Traveling around America in these times, it’s no great surprise to find restaurants that serve the food of Vietnam, of Paraguay, or of Morocco. What used to be culinary exotica is less and less exotic. But what about the food of our mother country, England? Outmoded jokes about the lameness of British Isles cuisine notwithstanding, it is curious how rare it is to find menus that feature such traditional of-the-people fare as bangers & mash, shepherd’s pie, and Cornish pasties. So when infallible Roadfood tipster Keith McLendon suggested I go to Panama City Beach and find a place called “Eat My Pasty,” I was on my way to a trim little shop just yards from Gulf waters. (Eat My Pasty has since assumed the more respectable moniker Temperly’s)
“Have you been here before?” Asks the lady behind the counter as customers walk in the door. She informs newcomers that ordering is a do-it-yourself affair. On the wall above her is a menu from which you choose British classics, hamburgers, fish or chicken sandwiches, or one weird item called “The Frankenstein”: elk, veal, and venison ground up, grilled, and topped with cheese, onions, greens, and chipotle mayo on a brioche bun.
Fish & chips is a great option, available as haddock or cod (the latter a bit blander). It comes as one formidable hunk of food, longer than its plastic oval pedestal, with a thick, crisp, beer-batter coat that shores in the fish’s sweet meat. With thick-cut fried potatoes, it is a first-rate version of what has become a universal dish.
Cornish pasties come filled with tender shreds of beef, onions, and rutabagas, or as a pasty containing Jamaican beef curry, chicken pot pie, Thai green chicken, vegetable curry, or bacon and tomato. As presented, the pasty is not a beautiful meal, but once its crust is severed, the from-scratch filling is appetizing indeed.
Pasties are turned into dessert with such fillings as berries, cherries and chocolate, peach, or apples. As far as I know, these are not typical British desserts; nor does the kitchen offer such Old Country favorites as sticky toffee pudding, spotted dick, Bakewell tart, or Eton mess.