11th March 2020

On Tuesday around noontime, for the first time in many a year I settled into a late breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, courtesy of Bisquick cake mix and Great Value Original syrup, delivered but a little earlier by those magical elves of the Walmart department store, Bentonville, Arkansas. Spooning down the sweet deliciousness set me to pondering the first time I had enjoyed this luxurious but culturally alien dish of Gastronomique revelry. The answer that popped into my head was of some surprise to me and might well be equally unexpected for you my patient and loyal reader.

My first experience of any form of ’American’ food was through the auspices of a catering company called then and to my surprise still called now some fifty years later, Wimpy UK. For some reason I always had the impression that the name derived from the hamburger munching character in the Popeye cartoons, the main bill of fare within the restaurants being heavily Anglicized versions of US breakfast staples. You must allow yourself to contemplate that your traditional everyday hamburger was as unknown in Britain in the fifties and sixties as would be pease pudding in the States, indeed ground beef itself was and is even classified as an entirely different commodity, namely mince.

Wimpy was the first US style franchise to settle on British high streets, bringing seeming cleanliness and luxury to what had previous been the singular domain of the greasy spoon café. This new pristine ‘drug store’ image was something only recently made possible in  a previously war torn Europe through the sudden ease of availability of chrome fittings, Formica tabletops and booth type seating, interior furnishings that had originated in the States through convenience, being easily adapted to fit in towable or temporary roadside units, but soon to become the accepted and expected norm for the industry.

Pancakes are an interesting beast, being on this side of the Atlantic a savory, whilst across the pond considered from the dessert menu. Maple syrup being decidedly sweet doubles down on this European sensibility, so the delights are consistently served with fruit, ice cream, cream and even rich and sometime alcoholic sugary sauces. Never you will note with eggs prepared in any way shape or form and definitely not with bacon or sausage. On the European platter dessert and savory items never integrate, they are appropriately from my ingrained social perspective, ever segregated.

After twenty years of Americanization I am embarrassed to admit that my conscience now accepts that bacon, alone amongst all of creation, goes with everything.

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