Last night, Vanessa posted on Facebook that she was craving a cheese platter from Friar Tuck's Pantry (for some reason, I can't pull up their site to link it, but just google). Friar Tuck's is a wonderful restaurant in the middle of downtown Round Rock that serves English food. In some cases, it's English food reinvented for the American palate, but I can live with that. I've been living without English food for too long to quibble. But, I digress. The last time Vanessa and I were in there, she had a cheese platter that brought back all sorts of memories for me.
The last year my family lived in England, I attended the Abbotsford School for Girls (I'm not having much luck with links today, but, yes, it is still there, though the "for Girls" has been dropped). This was one of those boarding schools that also accepted day pupils. I was a day pupil, but that included lunch. Lunch was the same lameness, week after week. I can't remember what was served on which day...there was a grey uniformity to it...but I do remember that on Thursdays, dessert was rice pudding.
Dearly Beloved, the smell of the glutinous mass cooking permeated the entire school. You will have to trust me on this, but it was, and remains, one of the most disgusting odours ever to invade my nostrils.
Now, my parents were Old School, even for that dim and distant era. Children, while not precisely required to be seen and not heard, were most definitely required to eat what was put in front of them; no ifs, ands or buts allowed. Including rice pudding. Including institutional rice pudding that stank. Including institutional rice pudding that stank and sat there in the bowl, a grey, gelatinous mess. On Thursdays, I remember sitting alone in the dining hall, watching the other girls march out two-by-two for their after-lunch walk, knowing that I was eventually going to have to eat the grey (now cold) smelly mess, but also knowing I would have to make a run for the bathroom after, because it was going to come right back up.
Where does the cheese come in, you might well ask. I am about to tell you. In England, at that time, almost any multi-course lunch or dinner would end with cheese and crackers. It seems odd to us, for whom such food is a snack, but it's the way it was. There would be several different kinds of cheese...Stilton, Cheshire, Cheddar, Blue...and several different kinds of crackers.
A girl whose name I can't remember sat next to me at lunch. She, too, hated rice pudding. Unlike me, however, she had humans for parents, and they had arranged with the school for her to have cheese and crackers instead of the aforementioned gelatinous mess. So, cutting through the rice pudding reek would be the delicious fragrance of sharp cheese. She would look over at me, smugly, as she ate her ambrosia. I hated her. I told me parents about her. I begged to be allowed to partake of such largess, but the units were adamant. Children Must Be Taught To Eat What's Put In Front Of Them. Otherwise anarchy will ensue. They had a few unkind words to say about the girl's parents, as well. Interfering with the menu at the school was tantamount to treason.
I still love cheese. I still hate rice pudding. Next time I can afford it, I'm off to Friar Tuck's.