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Good British Food - is there such a thing?

j
janee142 Dec 14, 2011 06:39 AM

Speaking as a true Yorkshireman, just having returned from LA, I think there are a few myths on both sides of the Atllantic that need addressing. Firstly, the food in Tustin was too varied to comment on, all I can say is America is everything but burgers and waffles only. I too visited the King's Head in Santa Monica which did serve decent basic 'pub grub' as we call it. I was horrified to read on the menu that Britain's most popular dish was Chicken Tikka Masala. Because of the many cultural changes in our country, there seems to be a renaissance in traditional English food.

Please look up the menus for these two pubs in the north of England which give a good reflection of food available across the country.

The Queen's Head Hotel, Troutbeck, Cumbria.
The Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire

Also look up the Hairy Bikers cookery books: Food Tour of Britain and Mums Know Best

Last but not least, Fish & Chips is in fact Jewish, sorry to disappoint you.

Bon Appetit.

  1. h
    Harters Dec 14, 2011 09:02 AM

    I'm not sure who you're posing the question to. Perhaps American readers? I'd take the view that Americans who diss British cuisine tend to be relying on stereotypes from 60 years back - or have only eaten in London's tourist trap areas.

    One only needs to check out the UK/Ireland board to see the reality of British cuisine - local and seasonal produce cooked in a modern style but deeply seated in our country's food roots.

    FWIW, the first documented British fish & chip shop dates to 1863 in Mossley, Lancashire. And to anyone suggesting chicken tikka masala is Britain's favourite dish, I would ask them to show me the evidence. There would then be a long wait, while they fail to find any.

    34 Replies
    1. re: Harters
      chicgail Dec 15, 2011 06:11 PM

      <Americans who diss British cuisine tend to be relying on stereotypes from 60 years back - or have only eaten in London's tourist trap areas.>>

      I was in London a year ago, avoided tourist traps like the plague, did tons of research, asked friends, checked blogs -- and still was served some of the worst food I've had. I was as bad as I had remembered from my last trip to England (which was why I did so much planning). The only food in England I had that loved was at Pret a Manger.

      That being said, I really appreciate Jamie Oliver and use his cookbooks with pleasure.

      And I would love to know more about how the derivation of fish and chips is a Jewish dish. Not saying it isin't true, just that I have never heard that and can't see a logical explanation. Does anyone know more about this.

      1. re: chicgail
        h
        Harters Dec 16, 2011 01:46 AM

        I recall your original post, chicgail. I was gobsamacked then and remain gobsmacked now. I suspect there are few visitors to our shores, however poor their research, who find a sandwich chain to be the best food they eat. Amazing that you had such an experience. Truly amazing.

        As for the Jewish origin of fish and chips, it has some basis in fact. Cooking fish in batter was most probably brought to Britain by Jewish immigrants (the batter was originally thrown away, leaving the fish protected). Frying potatoes is as British as it gets. It's perhaps unsurprising that the early mentions of fish & chips shops are in the area where the old and new communities came together - London and North West. Needless to say, canny Britons quickly realised throwing the batter away was a waste of delicious food.

        1. re: Harters
          MMRuth Dec 17, 2011 04:33 PM

          I agree -- while it's been more than a year now since I've been to London (can't speak to the rest of the country), I ate very well whilst there, mostly thanks to CH.

        2. re: chicgail
          monkeyrotica Dec 16, 2011 09:12 AM

          You should have eaten at St. Johns Restaurant. Fergus Henderson is doing God's work with old English recipes.

          http://www.stjohnrestaurant.com/menu/...

          1. re: monkeyrotica
            chicgail Dec 16, 2011 09:16 AM

            Looks great. Wish I'd known. Next time (if I can talk Mr. CG into a next time).

            1. re: chicgail
              linguafood Dec 16, 2011 09:28 AM

              That must've been *some* research if you've never heard of Fergus Henderson....

