The topic of stereotypes cropped up again and there’s one in particular that really bothers me. That being the inclination that Britain is the island of terrible cuisine. Has no one heard of the old saying “a fine English meal” before? Funnily enough England was once a global leader in food as – and I quote from ‘A History of English Food’ by Clarissa Dickson Wright – “England is unique; a small island with a history of European holdings and foreign empires, of waves of invasions and immigration. English food is an amalgam of all these experiences.”
I’ll be speaking more for England in this post but I would like to point out that the Welsh Rarebit is cheese on toast!!! Mae hynny’n wych!
Now that’s not to say that all food from my country is good. I dare not touch black pudding with a ten foot pole. But the meals of England stemmed from simple ideas and those tend to be the best ones as they’re not too flashy or over ambitious but creating what we can and using what we have on our small island.
I found a good description that’s quite brief on the subject here, I definitely recommend you read it: https://www.thespruce.com/food-and-cooking-of-england-435476 written by Elaine Lemm
My favourite section of the website is the opening paragraph, “English food at its best is hearty, simple, delicious fare, developed to feed the colonial empire, which in its time influenced the rest of the world. The foods and cooking of England are steeped in history and heritage yet the modern face of British food presents a dynamic and thriving cuisine, now followed intensely around the globe.” We had new spices and seasonings introduced and people began experimenting.
But the part that highlights the most to me is, “Immense damage was inflicted on English cookery throughout two world wars; the war effort used up all available goods and services, leaving little for private consumption. During the Second World War food rationing of the most essential ingredients – meat, sugar, butter and eggs – continued until early into the 1950’s. It is from these years that England gained a reputation for poor cooking and became a gastronomic joke worldwide.” I can imagine people with rations had to make do and even before that when food was scarce for the poorer classes they made use of every little bit of scrap they had.
I’m not quite sure the joke has been forgotten about on a global scale as it says on the website. I know it would be a little difficult for others to believe ‘Bubble and Squeak’ or ‘Bread and Butter pudding’ would be delicious by the names. But this is coming from a country where the words tish-tosh or gobbledygook are said regularly – at least in my daily life. The amount of tasty simple dishes you can make with very little is much better than it seems.
All the same it is a joke and my family – having taught me to cook well – helped me develop the skills to prove it wrong. Though if I were to put what some families boil in their water or what the fish and chips shop down the road served as an example, then I don’t think my point would be proven at all. I guess that goes to show that no matter where you’re from, you may not have a cooking talent to match everyone’s taste.