All is redeemed at the Eltermere Inn. On our last morning I noticed the small print on the breakfast menu imploring me to enquire if I desired something not listed. And so it was that this golden treat arrived on my table. (Still no foil packets of Robertson’s Silver Shred though.)
One of the things that will be hardest about going back to the States is giving up my laissez faire attitude towards food. I can hardly remember those pre-European days when a croissant was considered a treat rather than a staple, to say nothing of bread fried in lard (admittedly still considered a treat). I know before long I will be back in the land of skinny lattes and calories listed on menus. For now, pass the fried bread.
We are back in the Lake District for a farewell visit, although husband has forbade me from using words like goodbye, last, farewell, and final in the run up to our November departure for Boston. Call it what you will, but the the truth is I am busy soaking up my favorite experiences in England while it is still convenient, i.e., the Atlantic Ocean does not lie between them and me.
We are staying in the same hotel where we have stayed most years since before we even lived in England, the Eltermere Inn. I wrote last year of its gentrification, which has continued unabated in the thirteen months since we were last here. There is more glass-encased taxidermy and our favorite room has been collapsed into the room behind it to form a suite with, what else, a claw foot bathtub in the center of the rear room. Shame there isn’t a hot water tank at the hotel large enough to supply two consecutive baths in it (guess who got the first bath?). Never mind, I still had my Lakes breakfast featuring fried bread and marmalade to look forward to. But no, as I found this morning the fried bread is gone from the menu, leaving me to nibble on a delicate eggs Florentine.
And so against all better judgement I offer up the ode to fried bread that this hotel’s breakfast first inspired me to put on this blog some years ago:
Fried Bread & Silver Shred
As a Yank I cannot abide
Beans in morning, even on the side
But when staying in the Lakes
Fried bread for breakfast I embrace
Transforms mere grain to food divine
Layering of fat and tart
‘Tis a culinary art
Echoed in things much esteemed:
Fruit compote and foie gras terinne
Golden toast and tangy ‘lade
Coin in which I’m gladly paid
For my labour up fell and crag
Richly fed I shall not lag
Turns out Proust was an apt choice for my “lite” summer reading. Last weekend’s break in the Lake District was filled with nostalgic musings brought on by the fact that the hotel we have stayed in every year for the past five years has changed hands since our last visit.
On the surface the new owners have made improvements. Paint and soft furnishings have been changed from florals to tasteful neutrals, tongue and cheek taxidermy graces walls and mantel pieces, and vintage accessories of the riding boot and croquet set variety are strategically dotted in corners of rooms. In other words, it now looks like every other country house hotel in England. The menu, previously of the home cooking variety by a lady named Viv, now has the same scallop with pancetta and pea puree type repertoire found in every gastropub in England (not that my scallops with pancetta and pea puree were unenjoyable). Jam served at breakfast comes in shallow porcelain ramekins instead of the foil topped plastic packets of Silver Shred I once paid homage to on this blog. And all these changes are reflected in the average age of the clientele, which used to hover around seventy even when you included husband and me. In a hotel of fifteen rooms I counted only one elderly couple, she sporting the reliable female OAP attire of ped socks in wedge sandals, he nodding off on the couch in the lounge after their 7pm supper.
Husband and I made good sport of lamenting all the so called improvements, the edge of which was taken off by the amazing (that’s an average day to you in L.A.) weather and the splendid isolation of the place, features that a lick of sage green paint and a stuffed owl in a glass box don’t change. Still, I’ve noticed in our middle age we are getting more and more sensitive to changes in places we hold dear. Earlier in the month in Paris we spent the best part of an hour venting our disgust over the appearance of a Lacoste shop on the site of a former crumbling down patisserie in the Marais. It wasn’t even a good patisserie—I once had a very mediocre lemon tart there—and yet there was something unmistakably violating about the appearance of the shiny new global retail brand in its place.
All this longing for the way things used to be makes me feel old and boring. We’ve become the kind of people who like the memory-fueled idea of a place more than the place itself, and, even worse, are prone to wheeze on about it. The only remedy I can think of is rather palatable as far as medicine goes: time to book a vacation to a place we’ve never been before. Then we can complain the whole time about new things.