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The Great British Food Myths


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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

My guess is that during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and maybe even after, ordinary, working-class British folks (in general, and not necessarily in London) were not sourcing beautiful produce (if they even could) or the best meats.  They were dining at home, and it was probably fairly plain food. Or the kids were eating at school, and the less said about that, probably the better.

 

I mean, in those decades was the restaurant "scene" approaching that of Paris, New York, San Francisco, et al.?



No. But there were very good reasons for that, which I'm getting to.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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6 hours ago, weinoo said:

 

My guess is that during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and maybe even after, ordinary, working-class British folks (in general, and not necessarily in London) were not sourcing beautiful produce (if they even could) or the best meats.  They were dining at home, and it was probably fairly plain food. Or the kids were eating at school, and the less said about that, probably the better.

 

I mean, in those decades was the restaurant "scene" approaching that of Paris, New York, San Francisco, et al.?

 

During the 50s, 60s and at least early 70s, ordinary working-class cuisine in America was nothing to brag about. I mean, pinto beans and cornbread, casseroles with ground beef and canned soup, Velveeta cheese as a standby. I imagine a good 50 percent of what I cook is seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic alone.

 

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28 minutes ago, kayb said:

During the 50s, 60s and at least early 70s, ordinary working-class cuisine in America was nothing to brag about

 

Undoubtedly, but liuzhou is making his claims about British food, and that's what I was referring to.

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I’m afraid that my sample group is rather small and my evidence purely anecdotal.  I can only go by my stepdad, @Ted Fairhead , my 3 stepsisters and their English, French, Persian family.  Ted was born in 1931 in London and grew up in east London (Bermondsey and Docklands).  When they came to the US in the mid-1960s, they didn’t like much seasoning besides tons of salt and vinegar.  No garlic, no onion, no green flecks of herbs, nothing tomato-laden.  The first time that my mother entertained them was pizza and Monopoly night.  They were completely suspicious and wouldn’t touch it.  I think Momma scrambled some eggs and made toast.  I’ve chronicled on here when my aunt came over to visit from Dorset and hardly ate a bite of the food I offered.  She bemoaned the “heavily spiced” American food (y’all know me well enough to know that would NEVER describe MY food😄) and said she couldn’t wait to get back to “Good, plain English food”.  My uncle who married a French lady and lived all over the world ate everything, as did his children.  Conversely, a cousin was married to a Persian girl who ate almost every meal of her life at McDonalds – just because she loved the flavor.  Ted never did grow to like spicy foods (we shared that aversion), but because he traveled so much in later years, his appreciation of various seasoned food grew enormously.   

 

This is not to support or refute anyone else’s research or experiences.  I just find all of the stories interesting. 

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

I can't speak for Defoe and Stilton, but Sardinians enjoy their maggot cheese to this day.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_martzu

 

 

Yes, but Stilton is definitely not maggoty (unless something has gone seriously wrong). Despite my normal willingness to try most things, including various grubs, casu martzu is not on my shopping list. I don't think it is very common even in Sardinia. I never saw it on any of my trips there.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Posted (edited)

2C - Fruit (Part one)

 

Certain types of British fruit are widely recognised as being among the best. Here are some of the main examples.

 

1804417421_bigapple.thumb.jpg.fef773d8347b82de6dfb1142e000953d.jpg

 

Apples

 

What could be more English? There is Newton (1643 – 1727), sitting under a tree in his mother’s orchard, contemplating his navel, when an apple drops from the tree leading him to formulate his theory of gravity, upon which all modern physics and astrophysics is based. The story is probably apocryphal but the tree is still standing in Woolsthorpe Manor, the Newton family home near Grantham, England. I’ve been there and seen the tree.

 

Seeds from the tree have travelled into space aboard the International Space Station, returned, sprouted and been replanted. More seeds are housed in the Millennium Seed Bank, the UK’s largest, which contains an underground collection of over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world.

Apples are very important to England, in particular. Of the world’s roughly 7,000 apple varieties, 2,500 are found in England, of which many cultivars were first developed in the UK.

 

Sadly, as we know, the supermarkets select their fruit for everything but flavour – price, perceived ‘attractiveness’, keeping power, high yield, uniformity etc. So, many of these apples are only to be found in specialist shops and farmers’ markets. Also, some have very low yields making them rare even there.

That said, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in restoring and preserving this rich heritage. Prince Charles has entered the fray by growing 1,000 varieties on his farm at Highgrove, his country residence.

There is a Prince Charles Apple, but it probably has has nothing to do with him; it was bred before he was born. Maybe he was named after the apple!

