Soggy Bottom, Crisp Top

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, delivered his budget speech to the nation yesterday. He is the equivalent of the Treasury Secretary in the U.S., although his title, not to mention his name, makes him sound far more intriguing. The budget was, as expected, full of tax hikes, spending cuts, and record borrowing. In other words, the same old gloom and doom to which we’ve grown accustomed since the bottom fell out last year.

True to British form of Keep Calm and Carry On, Radio 4 news featured a pie contest alongside budget anticipation in its headline stories yesterday. The makings of a perfect pork pie (Middle White pork, please) and steak and kidney pie (ox kidneys, not lamb!) were discussed at length. Pastry is crucial; both judges bemoaned the prevalence of soggy bottoms and crisp tops. The winning pork pie was of a variety known as Melton Mowbray, which has its own association that is currently seeking protected geographical indication status from the European Commission. It seems pork pies will be Britain’s answer to French wines.

This morning on BBC Breakfast the start of the two-month asparagus season in the Vale of Evesham got equal air time to the pundits’ reactions to the budget. As it should. It looked like a grand celebration of gras, as asparagus is known there, complete with dancing Morris men and asparagus sausages. Asked about the short season one grower explained, “If you take too much out now, you won’t get none next year.” Sounds like good advice for Mr. Darling to me.

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