Grey

November 6, 2009

The citizens of many countries have always had a way of looking at things in black and white. (South Africa and the southern states of the US in particular). However for the English this has never been the case. What may seem straightforward to others is a little more complex to the advanced mind of the Englishman.

For example, war. What is it good for? Well, sure it has its knockers but the English have always found it a handy way of expanding the empire and learning new and exciting cooking techniques.

Or love. Considered to be generally a ‘good thing’ but doesn’t it lead to all that tedious, sweaty procreation business with the inevitable mess and embarrassment?

No, for the English there needed to be a middle way. A choice more in line with the English weather, English complexion and colour of English boiled potatoes and so it was that in 1952 Henry Thorpe invented grey. It turned out to be the defining creation of the decade and soon became a firm favourite of the English.

Grey

I think we all know who looked the most sophisticated in this special Anglo-Italy-US episode of Blind Date first aired in 1983.

Related non-invention:
Gray (Non-invented by the Americans): No Lance, you can’t spell it and you can’t carry it off. Stick with your gaudy colours. That’s right, colours!

Squirrels

August 22, 2009

Up until 1962 the world had been satisfied with the cat and the mouse as two distinct animals.

The mouse was the ideal animal for when you needed some cheese eating, some squeaking or there was a housewife who needed to be scared up onto a stool, skirt gathered round her knees.

The proud parents share a tendor moment.

The proud parents share a tendor moment.

The cat didn’t really have a purpose. They would lounge around, occasionally half-heartedly chase a mouse or pull an amusing face in the hope of a photograph being uploaded to the internet with a witty caption.

It took the genius of Wilfred Stevenson to realise the advantage of combining these two animals. Wilfred was a prolific inventor having previously invented the LSD smoothie and the “Quiche Insane”, a quiche containing magic mushrooms and hallucinogenic frog meat.

Wilfred had a dream of a conventional small rodent but with the bushy luxuriant tale of a cat. In March 1962 he initiated a mouse/cat breeding program. There were some teething problems, the cat trying to eat the mouse, the mouse hitting the cat over the head with a frying pan so large you would have imagined the mouse would be unable to lift it, that kind of thing.

Eureka! The first squirrel, Tony

Eureka! The first squirrel, Tony

However, Wilfred fell back on his medical knowledge and started giving the two participants varying amounts of Ecstasy and poppers. Soon he had the breakthrough he had been dreaming of, and in August of 1962 the first offspring was born. The squirrel had been invented!

Related non-invention:
Grey squirrel (Non-invented by the Americans): As often is the case the Americans made a bigger, crasser version of the original and tried to pass it off as something new. Close, Chad, but no cigar.

Cutlery

August 12, 2009

Whilst the rest of the world was still using its fingers to eat food as late as 1953, the English had long since recognised the benefits of an intermediary between dinner and digit. The invention of the sandwich in 1751 highlighted the advantages of keeping the fingers clean of grease, gravy, Marmite, etc., but it wasn’t for another 63 years that the logical next step was taken.

And Jesus spake thus unto the waiter "I haveth not cutlery" and the waiter thus respondeth "You're too early mate, the English don't invent cutlery for another 1800 years or so"

And Jesus spake thus unto the waiter "I haveth not cutlery" and the waiter thus respondeth "You're too early mate, the English don't invent cutlery for another 1800 years or so"

In the Autumn of 1814 Edgar Ramsbottom was in his parlour tuning his piano when is wife brought him a platter of fine pickles. Edgar was in a quandary because although he was hungry and loved the piquant taste of a well preserved gherkin he also knew the dangers of getting strong malt vinegar on the keys or body of his piano. Inspiration struck in a flash and taking the tuning fork he had been using, a C-128, Edgar skewered a particularly large gherkin and transferred it to his mouth without despoiling either his hands or piano with vinegar.

Edgar, sensing the enormity of his breakthrough, immediately gave up his job as a government approved leach healer and dedicated the rest of his life to perfecting his invention. He experimented with the number of tines. He found that 2 tines gave a better note when striking the food however 10 times ensured that even the most persistent  live shrimp was restrained. He eventually settled on 4 as the optimum  number, suitable for spearing all but the largest of morsels but still giving a pleasant tone when struck against the table top.