 

1095952184_PrinceCharles.jpg.03d5aa672b1d314479f4f3e4774ec257.jpg

 

Probably the most popular English apple is Cox’s Orange Pippin. This variety arose from a (probably accidental) seedling found in 1830, buy Richard Cox, a retired brewer and horticulturist. Today, it accounts for over 50% of the planted acreage of apples in the UK, but due to its need for a relatively cool maritime climate and its susceptibility to various diseases is rarely grown elsewhere. They are best eaten as fresh as possible, preferably from your own tree at the bottom of the garden.

 

Cox_orange_renette2.thumb.JPG.610948b72c05ecd3f304a22867f8bee5.JPG
Cox's Orange Pippin - Image by Andreas Rother - licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5


Cox’s apples have been cross-bred with many other varieties to produce new cultivars. There is a list here.

 

Bramley apples are almost inedible as they are extremely sour, but cook down to a beautiful golden fluffy textured filling for pies, crumbles, tarts apple sauces etc.

 

Brimley_Apples.thumb.jpg.d46b3e4c87b6e0b639376068dc4662de.jpg

Bramley Apples - Image by Marcin Floryan, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

 

The first Bramley tree grew when, in 1809, a young girl, Mary Ann Brailsford planted some pips in the family garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. There is no evidence either way whether she ever saw the apples that her pips produced. She died relatively young and certainly never knew her apples were to become famous.

So why aren’t they called Brailsford apples? Well, the family home and garden (including the tree) where she planted them was sold in 1846. The buyer was a local butcher, Matthew Bramley. Ten years later, a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather asked for permission to take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the fruit. Bramley only agreed on condition that the apples bore his name. Now that is appropriation!

 

The original tree is still standing, despite being felled by a storm in 1900, and the house, garden and tree have  been bought by Nottingham Trent University to preserve them. It can be visited by prior appointment.  I've never seen that one.

 

to be continued

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2C - Fruit (Part two)

 

Pears

 

What goes along with apples? Of course, pears.

 

Quote

8.A.8 apple(s) and pears: rhyming slang for ‘stairs’; also (ellipt.) apples.

 

1857 ‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulg. Tongue 1, Apple and Pears, stairs.

1909 Ware Passing Eng. 9/1 Bill an' Jack's gone up apples.

OED

 

Pears were introduced to Britain by the Romans, soon after Claudius’s invasion of England in 43 AD. De Re Coquinaria, the Roman cookbook believed to date to around the same time contains a recipe for this pear dish

 

Quote

A dish of pears - patina de piris

 

A dish of pears is made this way: stew the pears, clean out the centre [remove core and seeds] crush them with pepper, cumin, honey, raisin wine, broth and a little oil; mix with eggs, make a pie [custard] of this, sprinkle with pepper and serve.


The first mention in English is from Ælfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010) in around the year 1000.


 

Quote

Hoc pirum seo peru (Modern English: “This pear; that pear”)

 

A quote from a Beket in 1191 reads “Applene, & peoren, and notes also.” (Modern English: Apples and pears and nuts also.)
 

Today there are over 500 pear cultivars grown in England mostly in the southern county of Kent, often called “The Garden of England”. As with apples, some of these are grown on an industrial scale; others in very small orchards.

 

Here are the most popular varieties:

 

Conference Pears

 

I have to put this one first – it was my mother’s favourite.

 

1447971528_Pyrus_communis_Conference.thumb.jpg.ce0a48b9900a30ad721aaa7dbd85a5bb.jpg

Image by Rasbak; licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Conference pears were developed in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England, by Thomas Francis Rivers (1798–1877), a well known nurseryman, who more specialised in roses.

 

After Rivers’ death, the cultivar won 1st prize in the 1885 National British Pear Conference in London, hence the name.

 

They are sweet and usually eaten as a table pear.

 

Concorde pears

 

BirneConcorde139.jpg.61bf5099456847f6c604c3cf07b006d7.jpg

Image by Manfred.Sause; licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Concorde pears are a cross of the English Conference pear and the French Comice pear the East Malling Research Station in Kent in the 1960s. They were only made available commercially in 1994. They have the crispness of the conference sweetness of the comice pears.

 

Williams pears

 

1295589787_Williams_Bon_Chrtien_1822.thumb.png.571e81f7bc399b3f9049fee698c409a7.png

Public Domain Image from 1882

 

These are what are known in North America as ‘Bartlett pears’. Believed to have been developed between 1765 – 1770 by a schoolmaster, John Stair in his garden inn Aldermaston, Berkshire, England. The variety was later acquired by a nursery man named Williams who is responsible for the original name.

