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christine007

English food

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I started this after reading the funny comments on the bland, boring-ness of English food in the death by chili thread. Not that I was offended, I was merely puzzled as it's not the first time I have heard/read such comments.

I'm an American by birth, but my mother came here from England to marry my dad, an Ohio native who'd been stationed by my mom's house during the Korean conflict. They met at a dance, it was pretty romantic,actually, but I digress..

I grew up eating english food, Wheatabix cereal, salad cream, Cadbury chocolate of course, marmite, wonderful English cheese, root vegetables and brussel sprouts and the most wonderful meal in my life to this day, Roast of beef with yorkshire pudding and gravy, potatos browned in the fat, parsnips and brussel sprouts, creamed onions (which we refer to as onion sauce) and of course, dessert was plum pudding and apple pie with Bird's custard sauce on top. :wub:

Maybe it was because my mom was an awesome cook, I don't know, but I have read many different references to English food sucking, and frankly, they have me scratching my head. I even remember my mom making curried pork chops with a cling peach half on each plate.

I almost forgot to mention the teas we have given through the years. Dear Lord, sausage rolls with spicy mustard, tiny sandwiches, each on a new taste, clotted cream and strawberry jam on scones, a trifle, maids of honor ( almond flavored tarts) and jam tart, which is simply nothing more than a butter pie crust baked with a layer of jam, or lemon curd.

Have people's opinions of English cooking changed? As I said, while I didn't grow up across the pond I sure ate like I did.

What is your impression/thoughts?


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I am also puzzled by the reputation of English food. Being French Canadian, "my" traditional cuisine is heavily influenced by English food. The Brittish gave us most modern Roasts, extraordinary meat pies, great stews and braise...

My guess is that the French/English rivalry played itself up in the culinary world and ended up in a great defeat for the English in the afterwar period. Not that French food was inherently better but that it got more attention accross the world including in Brittish kitchens.

I love simplistic theories!

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Magictofu

very insightful, I never would have figured that one out, but it makes sense.

Yes! I forgot to mention meat pies and pasties, yummmmmm hot or cold.


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We've spent quite a bit of time in England... not in the cities, but in the countryside. Our last trip was a quick run over and back, only there for 3 nights... drove from Manchester to Lincs, stayed 3 nights, drove back to Manchester and flew home.

The 3 nights we were there, we were treated to dinner at 3 homes. I will never forget those meals! We were treated like royalty and dined on some of the best food I've ever eaten. The focus was on local foods and game (we are all sporting types). We had venison, partridge, fabulous cheese, and veg of all sorts. And oh, my first experience with treacle tart! I still dream about those partridge and that tart!

There were no restaurants nor catering involved in these meals. Everything was lovingly prepared by good friends who wanted to make us welcome. And, they know my passion for food, so each tried to outdo the others!

On other trips, we've had some very good meals in out-of-the-way places. Our favorite was in a pub near Swaffham... I can't remember the name of the place! It was a pub in a very ancient building, next to a Norman church. We were staying in a self-catering cottage on a farm nearby. We had two meals there and both were top notch! On one of the nights, I had the best lamb I've ever eaten.

Oh... I can't fail to mention the fabulous sizzling Lincs sausages, the mind-numbing plum "wine", sloe gin and all the other goodies we've sampled in tail-gate fashion! And the messy, yummy breakfast sammy Clarissa Dickson Wright cooked for me on the back of her truck. Those were some fun times... gone now <sigh>

The food of England is often seriously underrated!

Pam

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Another Subject of the Commonwealth here, I'm a bigtime fan of traditional English fare. Like any other ethnic cuisine, when the maker cares what they're doing it's all good.

I'd point out that England today is home to a disproportionate number of food media celebs and outright visionaries.

Plus it's hard to look good when you're only 21 miles from France.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Peter, I see your point. French food is in a class by itself, no question.

Onrushpam, we beg our mom to make treacle pudding ( which goes by the name of spotted dick for some reason, minds out of gutter :laugh: )

And we cry with joy when she makes us fish and chips. I am a totally about respecting other people's cultures, yet I admit, some of the food I hear are popular in certain clutures leaves me cold.

