Comfort Food: British & American
Comfort foods: Comparing British with American
We heard someone on the radio talking about comfort food recently which resulted in quite a conversation between me and himself. What exactly, we asked each other, is comfort food? That naturally developed into the further discussion between us - a couple of Brits living in the USA - namely, are comfort foods different in each country?
The answer, which you'll see below is 'yes and no'.After researching hundreds of websites (probably not, but it felt like it) I've developed the ultimate top ten comfort foods for each country. What do you think? In addition to hearing from British and American people,I'd love to hear from people in other countries too. What would your list be? Let me know in the comments section below.
Images from Wikimedia Commons and artworked by BritFlorida.
Here's Google's definition. Do you agree? Before we start with the list, do you want to guess which foods are the most popular in each country? I wonder if you'll be surprised?How different are we? How similar are we? Let's find out.
Were you expecting this or does it surprise you? Yes, pizza wins in the States and a good old fashioned roast dinner is the top of the charts in Britain.I'm pretty torn here. I love pizza - cold pizza for breakfast is even fine by me - and I don't eat meat so that should exclude the roast dinner. But look - fluffy, gorgeous Yorkshire puddings...
Pizza in its various forms was eaten thousands of years ago by ancient civilizations and was popular throughout Europe but it only became truly popular in the USA after the Second World War.As for the roast dinner, it's said that its origins are in Yorkshire (of course).
The American choice here is one that baffles many English people. 'Biscuits' in Britain are what are known as 'cookies' in the States. Very confusing - imagine, cookies with gravy sounds gross.What's interesting about this list of foods is noticing which of these dishes originate in other countries. As far as I know, biscuits and gravy is a completely American dish. (Let me know below if I've got it wrong).
Whilst shepherd's pie was listed as being incredibly popular in the UK, cottage pie was mentioned too. Aren't they the same? Nope.To be strictly correct, shepherd's pie should be made (hence the name) from lamb or mutton and topped with mashed potato.Cottage pie can be made with any meat (even leftovers) and can be topped with mash or sliced potatoes. True.
In third place
Now at first glance, it looks as though the two countries agree here but that's not strictly true. The clue is in the descriptive words you see alongside the images.Americans like fries, British people like chips. Fries, which are considerably thinner than chips, originated in Belgium, although the French hotly dispute that as you can imagine.
The English chip is larger and should,in order to be a proper chip, be cooked in beef dripping and not oil.My question is, do people still make chips / fries at home? My mum was a chips-with-everything cook and we only had 'bought' chips on Saturday lunchtimes. Do people still make their own?
And fourth on the list...
Again, the two counties have something in common as our fourth choice is pasta. See how different they are though. Americans didn't didn't specify which sauce they prefer on their spaghetti.
As for the British choice, lasagne, I have a firm bee in my bonnet that lasagne was invented in England in the UK. There is a recipe in the Forme of Cury (written in the fourteenth century) that describes a perfect lasagne recipeIt's interesting though that both countries chose pasta when it isn't 'native' to either - although I do think that when something has been around since the fourteenth century, that's pretty native.So our third choices were similar, as were our fourth selections. What will our next choices be?
Fifth on the list
Interesting. Americans had spaghetti as their fourth choice but didn't specify a sauce. But in fifth place, the Brits had spaghetti too but specifically with bolognese sauce.The chicken soup that is so popular in America would be considered 'broth' by most British people. When we think of chicken soup we think of the 'cream of' version. (Well, I do).
By what I have read, I'm a little surprised that the States doesn't have this soup higher on the list. Isn't it supposed to be a cure-all? Oh, Britain's favourite soup? I'd say either cream of tomato or some form of seafood bisque.What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below. Now,let's see how similar (or dissimilar) our sixth choices will be.
In sixth spot
Well, the two countries are different again. Or are they? It might seem odd that there are no chicken dishes on the British list but it's true that the most popular curries are chicken, notably chicken tikka.Fried chicken is nowhere to be seen on the British list and curry isn't on the American list. We've had the famous colonel and his stores in the UK for as long as I remember but nevertheless, fried chicken doesn't feature on any British list.
And it's the same with curry - it's nowhere to be seen on any American list. It this because the UK has a high Asian population? Plus (I'm at it again) there were distinctly 'curry-like' dishes in the Forme of Cury ... um... look at its name.Of course, we also occupied India for a long time which probably also went some way towards making Indian food our national fish.