              1. re: linguafood
                roxlet Dec 16, 2011 11:01 AM

                I agree. I didn't think it was possible to read about British food without reading about Fergus Henderson, Heston Blumenthal, et al. There was a time, before our son was born, that my husband was doing a lot of business in England, and I tagged along whenever I could. We had some amazing meals -- and this was before the current culinary renaissance. I'm shocked that you didn't have any great food in England!!

                1. re: roxlet
                  h
                  Harters Dec 16, 2011 11:17 AM

                  The renaissance really got going in the mid-1980s with chefs like Gary Rhodes and cookery writers such as the late Michael Smith. Rhodes' TV series in the late 80s probably did more than anything else in developing the "Modern British" cuisine

                  Of course, before this, there had been chefs around the country always cooking dishes that had their roots in traditional food.

                  Blumenthal's food and style is unique and he isnt really part of the renaissance. Fergus Henderson gets a lot of publicity because of the so-called "nose to tail" eating but, if you look at his menu, you'll see many items are in a mcuh more general style that you'd see similar in places up and down the country.

          2. re: chicgail
            buttertart Dec 16, 2011 10:25 AM

            This astonishes me. We were in London in January 2010 immediately after being in Paris, and the food we had in London was better and more reasonably-priced than what we had in Paris on this trip.
            Wonderful set lunch at Hibiscus - lovely piece of roast partridge and a chestnut dessert among other things - and great value at around USD 150.00 for two with a bottle of Blauburgunder suggested by the sommelier. Anything approaching the level of cooking, service, and wine would have cost at least half again as much in NYC.
            Fun dinner at the Harwood Arms - snails with oxtail and beef marrow (oh momma!), pheasant Kiev (baby lips pink in the center and so juicy), and Camp coffee ice cream with homemade Bourbon biscuits. Also reasonably priced.
            Even the game pie my husband had at a just plain pub hear our hotel hit the spot. I'm in for a week of London and environs for my next big birthday, can't think of anywhere I'd rather do it. Last two big ones were at Per Se, incidentally.

          3. re: Harters
            Notaslavetofashion Dec 16, 2011 09:12 AM

            For what its worth, this says CTM was voted the UK's most popular dish...

            http://www.worldpoultry.net/news/chic...

            I read elsewhere that it is believed to have originated in the UK.

            1. re: Harters
              huiray Dec 16, 2011 09:44 AM

              http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/apr/19/race.britishidentity
              http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/special_report/1999/02/99/e-cyclopedia/1285804.stm
              http://www.littleindia.com/community/...

              1. re: huiray
                h
                Harters Dec 16, 2011 10:24 AM

                If you are presenting the opinion of a politician (however respected when he was alive)as "evidence" then we'll have to disagree about the meaning of the word where you are and where I am.

                I note, on your third link, there is a claim that chicken tikka masala sells around 23 million portions a year. Such figures are tiny in comparision with the estimated 300 million portions of fish & chips sold each year (source: National Federation of Fish Fryers)

                1. re: Harters
                  huiray Dec 16, 2011 10:37 AM

                  I presented the links without comment. It was your choice to conclude that it was offered as "evidence". Consider it for your amusement. :-)

                  Since you have not disputed Notaslave...'s post does that mean you consider that linked article to be "evidence"? ;-)

                  1. re: huiray
                    h
                    Harters Dec 16, 2011 10:48 AM

                    Notaslave? If you mean your third link, then I thought I had responded. But, to be clear, no there's no "evidence" in that. More so, the claim that 23 million sales has put fish & chips into second place is clearly not accurate as there are annual sales of 300 million as I quote.

                    That said, there is no disputing the fact that chicken tikka masala is a dish created in Britain and, as stated on your link, is very popular in "Indian" restaurants in the UK. I'm sure that the claim that it outsells other menu items is almost certainly accurate, although I don't know what percentage it forms of total meals served.

                    1. re: Harters
                      Notaslavetofashion Dec 16, 2011 10:50 AM

                      No, this:

                      http://www.worldpoultry.net/news/chic...

                      1. re: Notaslavetofashion
                        h
                        Harters Dec 16, 2011 10:54 AM

                        If anyone finds an orignal source for this often mentioned survey, then it'd be interesting to read.

                        I wonder what question was actually asked and what responses were actually given.

