UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Strolling along a seaside promenade or through an East London neighborhood, Americans in England might have seen a sign for food that sounds about as appealing as a serving of cold camel tongue: jellied eels.

“I wouldn’t eat ’em, personally,” said one British service worker at RAF Mildenhall. “Ooooh, they’re not nice.” Her co-worker wrinkled his face at the memory of trying some.

The distinctly English fast-food item is really just what the name promises. Jellied eels are chunks of eel lightly stewed and served cold in the translucent, spiced gelatin that comes from the condensed stewing juices.

The result is generally a bowl of eel pieces served in a goopy portion of semi-clear jelly, often dressed up with a chili sauce. It is described as an “acquired taste,” by one recipe Web site.

It’s a dish with a history in the cockney areas of London, where eels used to be plucked from the muddy canals of the River Thames and used as a relatively cheap, easy stomach filler in “eel pie and mash” shops in the East End.

Still a popular dish with many people, it can be found in small vendor stands in many beach areas, and in the town of Ely, near RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, where eels have been a staple for centuries.

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