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Alex

George Orwell, rejected food writer

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Today would have been Orwell's 116th birthday. While doing a bit of research about him, I fell down a rabbit hole and learned that a essay commissioned by the British Council in 1946 about British food, was then deep-sixed by the Council. The essay also included a recipe for marmalade that used a rather alarming amount of sugar. Here's a BBC article about all that. And here's an article from the Council itself. And here's Orwell's essay.

 

Quote

"Generalising further, one may say that the characteristic British diet is a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet, drawing much of its virtue from the excellence of the local materials, and with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats." 

 

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Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

-The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this / Let's make a weeping child laugh.

    Nida Fazli, poet, 1938-2016 (translated, from the Urdu, by Anu Garg, wordsmith.org)

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I cooked with British cookbook, A Bird in the Hand, some chicken recipe book that won a James Beard award. 

 

And dish after dish didn't taste good. I thought it was my execution at first but after like 3 dishes, I remembered the English as a reputation for bad food.

 

So I realized what the problem was. 

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"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, eugenep said:

I remembered the English as a reputation for bad food.

 Sorry but some of the finest chefs and some of the finest restaurants in the world are in the British Isles.


Edited by Anna N (log)
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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Not that old candard again!.

 

Yes, English food was bad. Long time ago. A whole generation never reallly learned to cook because of the two world wars, especially the  second  when food was strictly rationed. (And was still rationed food several years after. Including when Orwell was writing that article.) People couldn't let their kids practise or experiment with ingredients as, if the food got messed up or burned or whateve, there was nothing else to eat.

 

Everything began to change in the 1960s when cheap travel arrived and people started visiting France, Spain Italy etc. and began to want the foods they found there. That was half a century ago. Today, as @Anna Npoints out, at it best, the standard is very high in terms of ingredients, restaurants and cooking.

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

Not that old canard again!

 

My dad used to tell stories about rationing, in particular his aunt who would daily save up her week's ration of butter, so she could have it all on Sunday toast. "Might as well have one good meal," she was reported to have said.

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My English Nannie ( @Ted Fairhead's mum) lived through WWI, WWII and rationing.  Her cooking was very plain, classic British cooking.  It was delicious.  I learned how not to boil Brussels sprouts to death from my stepsister's mother and have converted many American sprout-haters with her method.  

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The late 50s were an interesting time in the UK, as the gaudy butterfly of "Cool Britannia" began to emerge from its grey cocoon of postwar austerity.

 

The popular series "Call the Midwife" is set during that interval, and is fascinating to watch (not having been there, I can't answer for how well they captured the feel of the era). There's an unconventional film musical from 1986 called "Absolute Beginners" that's set a bit later, in the early 60s, and is well worth seeing. "A Private Function," set a bit earlier during the postwar rationing, is a minor classic (it stars Michael Palin and the always-wonderful Maggie Smith, and brings us back more or less on topic because it revolves largely around pork).

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"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

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I'd watch that movie if it was about food or food history in Britain. 

 

@Anna N 

 

@liuzhou

 

 

yeah, I think you're both right and the British has their champions - Marco Pierre White the Magnificent, Heston B. etc. 

 

But that James Beard award winning British cookbook - "Bird in the Hand" - had recipes that didn't taste good, which was weird. 

 

It was simple and straight forward - e.g., chicken, heavy cream, and avocado. 

 

It's like you can't go wrong and these things taste great individually. My ingredients were good but when I executed it in the manner of that book, the food didn't taste good at all. 

 

..not sure if anyone has tried recipes from that book? or can give an example of a classic British recipe book (that isn't French) 

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"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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10 minutes ago, eugenep said:

I'd watch that movie if it was about food or food history in Britain. 

 

@Anna N 

 

@liuzhou

 

 

yeah, I think you're both right and the British has their champions - Marco Pierre White the Magnificent, Heston B. etc. 

 

But that James Beard award winning British cookbook - "Bird in the Hand" - had recipes that didn't taste good, which was weird. 

 

It was simple and straight forward - e.g., chicken, heavy cream, and avocado. 

 

It's like you can't go wrong and these things taste great individually. My ingredients were good but when I executed it in the manner of that book, the food didn't taste good at all. 

 

..not sure if anyone has tried recipes from that book? or can give an example of a classic British recipe book (that isn't French) 

 

 I would never judge an entire cuisine by one book.

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12 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

 I would never judge an entire cuisine by one book.

And I would never judge a book by one recipe.

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1 hour ago, bokreta said:

And I would never judge a book by one recipe.

I think @eugenep tried at least three recipes.  Nevertheless, Diana Henry is highly regarded and if you do a search here you will find a number of us have cooked from her books with much success.   But to each their own and perhaps Eugene did not find the recipes he tried to his taste. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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The British are pretty good at meat pies.

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12 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Until they go putting kidneys into them.

 

 Those are the best.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Until they go putting kidneys into them.

 

 

Of the many pies we make in Britain, I can only think of one which includes kidney but, for the benefit of the awful offal-haters, we cunningly disguise the fact by calling it "steak and kidney" pie.

 

And yes, @Anna N, they are the best.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I remember their being really good, but I haven't had one (with kidneys) for a long long time. 😟

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