Safeway.

Can you?

No, really, CAN YOU?

Sure, they look the same, but look closely at the label of ingredients. Some of you may recall from my post, "Perp Walk" that I was shocked to discover the evil High Fructose Corn Syrup in my Worcestershire sauce.

When I saw the orange on the breakfast bar at the Hotel Russell in London, I flipped over the bottle with a dismissive flick and was amazed to note that the UK version of this popular condiment is all made of normal ingredients. No HFCS. Just malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spices and flavoring.

Here's what we get in the US: Water, vinegar, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, anchovies, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, onions, tamarinds, salt, garlic cloves, chili peppers, natural flavorings and shallots.

Yeah. Their marketing says "Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is made to the original recipe created in 1837." I'm guessing that in 1837 they didn't have high fructose corn syrup and hydrolyzed soy and corn proteins. 'Course that's just a guess.

So what is this? The Brits get the real authentic Worcestershire while Americans get the cruddy version with garbage designed to poison your system? Excuse me? I believe a letter to Lea & Perrins demanding to know why is in order. On their website, they say,

Is the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce sold in the US the same as the sauce sold in the rest of the world?
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is made to the original recipe in two factories. The original factory in Worcester, and a sister factory in New Jersey USA. The New Jersey factory follows the same recipe as the Worcester factory, although some ingredients are sourced locally. Product sold in the rest of the world is manufactured and exported from our factory in Worcester, UK. (Worcester refers to the town itself, whilst Worcestershire indicates the 'shire' or county in which the town of Worcester is located).
Um, this would be a flat out lie.

Okay, I'll get of my soapbox for a moment and finish the post.

Also on our list of haul items (yes, I filled a suitcase with stuff -- I had taken an extra shoulderbag along for trivial things like clothes) was the Maille mustard that you can only get at the Maille stores in France. Sure, you can get lovely Dijon mustard here in any Cala foods or Safeway, but you can't get moutarde au cognac, or au cassis, or au marc de Bourgogne...

Eric put in an order for four mustards before I left. Duly delivered.

And served.

Kitty notes that the Brie is very Brie-like in odor.

"Le fromage, it is not a point," he sniffs. "I can't let you consume that. I'll have to make the supreme sacrifice and eat it myself."


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