                      2. re: Harters
                        huiray Dec 16, 2011 10:54 AM

                        "If you mean your third link,"
                        ----
                        No, the poster (Notaslavetofashion) above my post. I am nonplussed as to how "Notaslave...'s post" could be mistaken for the third link in my first post which does not contain the phrase "Notaslave" anywhere within the url or within the linked article. Perhaps you choose to read selectively.

                        There is some dispute about whether CTM was created in Britain. ;-)

                        1. re: huiray
                          h
                          Harters Dec 16, 2011 11:53 AM

                          Clearly I had read selectively and not noticed the posters name. Apologies to both of you. You'll see I've responded to Nota.....'s repeat.

                          As I said, when someone can produce actual evidence that CTM is Britain's favourite dish, then I'll be interested to read it. Still waiting.........

                          Oh, and I'd love to think that CTM wasn't created in Britain but the evidence seems to point to it being invented in a Scottish restaurant (the Shish Mahal in Glasgow) and we've subsequently inflicted it on other countries. A stain on the culinary reputation of my country, I'm afraid.

                          1. re: Harters
                            Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2011 12:20 PM

                            Tosh and piffle. I love CTM. One of my favorite curries, it is. Thanks to Angus Gandhi or whoever it was, for inventing it.

                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                              h
                              Harters Dec 16, 2011 12:30 PM

                              Nah. It's bland, boring and mono-dimensional. Mercifully, an increasing number of south asian restaurants are offering sub-continent regional cuisine with no reference to stuff like CTM. Hopefully, we will consign it to the dustbin (trashcan?) of history. LOL.

                              1. re: Harters
                                Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2011 01:32 PM

                                Hmmm. The state of CTM in the UK must be a sad one, because the stuff I get here in the States is anything but "bland, boring and mono-dimensional." Indeed, I had a CTM in Columbia, Missouri in '96 that stimulated my buds to the point of giddiness and cauterized multiple capillaries and one artery. I will never forget it. And I've had several other similar--if slightly less memorable experiences--with the stuff in several places since.

                                As for consignment to the disposal of history, well, I suspect this particular curry has already well and truly escaped the turban.

                            2. re: Harters
                              huiray Dec 16, 2011 12:34 PM

                              :-)

                              I, too, would be interested to see the actual survey which concluded that CTM was the favorite dish in Britain. Perhaps there is significance in some reports about this calling it "Britain's favo(u)rite **restaurant** dish" [my stress marks]? It seems from some articles that the source may be in that book/compilation titled "The Book of General Ignorance" (John Mitchinson & John Lloyd) which appears to be based on the last round of this British panel show called QI. I don't have this book. However, one can "take a look" inside this book via Amazon (for example) and the section on CTM in there (pages 24-25) states baldly on page 24 that CTM came from Glasgow and is "Britain's most popular dish."

                              As for the origins of CTM, some Indian chefs/food historians dispute its Glaswegian birth: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddri...

                              1. re: huiray
                                h
                                Harters Dec 16, 2011 02:03 PM

                                Assuming there ever was a survey, logic suggests that the question was about most popular dish ordered in Indian restaurants. The relative sales of CTM and F & C as upthread (22:300 million per year) give proof positive that CTM is not Britain's favourite food.

                                1. re: Harters
                                  huiray Dec 16, 2011 02:35 PM

                                  Maybe not Britain's favorite food; but what if F&C was not considered a "restaurant" dish? (Doesn't one get F&C largely from chippies [is that the term?] that are not really "restaurants" in the normal sense of the word?) Just playing Devil's Advocate here. :-)

                                  1. re: huiray
                                    h
                                    Harters Dec 16, 2011 02:47 PM

                                    You may well be right. The nature of the vast majority of aorund 10,000 "Indian" restaurants is that they have pretty much identical menus, so CTM will appear on thousands of menus. Chinese places are generally similar so I wouldnt be surprised if, on the same basis, someone said "sweet & sour chicken" was Britain's second favourite dish. Of course, you go to "British" restaurants and chicken is not going to be prepared in a standard way but will reflect the style of the chef.