 

A few years later the variety was imported to the USA and planted in an estate in Massachusetts. The land there (and the pears) ended up in the hands of Enoch Bartlett who, unaware of their origins, named them after himself.

Most Williams / Bartlett pears are used in canning and other cooked preparations.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

2C - Fruit (Part three - the fruit finale)

Berry Fruits

 

If you find yourself on Scotland’s east coast, travel north from Edinburgh, crossing one of the three adjacent bridges over the Firth of Forth, pass through Fife (stopping off at at the Michelin-starred Peat Inn near Cupar and St. Andrews (where I was born) for lunch). From there cross the new Tay Bridge over the Firth of Tay into Dundee. You’ve arrived at the eastern most point of Scotland’s fruit heaven.

Draw a line from Dundee westwards to Perth along the northern bank of the River Tay, Scotland’s longest, then finish with a loop taking in Blairgowrie to the north and back to Dundee.

You’ve just drawn a rough diagram of the best berry fruit growing area on our planet!

1661725648_fruitmap.jpg.a974a3838afe710400268dbc78699a36.jpg

 

Here you will find what are undoubtedly the best strawberries you have ever tasted. The sweetest, strawberriest strawberries. I will brook no arguments. If you haven’t tasted them, you don’t know; shut up!

 

1167930081_strawberries2.thumb.jpg.b161d4c09a69c8a10490c2de6847b7ff.jpg

 

And this is not just personal opinion. The idle rich have long been scoffing Scottish strawberries during the tennis at Wimbledon, confident that the trust fund set up by Daddy will cover it. Her Maj, Mrs Queen swears by no others, I’m told.

 

1080px-Raspberries_(Rubus_idaeus).thumb.jpg.3c66b18305f06fe0a63868f739f282c9.jpg

Image by Ivar Leidus; licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Scottish raspberries are equally famous and valued. Cranachan is almost Scotland’s national dessert and should be sampled, if you are in the region. This mixture of Scottish raspberries, cream, oats and good whisky is known as “The King of Scottish Deserts”. Why male, I have no idea.

I did once try making it here in China. The oats, cream and whisky were perfect. The Driscoll’s raspberries were a disgrace! They know nothing about fruit, that company!

But it doesn’t end there. The region also grows top-ranked blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, cherries, elderberries, blackcurrants, white currants,  redcurrants and more. Nor is it Scotland's only fruit growing Mecca. Fife, The Isle of Arran, the Borders area and more are also world class.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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4 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Pears were introduced to Britain by the Romans, soon after Claudius’s invasion of England in 43 AD

Too bad he didn't teach them how to cook with spices and herbs.

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It didn't stick.

 

Anyway, to me, the great British food myths seem to be myths conjured up in the OP's mind, as I've never heard many of them.

 

But if we're looking at facts, not myths, it appears as if any number of posters in this topic agree that British food (not necessarily "product") needed some help.

 

On 5/28/2021 at 3:12 PM, Kim Shook said:

When they came to the US in the mid-1960s, they didn’t like much seasoning besides tons of salt and vinegar. 

 

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On 5/27/2021 at 6:19 PM, Kerala said:

My first experience of British food was school meals as a 7 year old. Every lunch was so bland, I almost cried. At one school assembly I listened aghast as the head master railed against too much spice spoiling the palate. I think he might have been drawing an analogy with too much excitement dulling your experience of life. I was so glad when I discovered mint sauce. Tasted weird, but at least I could taste something!

 

50 years later, I can appreciate the difference between roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, chips, boiled and steamed new potatoes. Bring me the blandest thing on the menu!

 

 

And...  

 

On 5/27/2021 at 7:22 PM, Anna N said:

Much depends on [where are you had] dinner!
 

Given that I left Great Britain in 1958, that I was a teenager at the time and that I came from a working class background in the Midlands, I have been searching my memory with respect to seasonings and condiments that I recall being used by my family. I have no recollection of any cookbooks other than Mrs. Beeton. 
 

 

My British ex-wife couldn't make toast without burning it. Her mother once made pasta for us - it was so overcooked it turned back into flour, and wasn't helped at all by the "curry" served with it.

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There may be trouble with the definition of British food.  Is British food the best example available from Fergus Henderson (or whom ever) or is it the average food on menus? Does one consider appropriated cuisines like Indian?..I think not.  Most of the classic dishes leave me cold. Shepherd's pie, toads in holes, fish and chips are capable of being tasty but are kind of gross too.  (Roasted beef with yorkshire  pudding is beautifully simple and good, however).

