Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bully's British Book Club: Egg Bacon Chips & Beans

Bully's British Book Club

One of my favorite things to do in London is to go to bookstores. One of my other favorite things to do in London is to go to restaurants. Now I can combine both in the newest installment of Bully's Book Club, except now it really is a "BBC," because it's now Bully's British Book Club!

Today I spent a lot of time and quite a bit of money too in the wonderful;, wonderful Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. If you have never been there before, I highly recommend it! It's one of the best independent non-chain bookstores in London that I've been in. (I can't believe I've never discovered it before! That's one of the beauties of London...around every corner you can find something you've never seen before!) Daunt Books is an amazingly collection of books in a beautiful old Edwardian setting. You could browse here for hours! (I did!)

Daunt Books

It has an exceptional travel department located in the long double-tiered skylight gallery—in fact, Daunt is one of the best travel bookstores in the city. Go ahead and try to find a country they don't have travel books to! Go ahead! I dare ya! Well, okay, Latveria, maybe. But they're not only books that take you to far-away and mysterious lands, oh no, golly no, they're oh-so-much more. For example, it had a wonderful children's book section where Camilla bought some books for Olivia—lucky Olivia! John bought a whole bunch of Pocket Penguins. These are not tiny penguins that you can carry around with you, oh no! John is not the sort who would keep a penguin in his pocket, and neither should you, unless you are the type of person who pickpockets penguins like Togo (Bring him back!). No, Pocket Penguins are slim and inexpensive paperbacks to celebrate Penguin Books's 75th anniversary. They are only £1.50 each! As a little stuffed bull who is watching his pounds and pence, I find them very good value indeed. But the book that caught my eye and caused me to open my little British change purse to fish out my pound coins was a sleek and glossy litytle hardcover with the mouth-watering title Eggs Bacon Chips & Beans: 50 Great Cafes and the Stuff That Makes Them Great.

In this book, Mister Russell Davies went on a tour of Great Britain and stopped in a whole buncha cafes in search of the quintessential (thank you, word of the day calendar) British breakfast: fried egg, bacon, crispy chips, and baked beans. In each cafe he takes a lot of bright colorful photos of his meal (explaining for each one his admiration for the mix and arrangement of the four basic British breakfast food groups as they are placed on his plate), the cafes and their settings, signage, menus and condiments (there are some lovely photos and descriptions of the many arrangements and assortments of condiments on each café table, celebrating ketchup, salt, pepper, and the delicious, delicious British brown sauce).

Mister Davies gives a little bit of history behind each café, but the histories I like best are the ones that are personal: places he stopped at with his family where he has a funny anecdote about his wife and kids with him. He pays wonderful attention to the details we all subconsciously think about in a café: "What should we look for in a really good EBC&B?" "What's the best table to sit down at?" "Is it okay to read someone else's newspaper?" "Why is the word 'omelette' misspelled as 'omlet' on the menu board?" "And why does 'Heinz meanz beanz'?" All this and much, much, more. I also give Mister Davies top points for recommending one of John's favorite London cafes, the Sandwich Bar on Brooks Mews (just around the corner from the White Hart). While the White Hart may be closed, the Sandwich Bar is still open, and they still serve as delicious and comforting an EBC&B platter as they did in 1983. The only thing missing from this excellent book? A scratch-and-sniff section! Or, judging by the way my tummy has been rumbling as I read this book, a scratch-and-eat section!

Finally, the author has a delicious-looking blog with even more fantastic and colorful EBC&B cafes, including some submitted by readers. I am going to go home and take photos of the Park Slope Chip Shop and send them in, just to show him that us Yanks can do a pretty good EBC&B too! (Not to mention those yummy, yummy deep-fried Mars Bars!)

You know how they tell you not to go grocery shopping on an empty tummy? Well, if you pick up this wonderful book, and you should, make sure you don't read it on an empty stomach! Even just writing this blog entry, I'm totally starving for hot runny egg, delicious chewy bacon, crispy golden chips, and a mess o' beans right now. Let's go get some now!

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