The fork was an excellent start but proved frightfully slow for eating soup and inadequate for slicing the larger gherkins into smaller mouth-sized pieces. He rapidly added the spoon and knife to his inventions and the classic cutlery combo was formed.

Related non-invention:
Chopsticks (Non-invented by the Chinese): Hold on Huang, chopping the top off the fork doesn’t invent a new form of cutlery. What you have just non-invented is the “not fork”.

Obesity

August 8, 2009

The English have a proud tradition of rotundity having invented fatness back in Medieval times. Then it was frowned upon for the local Baron not to weigh more than his largest livestock and hence the English nobility were the envy of all of Europe.

As the English had not yet invented divorce Henry VIII fanously ate his second wife, Anne Boleyn

As the English had not yet invented divorce Henry VIII fanously ate his second wife, Anne Boleyn

During the countless times the English defeated their foreign neighbours in battles, wars and dust-ups it was not an un-common site for the English King to be carried onto the battlefield in a sedan chair borne by 4 elephants. The defeated King Louis VIII of France, having had his royal backside handed to him on a platter by Henry III during the Saintonge War, muttered the now-famous last words: “Mon deui, il a les buttocks d’un hippopotamus”.

However, as English adventurers discovered the new worlds of America and the South Pacific, it became clear that there was serious competition out there and if England were to retain its title of “Portliest Empire” it would have to step up its game. This led to the government of the time forming the Institute of the Big-Boned where top scientists and dieticians worked together to solve this crisis.

These scientists scoured Europe in the course of their research and by combining key elements from the cooking of Scotland, the physical fitness regime of the Italian army and the genetics of Greek women were able to unveil, in 1723, the first of a new breed of super-fatty: Stanley Orpington.

Stanley Orpington considers a snack before lunch.

Stanley Orpington considers a snack before lunch.

Stanley weighed 43 stones and although measuring techniques were more primitive in those days it was recorded that “upon being rolled juste one time, from back to bellie and once more to back, he was transported from outside of the front doore  of Mrs. Gordon’s Gyn Shoppe to the steppes of the Underprivileged Orphans Workhouse/Knocking shoppe,  a distance of quite some yardes”.

England’s top scientists had prevailed and soon the chair-breaking techniques used to produce Stanley were used throughout the kingdom and the girth of the Englishman was once again the envy of the whole World.

Related non-invention:
Morbid obesity (non-invented by the Americans):  If you weigh more than your sofa you should be feeling a tad gloomy, Bubba. Whimsical obesity, now that would be an invention.

Related non-invention:
Welsh Rarebit (Non-invented by the Welsh): Oi Aled, if you are going to nick an English meal and pretend it’s Welsh at least add a bloody leek.

Cheese on Toast / Pizza

July 21, 2009

In October 1912 Mr Wilf Chumbly, of Halton near Lancaster, was looking for a warm meal with all the delicious taste of the cheese sandwich (with maybe only 50% of the bread). He had the idea to create a piece of toast and then to put cheese on top of it. Wilf called his new creation “Cheese on toast”.

The traditional Skittle's 12 inch "pizza" cheese on toast

The traditional Skittle's 12 inch "pizza" cheese on toast

His creation became wildly popular with his friends and relatives and soon he had opened the first home delivery food service, “Skittles” (named after the game he would play down at his local pub). Any resident of Lancaster, or the surrounding area, could call up Skittles and Wilf would cycle round to their house with a steaming hot piece of cheese on toast in a cardboard box.

When phoning in their order the broad Lancaster accent of Wilf’s customers meant that the phrase “Can I have a 12 inch piece of cheese on toast please, Wilf” would sound like “Can I have a 12 inch ‘pizza’ cheese on toast please, Wilf” and so in 1924 he renamed his company “Skittle’s Pizza” and created the famous logo  known around the world.

Wilf developed his product line to start adding extra ingredients to his cheese on toast and soon he had a variety of popular favourites, one of the most popular being the ham and Pineapple “Morecome”, named after the local seaside town due to its proximity to both several pig farms and the Del Monte canning plant.

