Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why, Perhaps There May Always Be an England After All!

This post, with the addition of a brief commentary, was lifted from the blog of a twenty-two year-old English university student.

It will make you smile; it may even give you hope.

The blog itself is new -- this is the first post. I found it by following the profile from a commenter, Lilburnes Ghost. The only changes I made to his post were for grammar and style. Enthusiastic as he may be, Lilburnes Ghost is apparently not acquainted with the notions of either paragraphs or contractions. However, I’ll take his liveliness over pedantry any time!

The Roast Beef Of Old England

“Beef and Liberty”If you’re reading this you probably know who I am. I’ve been a student at Lancaster University for three years. Lancaster is a fine place to be, especially if you’re from Stockport! In those three years I’ve met many strange and unusual people, drunk many strange and unusual drinks, and done many things both strange and unusual which I won't go into here.

One thing I can't claim to have done much of is work. It doesn’t say much about the British education system or myself personally that I've managed to avoid the University library like the plague and am still here, three years in and going strong!

At least one useful thing has come out of it. One day, while doing some last-minute research for an overdue essay, I came across a book by the name of ‘Beef And Liberty’ by Ben Rogers. I glanced through it, and added it to the pile of books I was checking out. Later I got around to reading through it. The basic idea of the book was that ‘food nationalism’ plays a huge part in shaping national identity, and that in England’s case this food nationalism had always centred on roast beef.
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Now, being an Englishman, I’d always loved beef, but just assumed it was a natural, inbred thing, like the French eating snails or Koreans eating dogs. But the book went further; the idea that food, or at least the emotional attachment to certain types of food, could shape both the character of the nation, as well as the men in it, began to make sense. The old rivalry between France and England was defined like this: Johnny Frenchman, a frog-eating ponce in a stripey jumper and a beret, probably riding a bicycle, versus good old John Bull, built like a brick shit-house and raised on slabs of beef, with gravy on everything.

The difference in diet explained everything; the Frenchman’s insecurity of government and fondness for tyranny, over the Englishman’s fierce independence and attachment to liberty. This was the climate in which, during the eighteenth century, spontaneous and patriotic Englishmen formed such groups as the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks and The Beefsteak Club, dedicated to the twin pillars of Englishness: that of Beef, and that of Liberty. If these ideas were good enough for our fathers, they were good enough for me.

In that moment The BeefSteak Society was born.

I decided to start my own group. I’d been raised to be fairly patriotic, and I figure that England’s given me free housing, free healthcare and free education, so you might say I appreciate that. I also enjoy being free to do whatever I please (within reason), and that’s down to being born English, so I'm proud to be English. I do history as well, so I have a bit of an appreciation for the achievements of our people down the centuries.

You’d think, in a stereotypically liberal environment like a University, this wouldn't go down too well. You’d be wrong! Aside from anything else, there’s the human instinct that makes people band together in tribes. If you’ve ever lived away from home, around people you don’t have much in common with, all this will make perfect sense.

Lancaster’s only an hour’s drive from Stockport but it feels like a lot further away. Living on your own with everyone in the same boat, you make close friends pretty fast. And in my case, I thought: why not get all the lads round on a Sunday, cook a massive joint of Roast Beef, wash it down with a few ales and have a good old-fashioned English Sunday? So that’s exactly what we did.

From there The BeefSteak Society grew and grew. By the end of second year eighteen of us were going on a mass caravan holiday in Newquay; by third year we were old comrades, a society apart, with growing numbers, growing team spirit, and t-shirts on the way!

I had started something far greater than any one man. This was a new experience. This last Sunday, from humble beginnings of six or so, we had grown so big that our kitchen can't contain us and we’re having to look at renting a function room somewhere on campus!

If I had to explain the popularity of The BeefSteak Society, I could say that we tap into an underlying sense of rootlessness and impotence in the male population of England, which can only be vented safely by eating great quantities of beef, in the company of similiarly frustrated men; or I could say something meaningful about identity in the modern world, and so on.