Maybe it's because of my seafood allergy, and i mean no disrespect, but there are countries on our planet that I would starve to death.

I also must bring up the english breakfast. Sausage, bacon, eggs, fried bread, a fried mushroom cap or three, grilled fresh tomatos and strong tea to wash it down in. James Herriot, the vet who wrote, among other books, "All creatures great and small" describes the way we ate growing up. My stomach still growls at some of the descriptions of the meals he enjoyed in his life.


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I am a totally about respecting other people's cultures, yet I admit, some of the food I hear are popular in certain clutures  leaves me cold.

Maybe it's because of my seafood allergy, and i mean no disrespect, but there are countries on our planet that I would starve to death.

Surely that's part of your answer right there - others probably feel the same way about English food as you do about theirs.


Cheers,

Anne

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I am a totally about respecting other people's cultures, yet I admit, some of the food I hear are popular in certain clutures  leaves me cold.

Maybe it's because of my seafood allergy, and i mean no disrespect, but there are countries on our planet that I would starve to death.

Surely that's part of your answer right there - others probably feel the same way about English food as you do about theirs.

Barlolo yes, but im case, it's not a choice, I have a horrible selfish/fresh water fish allergy. no choice, just the facts, ou know?


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Barlolo yes, but im case, it's not a  choice, I have a horrible selfish/fresh water fish allergy. no choice, just the facts, ou know?

(bolding is mine)

:laugh:

Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

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I also must bring up the english breakfast. Sausage, bacon, eggs, fried bread, a fried mushroom cap or three, grilled fresh tomatos and strong tea to wash it down in.

Oh, yes!!! Our first few trips to the UK we stayed in hotels and enjoyed the full breakfast. DH LOVES beans and tomatoes with his eggs now!

On our last trips, we have stayed in the homes of friends. We have noticed they eat a very light breakfast (usually just toast and jam) and NO lunch. Dinner tends to be rather late. I need to eat several small meals each day. I have learned to pack lots of little snacks (nuts, dried fruit, etc) so I can slip up to my room for a little mid-day nosh.

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I also must bring up the english breakfast. Sausage, bacon, eggs, fried bread, a fried mushroom cap or three, grilled fresh tomatos and strong tea to wash it down in.

Oh, yes!!! Our first few trips to the UK we stayed in hotels and enjoyed the full breakfast. DH LOVES beans and tomatoes with his eggs now!

On our last trips, we have stayed in the homes of friends. We have noticed they eat a very light breakfast (usually just toast and jam) and NO lunch. Dinner tends to be rather late. I need to eat several small meals each day. I have learned to pack lots of little snacks (nuts, dried fruit, etc) so I can slip up to my room for a little mid-day nosh.

Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Luncheon, Tea, Sherry, Dinner, Desert, Coffee, Port & Stilton, Brandy, Cigars, Cognac, Billiards and a fist-fight. Now that's a day!


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Peter, you forgot Elevenses! Hee, I'm just referencing Lord of the Rings. Anyway, this stereotype has amused me in the past too (I have a vague recollection of it having something to do with the food being underseasoned?). Strange because I didn't suffer any horrible meals when I was in London (well...).

One of my blog friends, Jack, was writing a series about this. He talks about it in his first entry here.


Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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English food does sound varied and anything but boring. I am sure most people would be thrilled to have such a varied day of meals! :laugh: Is there a difference between country style and London/big cities? Anyway, home cooked meals anywhere, from food available and is not instant or canned or frozen or boxed or whatever, and is made with love for the family and/or guests is usually amazing, unless you come from the "worst meals" thread!! :biggrin:

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I've wondered about the poor reputation also. I love fresh produce, great meats, seafood, fine spirits and ales. Especially when they're served with a well-developed sense of tradition. Lovely stuff.

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The only thing I can think of that's seriously wrong with British food these days are the prices. Eating out seems expensive to one who lives in France and the British supermarkets although full of wonderful things are not cheap.

