An Ode to British Food

2 Jan

The best fish and chips and mushy peas around

British food gets a bad rap, and I am here to correct that.  Many people may not think that England has

Delicious bakewell tart, a sponge tart with jam and almonds

much exciting food, and that we are constantly eating fish and chips and basically nothing else.  This is not true, although I am very partial to a good fish and chips.  England has a much more diverse food scene than many places, including America, which, while containing many different food cultures, is not in my experience particularly adventurous in its eating.   You can look no further than London to find the multi-cultural array of food available in Britain- for example, London (and most of England), has many fantastic Indian restaurants, and Indian food is readily avaliable in take-out form, and in all the mainstream grocery stores across the country.  I love Indian food, but it is sadly very hard to find as easily in the US.

Bangers and Mash! These ones are pork, apple, and black pudding and were amazing

Apart from all of the foods brought from other cultures in England, I would say food most classically identified as “British” is pub food.  And I’m not talking about greasy fish and chips or bland chicken dishes, but real pub food- bangers and mash, steak and ale pies, fish cakes, full Sunday roasts, sticky toffee pudding, treacle tart, I could go on and on.  Pubs started in England as mainly social meeting places where the locals would meet to have a drink and catch up each evening.  My small village in Devon once had over 30 pubs, so local that you wouldn’t be welcomed in a pub that was the next street over from you.  This village now has about 10 pubs still up and running, which are thankfully not as locally-prejudice, and many now serve excellent food along with the traditional ale and cider.  Good pub food is delicious, and you will find a much wider array of meats and fish than in many restaurants in America there.

Some of the offerings at Darts farm, including duck, pheasant, and pigeon

I am always upset when I come back to the US and find myself faced with endless portions of chicken and

Ox cheeks and mash I had for lunch at a modern-looking pub

beef, but no good sausages (because we don’t have local butchers here), Cornish pasties, meat pies or clotted cream.  One would be hard-pressed to find good game meat in the urban US, which is a shame as birds such as pheasant, duck, goose, are much more flavorful than chicken (also, plucking pheasant that has been shot is surprisingly relaxing, you should try it sometime).  Lamb, which is one of my favorite meats, is also much more widely consumed, and since most towns have their own butcher, a wide variety of fresh meat is always available (my town has both a local butchers, Arthur’s and Darts Farm Shopping Village down the street, which used to be a small shed selling vegetables and is now a huge complex with award winning butchers and fish and chip stall. Darts Farm is run by the Dart brothers, and my mother’s first job was canning vegetables there). Another advantage of living in the middle of the countryside is that fresh fruits and vegetables are also all around- and, since they have not been modified like many American fruits, they are much tastier. For example, British strawberries are not large and perfectly shaped like American ones, but very small and therefore much more strawberry-y tasting. Darts Farm sells its own seasonal freshly picked vegetables, advertised as coming from the field to shop in 48 minutes, and we also have Richard’s Greengrocer in the center of the village (Richard himself was my mother’s paperboy when she lived there growing up. It’s a small town).

Traditional cream tea- scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, with a pot of tea

All in all, I am very well-fed while in England, and I’m sure if I move back there someday I would promptly gain a lot of weight from all the delicious food, cakes, and Devon cream teas that I adore (also because, at my aunt and uncles for dinner the other night we were fed Polish dumplings, accompanied by a bowl of hot goose fat with pancetta. Hey heart attack).  While at boarding school there, we were served 5 meals a day, including “break”, toast and tea/coffee at, well, break time (in between breakfast and lunch), and “free-tea”, which consisted of a different cake or pastry everyday, with more tea, at tea time (in between lunch and dinner).  Of course, if you were in trouble you had to do “breakers” as punishment, and run the mile down to the river and back during break time and sadly miss your tea.  Luckily I never had to do these, as I do not enjoy running, and do enjoy tea and toast.  If you are ever lucky enough to go to England, do me a favor and make sure you eat a good fish and chips while you are there, don’t be shy about trying new meats, cheeses, etc, and bring me back a Cornish pasty and some Cadbury’s chocolate please.

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One Response to “An Ode to British Food”

  1. Lysh January 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    OX CHEEKS?

    England is my top dream destination vacation. I want to try everything.

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