Saturday, September 10, 2011


So, about the food's nothing short of phenomenal. I thought American food would be one of the things I missed most about the States, but that fear was put to rest pretty quickly. While the potatoes are softer, the pastries are pleasant in texture and appearance, and fish-and-chips defies words when done properly, the breads and cheeses stand out in particular. Far more abundant and cheap than can be had in America, we have made it a little hobby here in the Campbell household to become connoisseurs of the two. The bread is good, but writing about that would probably put me to sleep. Cheese is normally associated with fine culture, which I like to pretend I am a part of on occasion. Here are a few kinds we have put to the test. I wholeheartedly recommend all of them, should you see them at your local supermarket.
Red Leicester:  Probably closest to Monterey Jack in America, except for a slightly less pronounced taste. Incredible all-rounder, it can be shredded, used on sandwiches, in recipes, or even by itself. Adds a cheesy texture without altering the dish's taste.

Double Gloucester w/ chive and dried onion:  I assume that 'Double Gloucester' has a taste, but you couldn't tell in this instance. The chive and onions simply overwhelm any other flavor that might possibly creep in. Still, this body of dairy added a soft backrop of texture to complement the savory bits, and the chive is similar enough in taste to the onion that one doesn't necessarily conflict with the other. A great cheese, if moderated with crackers and taken in small doses. Impact on breath is not to be underestimated.

Wensleydale w/ cranberry:  This one just didn't catch with me. The rest of the family loves it, and it's seen the most time at our table of all these save for the Leicester, but for the life of me I don't know why. A very creamy cheese, akin to cream cheese but slightly harder, filled with cranberries that were incredibly tart to the point of revulsion. The yin and the yang just don't match up here.

Welsh Mature Cheddar: To put it simply, this is cheddar on steroids. The 'mature' here is like an extra-sharp back home, and it is aged to perf

Presidential French Brie:  This is like Brie 1.0, but that's not a bad thing at all. It is surprisingly cheap here, roughly $1.80 for a 200-gram wedge. I for one have always loved the texture of the rind, and the creamy center is up there with the great "creamy centers" of history. Even though this was the cheapest by far of the brie options, I could live off of this stuff.

Stilton w/ apricot:  Overwhelming flavor, like Swiss mixed with some stronger cheese (Gorgonzola?). The apricots do nothing to mitigate said flavor, either; the orange bits were unnoticeable except in the form of an aftertaste. Based on my cursory experience, I would say that the art of putting fruit in cheese just has not been mastered.

Emmental: see Swiss. Tastes exactly the same.

This article will be updated regularly (hopefully) over the course of the stay, and I really hope some of these variegations of dairy make their way across the pond so you, the viewers at home, can try them! Lest this turn into an episode of Rick Steves' Europe in blog form, I'll try to limit the food articles that go up on here, but there truly are culinary delights to be found over here. Wales continues to grow on me with every passing day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Walking the Streets of Llay

For three afternoons in a row my family and I visited every house in Llay, passing out leaflets for the September Sing--a Saturday evening of hymns and food--and a Harvest Display the following weekend. So now I can say I've seen the whole town, and my aching legs will attest to that--I'm more out of shape than I realized. But that is a conversation for another day...

Anyways, seeing where my family will be serving was a very poignant experience. The village is beautiful to look at on the surface; the houses are functional, not elaborate, but just about every other domicile has a flower bed that would put any American garden to shame. Every shade of yellow, orange, purple, and blue is on display here, even some black flowers that were foreign to me but striking nonetheless. Even after the first jillion this feature did not grow stale, and the floral wall of color was always a welcome treat.

Beneath the colorful houses and the laid-back, not-quite-suburban bustle, there is an undercurrent of...emptiness. That's a vague description at best, but I really don't know how else to describe it. There is a veneer of cordiality, but there is no real joy, in fact it seems like a sort of hopelessness. The people you pass on the street have a resigned look about them, save for the roving bands of teens, who have more than a hint of hostility. It is a dark place, in terms of cloud cover and spirituality. I definitely see my parents' burden for these people, and I have caught that fire, if to a lesser extent. Pray that something would come from the literature put out, and that over these next couple weeks Bethel Baptist Church would see souls changed by God and through Christ.

On a brighter note, we now have a house!!! Nothing is set in stone yet, the contract needs to be signed and the background check still needs to clear, but if we could be there when our shipping container arrives on Friday, that would be the perfect scenario. I have always heard about the lackadaisical passive approach to business dealings in Europe, and stories about friends who get bogged down by the unique pacing is always good for a laugh. But let me tell you, it is a pain to actually deal with it. Both the estate agent (realtor) and the bureau covering the background check have been dragging their feet, and hopefully this state of limbo is resolved by the end of the week.

More posts to come soon! Especially if the house deal goes through and the September Sing lives up to its billing, which I believe it will. And an entry on British food coming soon...mmmmmmm...