Although not a Brit myself I did live in England for over 15 years and both of my wives have been British thus I do have some experience.

By the way elevenses are a cup of coffee/tea usually served with a biscuit.

The blog writing friend I think has it right. Boring British food was a product of WWII and the austerity afterwards. People who were on rationing wanted bulk & calories thus there was a lot of stogy food around. Not much else could be found or afforded. Three major things changed that.

First, the country became richer and rationing was eliminated. More, better and different food began to appear.

Second, The British started taking vacations in "Europe" and were exposed to foreign foods.. (yes, I know you can still find 'little England's in Spain & portugal, even the Dordogne!) Many liked what they ate and created a demand when they got back home.

Third, Immigration from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the West Indies slowly introduced the British to a range of ethnic cuisines. This opened up a more adventurous attitude towards food.

Today Britain has a very lively culinary scene and, I think, can hold its head high. Interestingly the British seem to have rediscovered their own regional dishes and honor them. Pease pudding, Lancashire hot pot, panalkaty (SP?) and the range of hot desserts so beloved of English schoolboys. In addition they have rediscovered their beautiful range of traditional cheeses which are as good as any cheeses anywhere.

Given only a fledgling wine industry of their own Britain has a very wide an exciting range of wines on offer from all over the world. Great stuff if a bit pricey compared to France.

All in all I would say the old reputation should a thing of the past. One eats and drinks well in today's Britain whether in private homes or pubs or restaurants.

I only fear that the coming recession will set things back.

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I'll just note that all of those glowing reports of good english food were meals made in private homes. 20 years ago, if you want out for a meal, particularly in a pub, it was very likely "boil in a bag" food. To my mind, the bad reputation for English food was well deserved, but they're busy correcting it now.


“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Barlolo yes, but im case, it's not a  choice, I have a horrible selfish/fresh water fish allergy. no choice, just the facts, ou know?

(bolding is mine)

:laugh:

Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

;.,

Haaa, that's what I get for typing in the dark, my son was watching his nite-nite movie.

I've heard both good and bad re: the pubs, as my mom says, order the ploughman's lunch, bread, cheese, ham, hard to goof that up!!


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I've never been to England, but years ago I did spend a month in New Zealand, which I've been told shares many of same culinary tradiations. One thing I did notice in that short time was the relative lack of textural variety among the local cuisine. I'm used to Chinese cuisine, in which texture plays a very important role, so although the stews, roasts, meat pies, and other foods I sampled on that trip were all technically different from one another, they all shared a certain homogeneity to them that started to drive me insane by the third week.


Edited by sheetz (log)

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I've never been to England, but years ago I did spend a month in New Zealand, which I've been told shares many of same culinary tradiations. One thing I did notice in that short time was the relative lack of textural variety among the local cuisine. I'm used to Chinese cuisine, in which texture plays a very important role, so although the stews, roasts, meat pies, and other foods I sampled on that trip were all technically different from one another, they all shared a certain homogeneity to them that started to drive me insane by the third week.

It is funny that you mention this anecdote because I believe it talks a lot about how one's culture influence what that person expects from food. When I was in China, I felt the same way as you did because I had the impression food was always cooked the same way (wok) and that flavours were always very bold and somewhat agressive... It did not take long before I was longing for more delicate flavours and softer textures. My girlfriend joked that I was longing for mayonaise... which I guess I was.

That being said, in terms of texture French food is quite similar to english food but has long been though of as the pinacle of gastronomy. This is fortunately changing as other cuisines are discovered and rediscovered.

If we look at the problem from a different angle, we can ask ourselves why French food reached such international standing after the war... in other words, how other cultures, particularly in Europe and North America, found it so appealing.

This time, my simplistic theory is that the French tradition for sauces (often cooked independantly of the meat, fish of vegetable) was more restaurant friendly than the traditions of other European regions, at least during the second half of the 20th century. The possibilty of creating numerous sauces from a few base sauces (e.g. demi-glace), among other things, allowed restaurateurs to offer multiple dishes in a limited amount of time even in small kitchens. Restaurant traditions were also well established in France which I am sure played to the advantage of French food.

