Oxford dinners

    Guest post by Paul Simeon – “My trip to England for a summer school in plasma physics”

    It’s nice to try out another school or another country. I did both when I spent the last two weeks of July at the University of Oxford, eating and sleeping in St. Edmund Hall, the oldest place still teaching undergraduates in the world. Arriving with few expectations about the food, we were all pleasantly surprised at the dining hall. Each night for two weeks, the staff served up a different three-course meal at 7 pm sharp. When some people showed up late the first day or two, the servers lightly scolded them. The chefs needed to know how many dishes to prepare. They had a vegetarian option if you told them ahead of time, but otherwise everyone got the same thing. And it wasn’t the average stuff dished out at a standard American college cafeteria.

    Week 1- Monday 12th

    The starter was a big wedge of honey dew melon on the rind, presliced to make it easy, and garnished with a lemon slice and one (too) sweetened cherry. The main course was roasted duck with mushroom sauce, accompanied by boiled carrots and small potatoes on the side.

    Dessert was an amazing raspberry meringue.

    Tuesday 13th

    Fish cake with small salad (lettuce and watercress sprouts), which came with a red sweet and sour sauce.

    For the main course we had a turkey breast (or just the part that we use for chicken fingers) with a slice of baby Swiss cheese (I guess) and diced tomatoes on top. Dessert was something that might be called banana cream pie.  It had a thick layer of cream like coconut cream pie, a layer of pureed bananas near the bottom, with a graham cracker crust and a thin layer of chocolate on top (with chocolate chips).  It was very good.

    The dining room of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University. Picture taken by Tobias Hartmann.

    Wedesnday 14th
    Salad with chopped up tuna fish (in oil and vinegar, thankfully!) with tomatoes, olives, and potatoes to start.

    It was alright, but I wasn’t in the mood for fish, especially pink tuna instead of albacore. The entree was roasted lamb slices in a thick red sauce.

    The lamb was pretty tough, and the sauce was too strong. The sides were good though: roasted potato chunks with onions and cauliflower au gratin. Dessert was a pear soaked in some sweet liquid, that tasted like liqueur or rum, and sprinkled with giant yellow glazed crystals.

    Wikipedia suggests amaretto liqueur. This was my least favorite dinner, and each of the dishes was my least favorite so far.

    Thursday 15th

    Half an avocado with small shrimp in a sauce.  Sauce wasn’t that great, but the avocado was good.

    Followed by one half of a roasted chicken, one of each piece on the bone and baked potato that was covered in oil or butter. Very moist and tasty. The ending was two ladyfinger cookies in a strawberry-flavored mix between whipped cream and the British style of yogurt. Someone said it was meringue.

    Friday 16th

    Starter was skinny fish with heads on, fried. It was like anchovy. The French and Spanish people at the table knew what it was, but I didn’t recognize or remember the names they said.

    The main course was thin slices of tough, red beef smothered in gravy, with sides of cauliflower, potatoes, and fluffy rolls. Dessert was mixed chopped fruit in a sauce with whipped cream on top.

    Sunday 18th

    Salad with lots of stuff in it. Ham, cheese, tomato, radish, cucumber, lettuce, gherkin. It was good. It was almost less like a salad and more like a bowl of random cold things. On the side was a gravy boat with a light salad dressing that was most likely vinaigrette.

    The main dish was interesting, and pretty good. It looked like a big lump of roast, but it was actually a thin slice of beef that was rolled up with bread crumbs or stuffing in the middle.

    And, of course, they put gravy all over it like every other dish. The Germans at the table knew this dish quite well. The sides were broccoli, cauliflower, and croquettes – fried cylinders of mashed potatoes. Dessert was a simple bowl of assorted berries and grapes with a dollop of whipped cream (actual whipped cream, not the fluffy stuff in tubs or spray cans). Nothing too fancy, but it was good. I’d say this was one of the better meals of the two weeks.

    (to be continued) – Read Part II

    Other bites in England:
    Cous Cous Cafe in Oxford
    Soon-to-be new posts:
    From popadom to Bombay pizza
    – Pie and mash at the Ship Inn Upavon and Pieminister
    – England’s healthy fastfood chain: Pret A Manger

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