The truth is, I love beef, I love ale, and I love England, and I wanted to celebrate these things in the company of some like-minded people. A good meal is a good meal, but the people you eat with are what make it great. The BeefSteak Society is never less than great.

So, next Sunday, get some people round to your kitchen, roast yourselves some beef, raise your glasses to the Roast Beef of Old England, and rest assured that The BeefSteak Society will be doing the same.

Beef and Liberty!

To which I would add, young man, one of you needs to learn to make a good Yorkshire pudding to accompany your roast while you’re all still young enough to digest it. The ingredients are simple, but like everything else in life, the success in Yorkshire pud lies in its timing.

I should be glad to share my experience if it’s needed. Meanwhile, here’s to your Sunday Roast!


Nate said...

He sounds as American as apple pie!

Incidentally, the connection between the Brits and Beef extends to American institutions. Any proper Mess Night in the Royal Navy has beef as its main course. And any proper US Navy or US Marine Corps Mess Night does the same (althrough unfortunately it seems this tradition of beef-eating is in decline). It's probably because the culture of both American services descends from across the pond.

Be careful to not let any Animal Liberation Front types know all of the fun you're having. They'd have you eating grass if they could. Bloody hell.

Gryffilion said...

"Johnny Frenchman, a frog-eating ponce..."

I love this bloke. Tell him if he ever comes to the States he can have free room and board at our apartment.

Asger Trier Engberg said...

Here we go! Nice to hear that britts are still britts.

As we say in Denmark, skål! Drink some more beer, eat beef and fight for your freedom!

We might join forces in the near future - I think the Viking gene is hard to erase, whether you find it on the fair Islands of Brittany or in Denmark.

Matt Ahern said...

This is a good thing on a much deeper level than simply men enjoying commeraderie.

Hear my words, O ye wise men; and give ear unto me, ye that have knowledge.
For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.
Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good. Job 34:2-4

I started to write a commenatry on this here but it grew beyond this medium so I posted it at my site.

See "Gird Up Thy Loins Now Like A Man" at Unalienable Rights blog.

Gryffilion said...

I wonder if we could start a trans-Atlantic American-British-Danish Beef-Eating and beer-drinking club. I'll bring the Carlsberg and the Theakston.

Papa Ray said...

Here in Texas, especially West Texas, the weekly B-B-Q (or cook out, barbque, whateveryou want to call it) is a tradition that goes back to Texas's past, when Texas was a part of Mexico.

We still do it, sometimes just the family, extended family or friends and family.

Or ones we throw (slang for host) for hundreds or even thousands.

We like beef, or I should say we love beef, any cut, but we also grill, b-b-q, (they are two different things you know) pork, venison, chicken or what ever we can get our hands on. We have some Yankee (northern Americans) that are transplants down here and they even grill veggies. (some are good, like corn on the cob, peppers, eggplant)

We use simple methods, a 20 dollar kmart special b-b-q, a homemade pit, a hole in the ground, a thiry thousand dollar trailer mounted giant pit that can feed thousands.

We use wood mostly, all flavors, but in a pinch we use them strange things that come in a bag and look like little baby pillows.

It is always a good time had by all, and the strange thing is, you find very few liberals, no radicals, and no socialists at these gatherings.

Like you said "like-minded" people seem to gather at these tribal feasts. Beer is drank by the case, barrel and by the truck loads at some.

Many a fight has started, or been settled or put off or never happened because of these gatherings.

These meetings and associations bring other activities, hunting, fishing, joint vacations, work projects where everybody helps someone that needs the help.

You name it, good things come out of these events. We also have identifed, conspired and decided who we can depend on, fight along side of when it becomes time to defend not only this Republic of Texas...

But this American Republic.

Papa Ray
West Texas

eatyourbeans said...

I love that picture. There isn't enough sullen defiance nowadays.

foxcharles said...

beef's where the meat's at!
and don't forget to floss

Voyager said...

whereas in England the riots are English people fighting back against the Muslims.

They are ? Where do you live ?