Oh happy days! The Dark Peak series – which kicks off in June with No Good Reason – sees me back writing in Brit, and not only that but writing a novel whose central characters are a detective and an Accident & Emergency doc. Now, for those who might not know, shift work does weird things to a person’s diet (if you regularly eat your tea at 3 a.m., chances are you’re not sitting down to a balanced three-course meal) and it’s no secret that those of us who work shifts eat a lot of crap or, in the case of my cast of miscreants, just seem to eat a lot. They also swear a lot, which means that I get to do another one of these blogs for the folks who aren’t fluent in the foodstuffs and swearing capabilities of our beautiful little isle. Yes, it’s the No Good Reason menu/swearing guide, wherein I explain what the hell a Battenberg cake is and show you pictures of delicious pastry-coated items, and you get to go away hungry and cursing me.
This blog update is sponsored by Settlers Tums.
It seems fitting that the very first chapter of No Good Reason sees Detective Sanne Jensen and her best friend Dr. Meg Fielding treating themselves to a chippy tea. In their case it comprises fish, chips, buttered bread, and curry sauce (or gravy) with mugs of tea. When I say fish, I mean battered fish – none of your bread-crumbed imposters, please – and when I say chips, I mean thick, crispy, proper chips, not McDonald’s-esque “fries”. Lashings of salt and vinegar is essential. No vinegar = you’re doing it wrong.
Optional extras: Pickled eggs, mushy peas, and a barm cake (regionally AKA: a bap, bread roll, bread muffin, or batch) for making a chip butty.
The “barm cake” is the source of much confusion/debate/argument in the UK with no two regions calling them the same thing. Along with the pronunciation of “scone” it’s possibly the most contentious food-related issue in the country to date!
A practically perfect biscuit to accompany a mug of tea, the chocolate HobNob is an oaty, crunchy treat topped with milk chocolate. I’m not a dunker, but I am reliably informed that – if you’re that way inclined – the HobNob is something of a legend when it comes to surviving a dip in a brew. The special edition chocolate orange versions are also highly recommended.
A layered chocolate bar boasting a base of cereal crispies and a topping of whipped nougat all covered in Cadbury’s milk chocolate. They’re sweet enough to send susceptible types into a diabetic coma, but as a treat they’re bloody lovely.
A firm favourite in USA-destined snack packages, the Quaver is a twisty, curly, marvel of cheesiness. It makes for an ideal accompaniment to any packed lunch, where the crisps can be slapped in the middle of a sandwich to provide a bit of bite and liven up an otherwise boring butty (sandwich!).
I don’t honestly know a single member of the ambulance service who doesn’t eat these little buggers in one variety or another. They’re sweets made for kids and appropriated by adults, and they come in a wide assortment of forms – jellies, liquorice, fizzy things, chewy things – all of them delicious. Probably invented for the sole purpose of pepping up night shifts, day shifts, and shift work in general. The Dark Peak series features what I like to think of as the Classic Haribo: Starmix.
Pasty & Sausage roll
A typical English dinner (known as lunch in the south) bought on the fly will often be a sandwich, but pasties and sausage rolls are also right up there when it comes to takeaway snacky options. A bastardisation of the traditional Cornish pasties, high street chain bakery examples are flattened and often quite depressing offerings of puff pastry filled with insipid and tepid meat-type substances. The best ones are crammed with meat, veg, spuds and gravy, or cheese and onion. Being a borderline Wiganer by birth, I’m more of a pie girl myself, but I do love a cheap and cheerful sausage roll…
Greggs’ sausage rolls: they don’t come much cheaper than these!
I like to include pretty (or pretty unusual!) foods in my books and there’s not much prettier than a Battenberg cake. A light, jam-coated sponge covered in marzipan, the Battenberg doesn’t seem particularly special until you cut into it. And then it looks like this. See? Lovely, isn’t it? :-)
Us northerners don’t really stand on ceremony, and eggy bread is what French Toast is commonly called round these parts. It’s basically slices of white bread dipped into beaten egg (add a bit of milk to make your egg go further) and fried in oil. Being an ignorant peasant, I used to eat mine with tomato ketchup, but I now prefer to cover it in proper maple syrup, i.e. not that maple “flavoured” ice cream sauce crap.
The essential ingredient in any cream tea, the scone (say it to rhyme with “bone” or you’re saying it wrong!) is a little cake-type thingy that doesn’t really seem worth bothering with until you serve it warm and fill it with whipped (or clotted) cream and jam. Then it’s probably the most amazing thing you will ever eat, especially if you have a piping hot pot of tea to go with it.
Bloody hell, I’m hungry now. Which, conveniently, brings me onto…
Part II: How to Swear in Fluent Brit
If there’s one thing the British are good at, it’s swearing. Far from stunting our vocabulary, swearing has broadened it, resulting in a far-reaching plethora of insults and epithets that go beyond the usual, dare I say rather mundane, “fuck” and “shit”. Here are just a few examples common to my profane little region.
Bloody: A mild but very versatile curse with many variations for usage – “Bloody Nora”, “Fat bloody chance”, “Don’t you bloody dare”. It is also easily combined with other insults, to wit: “You’re a bloody useless bugger”. Regional use may change it to “bleedin'” as in: “you’re a bleedin’ halfwit” – you’re not terribly bright.
Bugger/Sod/Git/Berk/Pillock/Twerp/Numpty/Wazzock/Tit: Genial insults that lack any real edge, and can be used almost fondly, i.e: “You’re being a silly sod”, “Poor old bugger”, “Don’t be such a berk”. Generally used to imply that the person is a bit soft in the head.
Bollocks: Often used as an expression of exasperation: “Oh bollocks!” but can be used to describe a telling off: “I just got a good bollocking”, or to add emphasis to a statement of denial: “Have I bollocks!”
Wanker: Loosely defined as someone who enjoys taking matters into their own hands (if you catch my drift), “wanker” is often used as a harsher insult, and is probably not one to say in front of your mum. Also: “Toss-pot” – similar definition, less offensive.
Twat: Pronounced with two hard Ts (I have no idea where this “Twaite” business has come from), this is also quite an unpleasant insult, although it’s used so often around here that it’s lacking in impact.
Piss: Unlike Americans, who tend to use this just to mean annoyed, us Brits have almost infinite variations and usages for this term – something that has caused a fair amount of amusement and revision during the editing process! A few of the more common examples: “Piss off” – “Go away”, “Pissed off” – Annoyed, “Taking the Piss” – Having a laugh at someone’s expense, “Pissed” – Drunk, “Piss-Can” – An alcoholic, “Piss on his chips” – Annoy someone, “Couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” – Someone who is profoundly useless.
Ball-ache: A tiresome or impossible task. As in “this is going to be an absolute ball-ache”.
Scrote: Often used by the emergency services to describe ne’er-do-wells or bottom-feeders, those lowlifes who make our lives so very entertaining. It doesn’t take a genius to work out its origins.
Feel free to add any omissions, or your personal favourites in the comments!