Is the Reputation of British Food Fair
Many foreigners go to Britain and say loved the country, hated the food. But is this fair.
British food has long been the laughingstock of the cuisine world. However, is this now fair? After all this is a country where chefs are now celebrities and their television programs exported around the world, Gordon Ramsey, footballer turned chef, having some success in the USA.
London has now become one of the food capitals of the world. British chefs are gaining Michelin stars.
Should British food or more precisely British cuisine get the respect it deserves?
Bit of History
From the 18th century to the beginning of the 2nd World War British chefs were world class. London had several of the best restaurants in the world.
The 2nd World War changed all that. Rationing until the 1950s meant people were limited with what they could cook due to the lack of ingredients. It was in the 1950s that the Good Food Guide began in a vain attempt to improve standards. People became lazy in the kitchen and expectations lowered.
The nadir was in the 1970s and 1980s. Eating out became steak houses and salad bars serving limited menus of poor quality washed down poor quality wine.
In the 1990s things began to change. A new generation of chefs began to emerge who began to reinvent British cuisine and demand quality local ingredients. Their restaurants became successes, they got their own TV shows and educated the nation about food.
Now the British population is now prepared to demand more when it comes to food.
What is British Food
British food is very meat based. Most of which is cooked in the oven. Most of the offal is eaten as well. The best example of this is haggis.
There is a great tradition of fish in Britain. Scotland is famous for salmon, English rivers have trout and Britain has an expert fishing fleet.
Like people in most countries the cuisine is really influenced by the weather. Frequent rains and winters that are not too cold and summers that are not too hot have created a fertile country where wheat and vegetables are grown easily and green pastures for animals to graze.
How did British Food get this Bad Reputation
Us Brits have to take some of the blame for this. Firstly the advent of the mass package holiday meant British people were travelling abroad and were prepared to only eat poor quality British food. Because of this the locales were seeing British people eating fried breakfasts, fish and chips and cheap roast dinners. Secondly when British tourists began to be more adventurous and the other countries cuisine a common topic of conversation was "This is lovely. I wish we cooked food like this in Britain". What were the locals supposed to think about British food.
British food also suffers from the narrow mindedness of foreign tourists. They arrive with a bad opinion of British food and leave with the same. Most foreign tourists go to London. It's a fact. Although London has several world class restaurants they are out of the price range of most tourists. Unfortunately, like most tourist destinations in the world, the restaurants in the tourist areas of London are of poor quality or they eat in Pubs serving greasy food. Rarely do they try to find good restaurants and when they ask most of the people they ask aren't from Britain so they don't know.
Where do I Find Good Places to Eat in Britain
Despite London having Michelin star restaurants for the best restaurants you have to head out into the countryside.
In the British countryside you will find pub-restaurants with small but high quality food. Much of the produce will have been bought locally and menus will be seasonal. They will have quality wine lists and real ales.
In these restaurants will be British classics like gammon steaks, lamb chops, sirloin steaks and Sunday Roasts but also other less well known British dishes like lamb shanks, wild boar, venison, salmon, trout, liver and bacon, kidney and oxtail. Also soups and broths of different flavours depending on the season. In coastal areas you can find oysters, sea bass, mackral, haddock, cod. mussels and sea bream for example.
Britain has also adopted food from around the world. None more so than curry. There are now curries that are British. Curry restaurants were once dark and dingy but now are modern with excellent service and good value. The best places for curry are Bricklane in East London and the Balti Mile in Birmingham.
Like most places in the world you have to know where to go.
Best of British
This is the shamelessly biased section of this blog and to be honest I'm proud of it.
British cheese is the best in the world and top quality British cheese is not hard to find. All you have to do is go to your local supermarket and the choice is endless, mature chedders, somerset bries, blue stilton and stilton with fruit, cheshire, lancashire, wensleydale to name a fraction.
Beef in the west of England and North of Scotland is of the highest quality. Lamb in the hills and mountains of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are full of flavour. Free range British poultry is delicious. British bacon is the best in the world as well as British pork.
For fish the best places to go are the south-west of England, Kent for shellfish, the North- West of Scotland and North-East of England.
Finally what nobody in the world can resist are British desserts. Once you tried it you're hooked. Desserts include bread and butter pudding, apple crumble, rhubarb crumble, eat 'n' mess, treacle tart and the curiously named spotted dick.
What started out as a defence of British food and cuisine as turned into a passionate promotion.
In conclusion did Britain deserve its reputation for bad cuisine the answer will have to be yes. However, does Britain still deserve this reputation the answer has to be an emphatic no.
If you are British farmer keep up the good work, if your British buy British and if your not next time you are in Britain head out of London and find a traditional village and stop there for something to eat you won't be disappointed and probably pleasantly surprised.