Letters to the editor

Does eating British food require a stiff upper lip? Plus: Harry Potter triumphs over "feminism"; emergency room patients often aren't.

Published March 7, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Not my cup of tea


Ah, poor Emily! She, like so many other visitors to the British Isles, was tricked into thinking that the word "restaurant" in Britain means "a place where someone knows/cares about cooking." Sadly, people here in the U.K. have still not grasped the idea of decent food at decent prices. There are a few exceptions but generally one is hard-pressed to find anything approaching the quality of food in North America and continental Europe.

You can eat very fine food in London, but it is all a) outrageously expensive and b) presented as a favor to the dining public. Celebrity chefs demand celebrity prices for the honor of dining in their establishments and being seen in the latest place. People here still don't understand that service is not a bad thing, and that providing good service can be a godsend.

-- Savana Burke

My experience in England five years ago was similar to Emily Wise Miller's: bad-to-indifferent food that seemed intent on taking all the joy out of eating. No wonder the Brits drink so much beer! Better to drown their culinary sorrows. Pub food reached its nadir at an otherwise charming establishment in the Lake District. I don't remember what I had (that's a bad sign right there), but two of my hiking companions ordered the special: lasagna. Cold, tired and hungry, they were grinning with anticipation as two steaming dishes were set in front of them. They quickly dug in and discovered why the dish was "special": No pasta! It was a lasagna in name only with not a noodle in sight. We were all laughing too hard to complain. And what would have been the point?

Like Miller, we eventually found spice-deprivation relief at Indian restaurants in Scotland and London. Those delightful establishments started me on a love affair Indian cuisine that continues to this day, and for that I am very grateful.

-- Curt Milton

The Brits have been bashed for their food long enough! Last fall, I spent several weeks in the North Yorkshires region -- hours away from the "world class restaurants" of London -- and ate well (and affordably) every day, enjoying meals of tender chicken in creamy chive sauce wrapped in fine flaky pastry, grilled fresh vegetables brushed with olive oil and herbs, flaky fish poached in white wine and yes, even an exquisite sausage roll. Just as you wouldn't expect fine cuisine from your neighborhood bar, you shouldn't expect greatness in a small town pub and take the food offered there as representative of all restaurants in a country, trashing an entire nation's food culture.

-- Jessica Chapel

There has been a huge change in British food within the past six years! Magazines such as BBC's "Good Food," Waitrose's "Food Illustrated" and popular chef-fronted television shows demonstrate Britain's new enthusiasm for good food. Thanks to the EEC, the produce in supermarkets is fresher, far more plentiful and cheaper that what I can buy in my supermarket in Southern California. New British cooking has taken this on board and adopted the best of European, African and Indian cooking as well. Most restaurants and many pubs have embraced this and are doing it wonderfully.

By the way, I've never eaten a "blood" pudding (more commonly known as black pudding) in my life. And tea and sausages are a real treat.

-- S. Hamlyn

I wonder if Miller has spent any time in the restaurants of much of the United States. As a foreigner, I am frequently appalled by what is served up. But rather than complaining that American cooking is all no good, I take refuge in the fact that in the States, as everywhere, really interesting food tends to be available in the big cities, and places in between can be a bit of a disappointment, culinarily speaking.

-- John Beaglehole

Hands off Harry Potter!


I used to refer to myself as a feminist. After all, I believe in equal rights. Then I watched "feminists" pounce like understimulated kittens on every innocuous issue possible -- and now Harry Potter? A book which I plan to read to my daughters because of the intelligent Hermione, formidable McGonnagall and unflappable Sprout? I'm sick of nitpicky whistleblowers giving feminists a bad name. Lay off Potter and lay into something valid. There's no shortage of valuable feminist issues, find yourself one.

-- J. Melmed

Poor Chris Gregory. If she had done her homework and paid attention to the previous Harry Potter reviews, she would know that today, good literature depends on two simple factors.

One: Agreeability. Be sure that all characters are acceptable to all people, everywhere. While this tends to eliminate the tradition of conflict and plot, it is essential to being well-liked by even the most reactionary, self-righteous dunderhead.

Two: Equality. The book's characters must, when plotted on a graph with factors such as sex, values, likes, dislikes, etc., present a perfectly straight line, even if this would never happen in the real world.

Once Gregory understands this, I am sure she will, as I do, excitedly anticipate Harry's next adventure: "Harry Potter and the Mathematically Balanced Distribution of Sex, Class, Race and Creed."

-- T. Faust

Thanks to Chris Gregory for setting the record straight about the alleged sexism in Harry Potter. As the mother of a role-playing-mad 6-year-old, I have to say that J.K. Rowling has rocked my world. When we play Pooh, I have to be Kanga. When we play Pokimon, I have to be Ash's midriff-sporting girlfriend, a character so vapid I refuse to remember her name. When we play Star Wars, it's Leia (not bad) or Amidala (wicked bad -- sometimes I beg to be R2D2 instead).

But when we play Harry, I can be Hermione, Harry's super-smart dust-it-up equal, or Professor McGonagall, if I'm in the mood to lay down the law, or Ginny Weasley, if I feel like sneaking in a little maternal affection under the guise of schoolgirl crush, or my favorite (and one Gregory forgot to mention): Mrs. Weasley, whose dishes begin to "quietly wash themselves in the sink" at the wave of her wand. Who says fantasy is just for kids?

-- Tracy Mayor

Stupid Patient of the Year

I read Dr. J.B. Orenstein's article in Friday's Salon, and I'm still laughing. I, too, am a pediatrician in an emergency department and I see all manner of abuses of the system. Just today, a woman came in from her pediatrician's office. She didn't feel like staying in the waiting room until her child's scheduled appointment, so she decided to be seen in emergency ... for a cold of four days' duration. And that's a very mild example.

The United States desperately needs a national health system, so that children's medical care is properly funded, coupled with oversight to strongly discourage parents from abusing the system with 3 a.m. ambulance rides for week-old earaches. More carrot and more stick.

-- Michael Treece, M.D.

I, too, work in an emergency department and would like to see an award given to all the people who tell us they have a family doctor, but have come to the emergency room because they need to have whatever benign procedure done (like their blood pressure checked or a sliver removed) and their doctor is "too busy." These same people then rant and rave that they must wait, possibly hours, to be seen. No matter how we explain that the sickest people get seen first, these people do not comprehend that they do not need to be in the emergency department and are wasting health care time and dollars. The man who came in recently to have a plantar wart removed gets an honorable mention.

-- Name withheld at writer's request

I've been an emergency room nurse for 15 years and I must confess that there is nothing my co-workers and I like more than a good story. However, the tone of this article was full of anger and disdain for all the "stupid" patients that come in with "stupid" complaints. Is this guy really a doctor? I sure wouldn't want him cutting on me.

-- David Sexton, R.N.
San Francisco General Hospital

The only thing stupid about these patients is they let this doctor examine them. He should find a new line of work or find some compassion in his heart for his patients.

-- Dee Cocos

The tyranny of "Abercrappie"


Good lord! Is Abercrombie & Fitch marketing to teens?! With all those bare chests and butts, I thought their whole campaign was targeting the lucrative gay guy market. Come to think of it, you could probably discourage kids from wanting the overpriced clothes by telling them that, since homophobia is still a stronger motivating force than fashion.

Therese Littleton

By Letters to the Editor

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British Election England Harry Potter