Curious Cook: What and what?

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I think some of the funniest people on the planet are the Brits.

The Kid would start and finish any list of hilarious U.K. people with Monty Python.

But I find just about every aspect of Brits and British culture knee-slappingly comical. I have a friend from Devonshire who would talk about his puppy having accidents on the kitchen floor that would have me in stitches. I would ask him about the dog, and by the time he finished I would literally be in tears. It may have been especially funny because there was cursing in the story, and to hear someone who sounds like the queen talking like a sailor, well Gentle Reader, to me that is the purest of comedy gold.

They call umbrellas “brollies” and trucks “trollies.” Instead of one tap in their sinks, they have two, so you get freezing water coming from one and the other spouts the fires of hell. They don’t believe in electrical outlets in the bathroom.

Their judges and lawyers all wear Benjamin Franklin wigs and Harry Potters robes while in court. They have a monarchy that don’t do anything but wave and cost money. They call their surgeons “Mister” and their expensive private schools are called “public schools.”

But this Island of Mirth really shines when it comes to food. Cookies are biscuits and biscuits are unknown. Fries are chips and chips are crisps. Pudding isn’t just creamy chocolate, vanilla, or banana treats from our childhood — it’s any dessert, and also, astonishingly, a dinner roll.

Beans on toast? Brown sauce? And marmite on toast, which comes from leftover yeast somehow ... it started out as hoof shine for horses, until a stable boy ate some!

Then there’s tea. They firmly believe, from the Prime Minster to a navvy (a Brit term for ditch digger) that tea will absolutely solve anything, from a stubbed toe, to a broken heart, to a Puritan overthrow of the government. They don’t even call it a cup of tea, it’s a “cuppa,” but everybody knows what it means.

And then there’s bangers and mash. A banger is a sausage and mash are mashed potatoes. It’s a delicious combination, even though it sounds kind of funny.

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The very best brats are a white sausage with a combination of pork and veal. That type is available at Trader Joes. Boar’s Head make the correct kind and can be found at many grocers.

But since brats are not bangers, you can use any sausage that you like in this recipe. I’ve also used Italian sausage. You can use kielbasa, chorizo, merguez, boudin, or even actual bangers.


6 bratwursts

24 ounces of pale beer

2 yellow onions sliced into half moons

2 tablespoons butter

Mustard of your choice

Heat a large skillet on medium. Melt butter and add onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions have cooked and browned to amber.

Pour the entire can of beer into pan and turn heat to medium-high. Let boil until the liquid has reduced by half. Add sausages and cover. Turn heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until the sausages are hot — do not let them cook so much they burst.

Serve with mustard and some of the caramelized onion.


I always use baking potatoes in my mashed spuds because they lend a light fluffiness to the final product.

3 pounds gold potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform chunks

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks the same size as the golds

12 tablespoons butter

1 cup fat-free buttermilk (approximately)

Chives or green onions

Salt and pepper

Place the chunks into a large pot full of heavily salted water. Cook on medium-high until they are fork tender.

Drain into colander and pour back into the pot.

Add 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 10 or 12 pieces. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and butter together until they blend together, the butter’s melted, and the spuds are mostly smooth.

Stir in buttermilk, a little at a time until they are just a bit looser than you’d like (they will firm up as they sit).

Season and reseason until the mashed potatoes sing.

Serve with bangers and a side veg.

The traditional is — wait for it — mushy peas.

What did I say about those nutty Brits?


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