                                    1. re: Harters
                                      l
                                      Lizard Dec 17, 2011 03:13 AM

                                      One of the things that might be worth taking into account is the ubiquity of CTM outwith the Indian restaurant (filled rolls, pub options, etc.).
                                      As for the question of good British food, it seems there is a conflation of national cuisine and national favourites (dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties; curries; pies; etc.) and the question 'Is there good food in Britain?' (to which the answer is 'Of course. There is outstanding food to be had here, but usually only if one has £££-- although there are exceptions.)
                                      Also: I believe we watched the same episode of Jamie's Great Britain in which he discussed the Jewish origins of fish and chips.
                                      There's also some discussion of this topic on the interwebs:

                                      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3912979,00.html

                                      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1275320/The-Portugese-gave-fried-fish-Belgians-invented-chips-150-years-ago-East-End-boy-united-create-The-Worlds-Greatest-Double-Act.html (Apologies for linking to the Daily Mail

                                      )

                                      http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=178467

                                      http://www.newstatesman.com/200601230017

                                      http://www.forward.com/articles/126975/

                                      And so on.

                                      1. re: Lizard
                                        h
                                        Harters Dec 17, 2011 05:31 AM

                                        Lizard is right to an extent. Some meals in the UK can be very expensive and out of the financial reach of much of the population. A meal at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck is £180 per head (and then add drinks and the service charge) - but you're going to get a world class meal that, in itself, is unique in its style.

                                        Mercifully, you don't need to spend that sort of money to get a good dinner. A cursory glance at the UK/Ireland board, even though it is almost exclusively London focussed, reveals many places offering good food at reasonable cost.

                                        Out and about round the country, where most of us live away from London's higher prices, it is easy to find a good dinner at very reasonable prices. Even folk who live in rural areas are not usually far from an urban centre (we are a small country after all). I can easily find three course dinners of really enjoyable food at £25 or under (often travelling into more rural areas). My nearest Michelin starred place offers a three course lunch at a bargain £26, for example. For further evidence, you need look no further than the two places mentioned in the OP, both of whoich will be well known to many northern foodies.

                                        1. re: Harters
                                          l
                                          Lizard Dec 17, 2011 06:54 AM

                                          Well, for some of us, £25 or so still is pricey.
                                          But yes, I should say that a nearby Inn has a lovely lunch for £11.95 (2 courses) or £14.95 (3 courses). Still, it's not exactly cheap (as when I've lived in certain major cities in Europe and the US where amazing food was had at very low cost.

                                          1. re: Lizard
                                            h
                                            Harters Dec 17, 2011 07:08 AM

                                            Indeed, I understand that £25 for three courses will seem a lot of money for some people - particularly if they are on minimum wage or benefits, have several mouths to feed or, like me, are pensioners.

                                            I always find it difficult to compare prices in my country with those in other countries as there can be so many variables. For example, the £14.95 you quote includes tax (whereas in some other countries it is to be added to menu price) and there is no obligation to leave a tip (which, it seems, can add 15 - 20% in America).

                                            1. re: Harters
                                              huiray Dec 17, 2011 07:46 AM

                                              In the USA taxes will vary depending on the state and municipality (you can have both State and City tax. In Chicago you will pay 11% of the food cost - http://www.illinoisrestaurants.org/ ) A standard "Service Charge", when added by the restaurant, will usually be 18% and functions as the "Tip" to the serving staff. A "Tip" that you add on yourself will run generally from a minimum of 15% to a more usual 20% nowadays. A "Tip" is ALWAYS expected if service has not been defective (and even when it is so in some notoriously-staffed places - they may come running after you if you "shaft them" on it!!) and is supposed to be this 15-20% of the food total for a full-service place. There are arguments about whether one should personally calculate the tip based on the food alone or the food + tax subtotal, based on convenience or significance, which some restaurants improperly provide as the 'bottom printed/written total' ...etc etc.

