So, about the food here...it'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.