Ahhh... I should go back to grad school when we are actually encouraged to develop this type of simplistic theories!!! :rolleyes:

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I've spent about 3 weeks in the UK over the past 7 years or so. All of my eating has been out. Most of the restaurants were not the result of extensive searching but were catch as catch can or the result of recommendations from locals. I did research a few.

I found the Indian food to be delicious. We also found a couple of decent Italian places.

I found the English food to be dreadful...exactly as one would imagine by the stereotype. I did not eat at Fergus Henderson's or Gordon Ramsey's restaurants, maybe that would have changed my mind. However, one could argue that only frequenting the highest end, best regarded restos is not reflective of a cuisine.

By comparison, it seems that you can get a decent to great meal at any joint you walk into in France.

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Ahhh, the poor English...always bashed about because of their food.

I'm happy to report that, stories to the contrary (and as many of you have already mentioned), good food abounds in England. I was fortunate to be there in May for a wedding at Sir Christopher Wren's House in Windsor. The food throughout the wedding weekend was superb. The good experience wasn't limited to the wedding site. Our meals out were mostly memorable. A lunch of wild boar and apple sausages (pellet aside) with Colcannon mash and thyme gravy was particularly wonderful.

The pub food was sturdy and generally well above the pasting usually given to the English cuisine.


Edited by Carlo A. Balistrieri (log)

Carlo A. Balistrieri

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Meh I'm one who has an absolute fondness for hearty, rustic, even simple meals and yes, English food is mainly based around that so I adore traditional English cuisine.

I suppose many people judge a cuisine on its 'sophistication' and 'complexity', but I find that for me at least, the food I tend to hold closest to my heart are those nourishing, honest dishes.

And that my friend, English cuisine has plenty of. Maybe that's why I think German food is also heavily underrated. Why, it's another of my favourite cusines!

And another of my favourites, Chinese, which actually tends to have alot of elaborate dishes, I still somehow find the best Chinese meals to be the so-callled 'unrefined' ones. That's not say I don't like my grand meals, but simplicty is where the heart is.


Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

http://musingsandmorsels.weebly.com/

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The blog writing friend I think has it right. Boring British food was a product of WWII and the austerity afterwards. People who were on rationing wanted bulk & calories thus there was a lot of stogy food around. Not much else could be found or afforded. Three major things changed that.

First, the country became richer and rationing was eliminated. More, better and different food began to appear.

Second, The British started taking vacations in "Europe" and were exposed to foreign foods.. (yes, I know you can still find 'little England's in  Spain & portugal, even the Dordogne!) Many liked what they ate and created a demand when they got back home.

Third, Immigration from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the West Indies slowly introduced the British to a range of ethnic cuisines. This opened up a more adventurous attitude towards food.

Today Britain has a very lively culinary scene and, I think, can hold its head high. Interestingly the British seem to have rediscovered their own regional dishes and honor them. Pease pudding, Lancashire hot pot, panalkaty (SP?) and the range of hot desserts so beloved of English schoolboys. In addition they have rediscovered their beautiful range of traditional cheeses which are as good as any cheeses anywhere.

Given only a fledgling wine industry of their own Britain has a very wide an exciting range of wines on offer from all over the world. Great stuff if a bit pricey compared to France.

All in all I would say the old reputation should a thing of the past. One eats and drinks well in today's Britain whether in private homes or pubs or restaurants.

Most insightful post. The reputation for bland, boring, underseasoned, tasteless, unimaginative, uninventive, traditional, often-boiled textureless food, while deserved at one time, is certainly a thing of the past. All of the influences you cite have played a large role, especially travel and immigration. I remember a time when the only place you could get a highly-seasoned and flavorful meal in London was at a curry house.