                                              ETA: BTW, if a "compulsory" service charge (say, that 18%) is added by the restaurant *and is applied to everyone*, that charge is considered part of the cost of the meal as it is no longer discretionary - so the taxes are applied to the subtotal of (food+drinks+service). This is distinct from when the "tip" (rather than "service charge") is "voluntary/discretionary", i.e. up to you, when the taxes are calculated on just (food+drinks).

                                              1. re: Harters
                                                l
                                                Lizard Dec 17, 2011 09:03 AM

                                                Harters, I know you dislike including sandwich shops and the like in estimations of a place's cuisine; however, I would say that I am able to purchase incredibly delicious sandwiches in cities like Brussels, New York, and Paris for costs equivalent to those here. The difference is that those sandwiches are filled with delicious. (The situation in my village and neighbouring cities has been pretty grim so far. Not awful, but not like what I've found elsewhere...)

                                                But yes, I understand what you mean by assessing costs. I think in the States there are many hidden costs that are meant to give an illusion of a good deal. When neither VAT nor service are included, everything can look cheaper.

                                                1. re: Lizard
                                                  h
                                                  Harters Dec 17, 2011 09:18 AM

                                                  Agreed on the sandwich issue. For a nation of sandwich lovers, many of us accept a right load of shite. There certainly wasnt a decent butty place in the town where I worked before I retired. Although fried black pudding on cheap pappy white sliced could be a lovely mid morning treat (lots of mustard, please)

                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                    l
                                                    Lizard Dec 18, 2011 12:56 AM

                                                    Ohhhh. Black pudding. At aforementioned inn I had an excellent black pudding salad.

                                                    1. re: Lizard
                                                      h
                                                      Harters Dec 18, 2011 03:18 AM

                                                      I remember in one of Gary Rhodes' first TV programmes, in the mid 80s, he did a black pudding salad for the Manchester United team. IIRC, there was also some chopped bacon in there - and a poached egg for the dressing. Lovely idea.

                  2. Paprikaboy Dec 14, 2011 01:31 PM

                    I'm not quite sure what exactly you are getting at with your post.
                    As for Fish & Chips being Jewish this may well be true.
                    This was brought up by Jamie Oliver in his latest programme on British food.
                    He also mentioned that apples the most of English fruit are actually from Asia and brought over by the Romans.
                    This really annoys me. I mean how far do you go back?
                    Tomatoes aren't from Italy originally but no one questions the authenticity of Italian cooking.
                    The same can be said of chiles and Asian cooking.
                    Cuisines don't come about in vacuum and and have been influenced by waves of conquest and immigration.
                    There is a rich tradition of food in Britain which we are now rediscovering as Harters rightly points out.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Paprikaboy
                      h
                      Harters Dec 14, 2011 02:08 PM

                      Yep, I watched those Oliver programmes as well. Absolute tosh - as you say, how far back do you go? Chillis aren't from the Indian sub-continent but no-one questions their inclusion in that region's food. I think it was a series less of "Jamie's Great Britain" and more of "Jamie's Great Britain, as influenced by immigrant communities".

                      1. re: Harters
                        w
                        Wawsanham Dec 15, 2011 03:36 PM

                        Definitely a question of how far back do you go. Though it is interesting where various ingredients/foods originated--it may not be all that relevant. Carrots are from Afghanistan (well, what is today Afghanistan), citrus basically from China, chickens from South East Asia. Sugar cane from the area of Melanesia. I guess that some how makes Chicken dishes from Africa or Europe or Mexico less authentic. Rum is based on sugar cane; is it Melanesian? Etc...

                    2. paulj Dec 15, 2011 11:05 PM

                      In what sense is Fish & Chips Jewish? Was it something that Jews ate a home, or something sold by Jewish fishmongers in London? Did they only sell to fellow Jews?

                      http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/...

                      1. s
                        Steve Dec 16, 2011 08:36 AM

                        Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post did a Googleyup/ Googlenope search in June.

                        A Googleyup is an exact phrase that returns a hit on Google, and a Googlenope returns nothing.

