The UK is known for a lot of things, from luxury brands to breath-taking tourist destinations. Unfortunately, despite gifting humanity with different delicacies such as the Yorkshire pudding, the full English breakfast, and mince pies, one thing it's never really been lauded for is its cuisine. In fact, The Overtake explains that, just as Americans ridicule English gravy-based dishes, Europeans also joke that English cuisine is overcooked. The criticism towards British cuisine is so bad that even politicians like former French president Jacques René Chirac brought it up in an international meeting in 2005, saying that “One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.” It's quite ironic that what was the gold standard for a fine meal about 200 years ago is now universally considered to be one of the world’s worst.
However, international food authority and television personality Andrew Zimmern begs to differ. Following the burgeoning heritage food movement and the British public’s growing appreciation of their traditional foods, he believes that British cuisine is finally regaining its former glory. As the many dishes of the UK slowly gain traction once again, let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions surrounding them:
British food is boring and bland - Wrong!
The adage that British food is boring and bland didn’t develop out of thin air. According to an article by Quartz, it actually came from the European upper class' new essentialism during the 1600s. Before then, European nobles used to cook richly spiced dishes to signify their wealth. They used a variety of spices such as cinnamon, sugar, and mace in both sweet and savory dishes well into the Renaissance. In fact, this demand for spices spurred the Age of Discovery and European Colonialism, which saw many Asian and South American territories colonized for their rich spice resources. However, when the European market for spices finally leveled out and became more accessible to the masses, the nobles tried to look for a new way to distinguish themselves.
They embraced a new practice that demanded that food taste like itself. So, instead of cooking meat in sauces layered in spices, they started cooking it in meat stock and meat gravy. Fortunately, this unbelievable trend is no longer practiced. A great testament to this is one of the country's national dishes, the chicken tikka masala. This incredibly flavorful dish is inspired by the classic Indian recipe murgh makhani. Aside from a makhani packed with an assortment of herbs and spices, the key to making this dish even tastier is making sure that the tandoori roasted chicken is grilled evenly. If you want a healthier version, the Tefal Supergrill allows rendered fat to run off the chicken, which results in nice juicy meat.
British food lacks diversity - Wrong!
One of the most common assumptions about British food is that it’s just all about fish and chips, roast beef, porridge, haggis, potatoes, and leeks. However, in reality, the repertoire of British food is extensive. It consists of great puddings, pies, pastries, soups, stews and, of course, sandwiches perfect for an afternoon tea. Just like any other country, Britain is steeped with history, and this fact is reflected in their food. The Guardian also notes how various immigrant communities in the country dramatically changed British food altogether.
For instance, the Chinese community in Britain helped the Brits embrace noodles and other Chinese food, including the Peking duck. While the influence of the Indian community on British cuisine can best be showcased through chutney, the Spanish influence can be encapsulated in a mouth-watering plate of gambas. All these communities gave even more color to the already diverse collection of British dishes.
British people only eat a ‘Full English Breakfast’ - Wrong!
There is nothing more quintessentially British than a full English breakfast made with fried eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and a selection of jams and marmalades. However, no matter how much popular media associate Brits with the Full English, it's impossible to eat such a hearty meal every day. A healthy alternative that is popular is Kedgeree – Britain’s version of curried rice. Thankfully, this dish can be easily made with an unassuming kitchen accessory like a rice cooker, making it ideal for everyday consumption. The Hamilton Beach 37549 is equipped with menu features that let you make rice-based dishes easily by adjusting to the different cooking requirements of various types of rice. Aside from Kedgeree, you can easily make porridge as well. For breakfast, people may also opt for other dishes that only take a few minutes to make, like coffee and toast, scones, scrambled eggs, and cereal.
British food is either boiled or overcooked - Wrong!
While there is some truth to the statement that British food is always either boiled or overcooked, it only applies to the Victorian Era and definitely not to today’s British style of cooking. In his book British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History, Colin Spencer argued that the decline of British cuisine can also be attributed to the Victorians’ attitudes towards health and style. Consumed with the fear of eating raw foods and scornful of simple food preparations, people back then used to sabotage their palate by excessively boiling their food or overcooking it. Fortunately, aside from the Victorian practices that completely undermined the taste that local ingredients could bring, British food history also displayed the country’s long tradition of flavorful cooking techniques. Said techniques include spiced roasting and stewing methods, which are thankfully being revived by modern-day chefs and foodies.
Putting British Cuisine Back on the Map
In dispelling these common misconceptions, we hope that people see the accessibility, diversity, history, and deliciousness of British cuisine. Together with these modern-day chefs and foodies, British cuisine may be put on the map once again!