I was a little surprised to find pizza so low on the British list but there again, this is a list of comfort foods not favourite foods. (If it was, I'm convinced that curry would be at the top.)I'm also surprised that mashed potato makes its way onto the list from the States. Do Americans eat it as a dish on its own? (Let me know in the comments section below).
On some British lists, mashed potato would find its way in - at the bottom - but that was invariably bangers and mash; mashed potatoes served with sausages and gravy.Here's a 'did you know' - did you know that pizza restaurants and takeouts (in both countries) say that the least popular topping is anchovies?
Another surprise for me - especially on the American front. I didn't realise that burritos were so popular. It seems that the American version of today is different to the original Mexican dish.Mexicans have been wrapping their food in this fashion for many years (but mostly with vegetables) and surprisingly, they were only commercially introduced into the US in the 1930s.
Luckily for the UK, fish and chips were one of the few foods that weren't rationed in the Second World War. This makes sense - they are cheap, filling and nourishing.Now we are approaching our ninth items on the list. Will we be similar or completely different?
Our ninth selection
Were you expecting this? Once again, America is showing its preference for pasta although as far as I know there is no real Italian equivalent. A recipe for the dish was recorded in France in the fourteenth century and in the UK. (Guess where? Yep).It's interesting though that both countries chose a cheese dish.
I have to say that cheese on toast (very different to American grilled cheese) is one of my favourites.One version, the Welsh Rabbit, was recorded in the eighteenth century and then of course there is the wonderful French croque monsieur (or madame - the meat-free version with egg).Mac & cheese is known more as 'macaroni and cheese' in the UK and is oven-baked - rather like a lasagne - to create a crunchy topping.
Can you guess number ten?
Ah, another melted cheese dish! Grilled cheese in the States is very different to the British cheese on toast though. Grilled cheese is essentially and sandwich unlike the British version.Grilled cheese when bought commercially is often made from American cheese (and even after all these years I'm not sure what that is). Traditionally, British cheese on toast uses cheddar.
There's a common fallacy in the rest of the world that the British eat a hearty breakfast such as you see here every day of the week. This is probably because most hotels serve it to guests.We don't - firstly because we don't have the time and secondly because our cholesterol levels would be sky high. But that's what makes it perfect comfort food.
Points to ponder
- I was surprised to see that every dish was savoury. I would have expected ice cream and chocolate cake on there somewhere - from both countries.
- It's interesting to note how many of these foods have their origins in other countries. That's more to be expected from the USA of course, because it has a 'received cuisine'.
- It's also interesting to speculate how many of these foods are actually made at home. Correct me if I'm wrong (below) but how many people in either countries actually make pizza from scratch?
- If you're a Canadian reader, how has your country and your own personal tastes developed its comfort food? From your neighbour the USA or from your origins, the UK?
- Similarly if you're from Australia, New Zealand or another Commonwealth country (past or present) do your comfort foods have a British bias or have you developed your own?
- Wherever you're from, do let us know what the comfort foods are in your country - we really want to know.
- Do you think that any of these dishes have become popular because of their ease of purchase? After all, you can buy fries / chips on almost every street.
- What do you think these foods show about our general eating habits? Do you think that they show that the American diet is generally healthier or vice versa?
- If like me you're no longer living in the country of your birth, are your comfort food tastes from your new country or the original one?
What is 'American food'? What is 'British food'? See the books below for more. Let's start with one of the most famous American cooks.
Is MarthaStewart the most popular recipe publisher?I know so many people who are absolutely devoted to her recipes. Are they typically American?
There are so many British chefs to choose from but if television success is anything to go by, Jamie Oliver is an excellent example.
Jamie Oliver is a great example of a British chef because he prefers to use local ingredients, natural products and always has his eye on the budget.
He also believes that recipes should be quick to make and easy to do - that's my sort of chef.
There are some of who would say that the heartiest food in Britain is to be found in our pubs.
Have you ever wondered what people ate hundreds of years ago? The book below is brilliant.
This is the book that I've mentioned once or twice (!) above. How did people eat in days gone by?Were there meals really any different to the ones we're used to today? Am I pulling your leg when I say that lasagne was first recorded in Britain in the fourteenth century? (No.) This is completely fascinating.
© 2014 Jackie Jackson