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Backwards Hat

A spoon.

From British food critic Egon Ronay’s obituary in the Economist, June 26, 2010:

WHAT, Egon Ronay often asked himself, was the most unforgettable meal of his life?

It was, in fact, a mere cup of tea, costing a few pence, bought around 1950 from the buffet at Victoria station. It came from a big tea-urn at the corner of the counter, dispensed by a woman who slopped it into the cup and then indicated the sugar. That was heaped in a bowl, and dangling near the bowl was a spoon, which had somehow been tied to the ceiling with string so that customers would not steal it.

The sight of the spoon was a Damascene moment for Mr Ronay. It summed up all the culinary horrors of the country to which, in 1946, he had fled. By and large he admired his adoptive land, but for one thing: the British would never complain about their dreadful food, but soldiered on, inured to suffering by wartime austerity and Dickensian public schools. Venturing into a restaurant, they would quietly and even gratefully accept some tepid muck masquerading as Brown Windsor soup, with a smear of margarine on bread, followed by Spam and bottled salad cream on two wilting leaves of lettuce, topped off by jelly and custard. It would not do. In that station buffet, Mr Ronay was launched on a tide of anger into the crusade that came to consume his life. He would tell the British what good food was, and where they could hope to find it.

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Backwards Hat

December 2010

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