English “Cuisine”- ENGLISH FOOD… good or bad?
At the risk of making you laugh, here’s a question: What is the greatest English contribution to world cuisine? Is English food yummy? ?
Yes, I know…, the English are famous for many things but good food is not one of them.
Of course, this is just a stereotype; but like most stereotypes, even if it’s not completely true, it does have some truth in it.
Much of this belief that the English have nothing to offer the world in the way of food comes from the conditions in the country after the Second World War. Throughout the war, food had been rationed and many items had been completely unavailable.
This state of affairs continued after the war and rationing didn’t officially end until 1954, nine years later. The result was a food culture in which quantity was seen as more important than quality. So, maybe our reputation is understandable. After all, at that time, in the kitchen, we didn’t have much to work with. On the other hand, that was three generations ago; you would think the English had got over it by now…?!
Moving forward in time a little, I have to say that my own experiences when growing up (in the 1970s if you must know) weren’t too different.
Until I left home at the age of 18, I ate no spicy food, no pasta, no rice. You’re probably wondering what we did eat in my family. Well, with apologies to my mother (who did all the cooking) I don’t really remember; I do know that ever since I gained my independence, my favourite foods have been curries, pizza (spicy, of course) and «chilli con carne» – all the things I never had at home.
In a sense, my experience is typically English in that we seem to compensate for our own limited cuisine by adopting the foods of other countries. Just look at all the restaurants and takeaways to be found in almost any English town:
- Italian(pasta and pizza)
- Indian (a survey a few years ago found that Chicken Tikka Masala is England’s most popular dish!)
- Turkish (kebabs)
And don’t forget McDonalds (the United States’ biggest contribution to the world of food) ??
Indeed, a Chilean friend of mine who lived in England for some years, pointed out that to be fair, at least the English accept that their cuisine is terrible, that’s why you can find such a wide range of restaurants serving food from all over the world in even the most mediocre of small towns. (I think that’s what we would call a “backhanded compliment”; it’s a compliment and an insult at the same time!)
Then, if you go to London or any other major city, you’ll also find Lebanese, Korean, Belgian (Belgian!?), Japanese, Caribbean, Spanish, French, Greek, Mexican, Mongolian, and on and on… (The last UK town I lived in even had a restaurant that was a combination of Spanish and Greek; tapas and meze!? It must have made sense to someone. Strangely, it also served a great selection of British ales – who says the English can’t be adventurous?)
So, having said that the English prefer to eat the food of other nations, are there any ‘typical’ English dishes left?
ENGLISH FOOD: Typical English Dishes
Of course, there are, here are three examples.
Fish and Chips
How about the classic fish and chips? At its best, a fresh fillet of cod fried in crisp batter, accompanied by slightly soggy chips (honestly, they’re better that way) and if you want to be really traditional, served with a portion of mushy peas (basically, peas that have been mashed into a paste – much nicer than it sounds, trust me).
Then there’s the Full English Breakfast: sausage, bacon, fried egg, fried bread, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, black pudding, baked beans, plus buttered toast on the side and a mug of tea or coffee to wash it all down. By the way, we do not eat this every morning; if we did, we’d be dead of a heart attack within a month!
Finally, the traditional Sunday Roast Dinner. Eaten in the middle of the day and consisting of roast meat (either beef, lamb, pork or chicken) with roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a selection of boiled vegetables which may include carrots, peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, swede or parsnip (although parsnips might be roasted instead). Although the English don’t call it a siesta, it’s not unusual to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon after such a large meal.
You know, English food really isn’t as bad as its reputation. Like a lot of other Northern European countries, the traditional dishes include meat, vegetables and lots of potato (either boiled, mashed, baked, roast or chips); we like sausages, stews, soups, sauces and pickles; we also love cakes and heavy desserts. It’s all food designed to give people comfort and energy for living and working in a damp, cold climate.
And don´t forget, we invented the sandwich; now surely that is something to be proud of?
Author: Dave Harris
Read this post in Spanish: «La cocina inglesa»