But that is no more. Reputations often take a long time to die. This one had basis in fact, but its death is overdue.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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The blog writing friend I think has it right. Boring British food was a product of WWII and the austerity afterwards. People who were on rationing wanted bulk & calories thus there was a lot of stogy food around. Not much else could be found or afforded. Three major things changed that.

First, the country became richer and rationing was eliminated. More, better and different food began to appear.

Second, The British started taking vacations in "Europe" and were exposed to foreign foods.. (yes, I know you can still find 'little England's in  Spain & portugal, even the Dordogne!) Many liked what they ate and created a demand when they got back home.

Third, Immigration from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the West Indies slowly introduced the British to a range of ethnic cuisines. This opened up a more adventurous attitude towards food.

Today Britain has a very lively culinary scene and, I think, can hold its head high. Interestingly the British seem to have rediscovered their own regional dishes and honor them. Pease pudding, Lancashire hot pot, panalkaty (SP?) and the range of hot desserts so beloved of English schoolboys. In addition they have rediscovered their beautiful range of traditional cheeses which are as good as any cheeses anywhere.

Given only a fledgling wine industry of their own Britain has a very wide an exciting range of wines on offer from all over the world. Great stuff if a bit pricey compared to France.

All in all I would say the old reputation should a thing of the past. One eats and drinks well in today's Britain whether in private homes or pubs or restaurants.

Most insightful post. The reputation for bland, boring, underseasoned, tasteless, unimaginative, uninventive, traditional, often-boiled textureless food, while deserved at one time, is certainly a thing of the past. All of the influences you cite have played a large role, especially travel and immigration. I remember a time when the only place you could get a highly-seasoned and flavorful meal in London was at a curry house.

But that is no more. Reputations often take a long time to die. This one had basis in fact, but its death is overdue.

The problem here is that by suggesting that these influences is what makes contemporary british cuisine interesting the assumption that traditional british food is uninspiring remains.

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The blog writing friend I think has it right. Boring British food was a product of WWII and the austerity afterwards. People who were on rationing wanted bulk & calories thus there was a lot of stogy food around. Not much else could be found or afforded. Three major things changed that.

First, the country became richer and rationing was eliminated. More, better and different food began to appear.

Second, The British started taking vacations in "Europe" and were exposed to foreign foods.. (yes, I know you can still find 'little England's in  Spain & portugal, even the Dordogne!) Many liked what they ate and created a demand when they got back home.

Third, Immigration from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the West Indies slowly introduced the British to a range of ethnic cuisines. This opened up a more adventurous attitude towards food.

Today Britain has a very lively culinary scene and, I think, can hold its head high. Interestingly the British seem to have rediscovered their own regional dishes and honor them. Pease pudding, Lancashire hot pot, panalkaty (SP?) and the range of hot desserts so beloved of English schoolboys. In addition they have rediscovered their beautiful range of traditional cheeses which are as good as any cheeses anywhere.

Given only a fledgling wine industry of their own Britain has a very wide an exciting range of wines on offer from all over the world. Great stuff if a bit pricey compared to France.

All in all I would say the old reputation should a thing of the past. One eats and drinks well in today's Britain whether in private homes or pubs or restaurants.

Most insightful post. The reputation for bland, boring, underseasoned, tasteless, unimaginative, uninventive, traditional, often-boiled textureless food, while deserved at one time, is certainly a thing of the past. All of the influences you cite have played a large role, especially travel and immigration. I remember a time when the only place you could get a highly-seasoned and flavorful meal in London was at a curry house.

But that is no more. Reputations often take a long time to die. This one had basis in fact, but its death is overdue.

The problem here is that by suggesting that these influences is what makes contemporary british cuisine interesting the assumption that traditional british food is uninspiring remains.

Perhaps so. As I am American, I find nothing wrong with the assumption that the outside influences of immigration and travel make for a richer tapestry of society. I certainly believe that American cuisine would be much plainer and poorer and less varied and interesting without influences from our returning international travelers and our many immigrants from across the globe. Perhaps that's because we started off primarily British as well.

ETA: Have you ever been to Belize?


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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