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Scotty goes to Benidorm

A hilarious post on A Fistful of Euros in which Scott Martens recounts his experiences at a last-minute vacation in, of all places, Benidorm:

Starting with English breakfasts (eggs, bacon, sausage, sliced white bread toast, cooked tomatos and baked beans) and continuing with menus that prominently display the ever-present availability of fish and chips or bangers and mash, the cuisine of Benidorm is more English than any I have ever actually seen in England. In most of the world, serving English food is not something one brags about.

I love English breakfasts, personally. You eat them to get energised in the morning, and they do a great job at just that. However, for dinner while in England it's Tikka Massala or Chinese takeaway all the way if I have a say in the matter. Speaking of which, Scott writes:

Better quality English food was not to be found in Benidorm. Choice is restricted to stomach-turning stereotyped pub food, pizza, the Dutch conception of Chinese food, and Burger King.
While it is true that the Chinese food I got from a randomly-selected takeout in Peterborough was of better quality than the takeaway that I get in Groningen, I should point out (at the risk that Scott, who owns a restaurant if I remember correctly, fact-checks my arse to kingdom come) that you can get higher-quality Chinese fare if you're willing to pay UK-level prices for it (which I was willing to do while traveling but can't afford to do on a regular basis) and that some of the bastardisations found in "the Dutch conception of Chinese food" are due to the cuisine being on offer being Sino-Indonesian. In other words, the cuisine went through several changes from the Chinese that Scott is used to. Again, if I remember correctly, Chinese expatriates established restaurants in what is now Indonesia, adapting to local tastes and ingredients, then attracted the clientele of the Dutch occupiers who changed the flavours and insisted on larger portions because they were all fat bastards. Then the descendents of those expats started restaurants in the Netherlands. It's traditional, for a given value of tradition.
Now, before anybody lights in on me for being a food snob (which I unquestionably am), I do in fact realise that British food is somewhat unjustly stigmatised.... However, until this trip to Benidorm, I did not realise that there really are people who will voluntarily consume bangers and mash rather than paella.
Slowly I began to realise: people do not come to the Costa Blanca to visit Spain. They come to find a warmer bit of Yorkshire. ...Coming from a cold country, I know how valuable it is to find a place that is warm, but otherwise hassle-free, in the middle of winter. Sometimes you don’t want to be challenged and you don’t want to learn something, you just want to stop shivering.

I was in England during the holidays, and didn't stop shivering once. I came home sick. I had heard that more people die of cold-related causes in England than in Siberia, but the Brits' incompetence at building functional central heating - resulting in houses that are simultaneously drafty, freezing and stuffy, has to be experienced to be believed. And I come from a climate that's very similar to that of the UK — I can but imagine the distress that my Portuguese-born hosts must have felt.

Interestingly, I saw several programs on property development during my stay there. It's a big thing over there for individuals to buy a house, fix it up and sell it at a profit. In none of the programs I saw there was any thought at all given to improving the central heating. If it was there, it was left as it was, if it wasn't, oh well, shivering builds character. Not one of those amateur developers followed by the BBC or ITV paused to consider whether the central heating was working at all, whether parts of it needed replacing or a more modern HR kettle would improve property values. Fireplaces, on the other hand, were given a level of attention normally reserved for new-born babies. They were painstakingly rebuilt with new moldings, griddles and in some cases where the developer felt indulgent, new firewood.
What I'd like to see on "How to be a property developer" is someone looking at the fireplace and saying "Why don't I rip this waste of space out, flog the wood that's on the inside to a guitar builder, use the money to get central heating that works, or maybe insulation, and finally create some contigious living-room wall space in this dump?" I'd probably buy that property if I was living in Britain, which I hope to God I never will. Well, London isn't too bad.

The largest surprise about British life was my discovery of a lowlands Germanic language whose existence I had hitherto never suspected. It is called Geordie, and apparently most people from Britain can’t understand it. It seems partially comprehensible to people who speak Scots (which I can’t understand very well) and to speakers of something which I was informed is called Tyke (which was mostly comprehensible to me when spoken slowly). There are enough cognate words in Geordie for me to recognise its lowlands roots, but beyond that, it was hopeless. Most Geordie speakers appear to have decent passive knowledge of English, which seems to be their literary and liturgical language, but by all appearances very few of them can speak standard English. Communicating with people from the UK posed real problems in Benidorm. Since English is my native language, I found this rather disturbing.

Also, I discovered that very few people in Spain speak Mexican.

Comments (6)

Where'd you get the idea I'm a restaurant owner? I'm just a fat Canadian foodie who programs computers.

Yes, you are right that the Indonesian influence on Dutch Chinese food is noticable. For example, loempias are utterly unlike the egg rolls they make in China. You need a fork and knife to eat them, while in China they won't touch anything that you can't pick up with a wooden chopstick. I heard the word "rijsttafel" for the first time on Bali.

If you can find real Chinese food in Brussels, please tell me where. I could kill for a good hot and sour soup. Until I find somebody who can smuggle me real five-fold oil and water lily hips, I can't properly make it myself.

As for English breakfasts, when I was a student I used to eat that way only when I was going to travel, because A&W at Dorval airport in Montreal used to have an egg and bacon breakfast for $2 Canadian. Otherwise, it was yoghurt, toast and cheese, or a bit of brioche. I had English breakfasts for three mornings in a row at the hotel and then I just couldn't take it anymore.

Er... must have been someone else then. I vaguely remembered someone from AFOE mentioning a restaurant business. Sorry.

Brussels, I'm afraid, is a bit outside my normal travels. I live up north, see.

You're quite right Reinder - and his name is Scott, too - but MacMillan ;)

I always get those two mixed up. Sorry!

Well, London isn't too bad.

...Please tell me you're joking. It's the one part of Britain I refuse to live anywhere near. Far too crowded, too high of crime rate, and frankly, too expensive for any but the very wealthy already.


Ah Benidorm is in Spain. I just figured that out. Sorry I think I may be a little slow somedays.


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