Soon rip-offs of Wilf’s “pizza” had started appearing around the world and just like had happened with football and the squirrel previously it was the Americans who took a good idea and ruined it. Instead of keeping the traditional square shape they decided to make it round, meaning that a customer ordering a 12 inch pizza, instead of getting 144 square inches of cheese dripping goodness would instead get a meagre 113.097 square inches. It is this ridiculously shaped sham-pizza that  is now more prominent but true pizza aficionados still seek out the Skittle’s authentic version and add a splash of Lea and Perrin’s sauce before eating.

Related non-invention:
Welsh Rarebit (Non-invented by the Welsh): Oi Aled, if you are going to nick an English meal and pretend it’s Welsh at least add a bloody leek.

aficionados

The cocktail

June 18, 2009

The English invented the first recorded cocktail when in 1832 a Mr Campbell Johnson of Basildon, Essex asked for a pint of beer with “just a splash of lemonade” in it.

The “lager top” had been created and soon the classic English cocktails the “shandy”, the “lager and lime” and the “snakebite and black”  were the most popular drinks at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, the Waldorf in New York, the Dingo’s Nuggets in Sydney and all other colonial back-waters.

Tom Cruise prepares a Lager Top, his signature cocktail in the film "Cocktail"

Tom Cruise prepares a Lager Top, his signature cocktail in the film "Cocktail"

Related non-invention:
Cocktail onion (Non-invented by the Californians): It’s just a small onion.  You don’t put onions in your drinks Keanu!

Talking

June 17, 2009

In 528 B.C., having just invented the first language (English), the English went on to invent talking.

Not stopping there the English went on immediately to invent the first ever question (“How are you, old chap?”), the first ever reply (“Mustn’t grumble.”) and the first ever platitude (“That’s good to hear.”). Although invented by Englishmen it was Englishwomen who went on to excel in talking and really took it to the next level.

Two English women practising talking in 1982. By this time many other countries had tried talking themselves (with varying degrees of success).

Two English women practising talking in 1982. By this time many other countries had started talking themselves (with varying degrees of success).

Related non-invention:
Rapping  (Non-invented by the Americans): Talking whilst wearing oversized trousers does not make it a new form of communication,  Dwayne

Football

June 16, 2009

Football was invented by an English schoolboy at John Port School, Etwall.

Whilst playing rugby in 1865, Herbert Blackwell dropped the ball and proceeded to kick it with his feet rather than carry it in his hands. Continuing to the try line he kicked the ball between the posts and below the bar scoring the first ever “goal”. He then proceeded to run along the touch line cupping his hand to his ear before pulling his shirt over his head. Unfortunately in those days all sport was played in a thick woollen all-in-one leotard and Herbert later that afternoon also invented soprano singing.

The 1865 England Football team shown here waiting for some other countries to start playing the game

The 1865 England Football team shown here waiting for some other countries to start playing the game

Related non-invention:
Aussie rules football (Non-invented by the Australians): Playing it on a cricket pitch in tank tops doesn’t make it a new sport, Bruce

The neck tie

June 16, 2009

The neck tie was invented by the English in 1352 when it was realised that there needed to be an easy way to distinguish an English gentleman from jonny foreigner. Other nationalities were forbidden from wearing the tie until 1826, and then only bowties.

Whilst playing Bond, Roger Moore naturally wore a tie however Sean Connery (a Scot) had to wear a bowtie.

Whilst playing Bond, Roger Moore naturally wore a tie however Sean Connery (a Scot) had to wear a bowtie.

Related non-invention:
The cravate (Non-invented by the French): Tying a handkerchief roughly round your neck isn’t fashion, Jean-Pierre

The scotch egg

June 16, 2009

The scotch egg was invented by the English, and not as suggested by the name, the Scottish.

The addition of a sausage layer to the outside of a boiled egg came first, in 1354, but it wasn’t until 1782 that the breadcrumbs were added (by Mr George Percey of Bromsgrove) creating the staple of wedding buffets we’ve come to love.

A scotch egg (plus another half scotch egg): Combining egg and pork sausage doubles your chance of salmonella

A scotch egg (plus another half scotch egg): Combining egg and pork sausage doubles your chance of salmonella