 

The argument that there are great ingredients available to the UK isn't helpful to the thesis that British food gets a bum rap

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Anyway, to me, the great British food myths seem to be myths conjured up in the OP's mind, as I've never heard many of them.

 

But if we're looking at facts, not myths, it appears as if any number of posters in this topic agree that British food (not necessarily "product") needed some help.

 

The myths are well documented. Nothing to do with me. That someone has never heard of something doesn't mean it ain't so.

How can you never have heard of many of them? I've only mentioned two. Also,  I have backed up everything I have said with details which you seem to prefer to ignore. Your choice.

May I also point out that the "facts" you refer relate to the 1950s and 60s, which were 50 to 70 years ago. Things change in half a century.  I have never denied that food in Britain was dire for a short period from the mid-40s to the late 50s. I haven't mentioned it all. Yet.

As I have said before, I will give the reasons I consider for the bad reputation shortly. I will not be intimidated or bulied into doing so until I have finished the research I wish to do. I don't guess reasons.

 

It isn't me who is making things up!

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, gfweb said:

There may be trouble with the definition of British food.

 

There may be trouble with the definition of any culture's food! Most cultures have a mix of a few excellent examples and a lot of mediocrity and some awful food.

 

"Kind of gross" is a personal reflection and not really helpful.

Perhaps those knocking me might like to instead spend time thinking about the very low reputation of American food in the rest of the world!

I take it from your comments on appropriation that you never use pepper on your food given it came from India.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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I just think that the trolls want it both ways.

1) British food never uses herbs or spices.

 

2) All the herbs and spices British food uses were "appropriated".

I have a question. Who were they appropriated by and from whom?

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14 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

There may be trouble with the definition of any culture's food! Most cultures have a mix of a few excellent examples and a lot of mediocrity and some awful food.

 

"Kind of gross" is a personal reflection and not really helpful.

Perhaps those knocking me might like to instead spend time thinking about the very low reputation of American food in the rest of the world!

I take it from your comments on appropriation that you never use pepper on your food given it came from India.

 

 

"Kind of gross" is perfectly valid and sums up things neatly.

 

Use of pepper is not the same as considering a dish that is thoroughly Indian in spirit (which I don't think you've done yet)

 

A problem may be that  you consider discussion of what you write in a thread you started as trolling and "knocking" you.  We are just supposed to sit back and shower you with "likes"?

 

 

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12 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

I just think that the trolls want it both ways.

1) British food never uses herbs or spices.

 

2) All the herbs and spices British food uses were "appropriated".

I have a question. Who were they appropriated by and from whom?

 

I don't appreciate being labelled a troll. I never said British food uses no spices nor did I say that spices were appropriated.

 

I did say that if one cited Indian cuisine as evidence, THAT would be cultural appropriation. So don't twist what I said.

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6 minutes ago, gfweb said:

 

"Kind of gross" is perfectly valid and sums up things neatly.

 

Use of pepper is not the same as considering a dish that is thoroughly Indian in spirit (which I don't think you've done yet)

 

A problem may be that  you consider discussion of what you write in a thread you started as trolling and "knocking" you.  We are just supposed to sit back and shower you with "likes"?

 

 



Certainly not!  I seldom even look at the likes. What I expect is for people  to read what I do write and not comment negatively on things I haven't even mentioned.

 

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, gfweb said:

 

I don't appreciate being labelled a troll. I never said British food uses no spices nor did I say that spices were appropriated.

 

I did say that if one cited Indian cuisine as evidence, THAT would be cultural appropriation. So don't twist what I said.


 I didn't say YOU were a troll.

You did say or imply that Britain's use of Indian spices or Britain's adoption of Indian cuisine is "cultural appropriation". Or is only citing it "appropriation"?

I disagree. I repeat my question. By whom and from whom?

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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2 minutes ago, liuzhou said:


 I didn't say YOU were a troll.

You did say or imply that Britain's use of Indian spices or Britain's adoption of Indian cuisine is "cultural appropriateion". I disagree. I repeat my question. By whom and from whom?

 

Thank you!

 

Cultural appropriation is a hot (and stupid) topic right now.  Britain's adoption of Indian cuisine is a perfect example of appropriation as those who discuss it would say.

 

Its craziness.   It isn't wrong morally, as some charge; and it isn't somehow dishonest. 

 

But chicken tikka marsala isn't british cooking even though invented in a restaurant in Britain, just as Gen'l Tso's chicken isn't american

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7 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Masala. Marsala is a Sicilian fortified wine. Maybe you are on to something!

spellcheck

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