                        Googleyup: “I want to eat my own foot”

                        Googleyup: “I want to eat a bicycle made of candy canes”

                        Googleyup: “I want to eat lard with sprinkles”

                        Googleyup: “I want to eat a bar of soap”

                        Googlenope: “I want to eat British cuisine”

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Steve
                          h
                          Harters Dec 16, 2011 09:19 AM

                          I think that's just about the funniest thing I've read in months. I nearly pissed myself laughing

                        2. b
                          Bkeats Dec 16, 2011 01:48 PM

                          Of course there's great food in Great Britain. I remember my first bubble & squeak. I recall going to Marco Pierre White's Criterion when it first opened. Heston Blumenthal has done great things with bone marrow. But I still go back for bubble & squeak. The chicken tikka sandwich at McDonald's? Not so good.

                          1. r
                            rccola Dec 16, 2011 02:13 PM

                            I am astonished, too, that people failed to find good food in Britain. Last time I was there (granted 2008), we went directly to the Isle of Wight to visit friends and had a wonderful dinner at the New Inn in Shalfleet. We also had a delicious lunch in Gunard, with a marvelous cream tea and tasty sandwiches. Yeah, there's lousy food but there's good food too.

                            http://www.thenew-inn.co.uk/

                            1. t
                              tsl_saga Dec 16, 2011 06:50 PM

                              I've never been back to Great Britain since I was two. That said, my experience with British food has been entirely outside of the country. But I actually like all the so-called British food I've tried. I love pasties, rock cake, and baked beans to name a few. I really prefer the imported Heinz baked beans compared to local Bush's baked beans (too sweet!).

                              1. r
                                rccola Dec 17, 2011 05:55 PM

                                Does Jewish mean "not British" as in "Jews are not really one of us?" Does a food have to be Christian British (or maybe Wiccan British) to be British?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rccola
                                  h
                                  Harters Dec 18, 2011 03:13 AM

                                  No.

                                2. c
                                  calny Dec 18, 2011 02:44 AM

                                  This may be an overly academic response, but I have to point out that two of the most important food writers of the 20th century were resolutely British. Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson were women who helped change the understanding of home cookery for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic. To read Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book is to gain a deep understanding of British uses and attitudes to the turnip, spinach and carrot. Britain (and Ireland) is, and will always be, a green and fruited land. The English, Welsh, Scot and Irish have always known how to garden and to use the produce that they reap.

                                  Modern chefs and food writers have looked back to traditional practices, which seem now to be the way to avoid food borne illnesses. Fergus Henderson's nose to tail approach is not simply nostalgia, but a way of reconnecting to the time when a hog slaughter meant that we'd eat all winter.

                                  British food gets a bad rap, but as an American I wish for the smaller scale food production that exists in the U.K.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: calny
                                    h
                                    Harters Dec 18, 2011 03:20 AM

                                    It's long struck me as odd that British food does get a bad rap from some - and in ways not associated with other north European countries which cook the same produce in similar styles. Never been able to quite understand that.

                                    1. re: Harters
                                      w
                                      Wawsanham Dec 19, 2011 02:29 PM

                                      I think it might be because of the trend (or program?) in Britain in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s of going over to tinned or canned or prepared food--that to a much, much greater degree than in other Northern European countries. It seems as if the British left their traditional cooking methods behind. Of course, I'm sure this idea is somewhat exagerated but I'd say that is what gives the British that nasty rap about food. Also, that fact that others love to beat up on them about it--and they tend to take it and not defend their kitchen.

                                      1. re: Wawsanham
                                        h
                                        Harters Dec 19, 2011 02:46 PM

                                        Well, in terms of the historical development of cuisine, we were a tad occupied with other matters between 1939 and 1945. That said, the health of the population much improved in those years due to restrictions on many foodstuffs (and, in fact, sugar remained ratioined well into the 1950s) leaving people eating a low fat, low sugar diet with minimal reliance on fats and animal protein.

                                        1. re: Harters
                                          w
                                          Wawsanham Dec 19, 2011 02:56 PM

                                          Yes, I read that WWII had a detrimental effect on the cuisine eaten by most Brittons--for obvious reasons as you state--as well as the rationing going into the 50s.

                                          1. re: Wawsanham
                                            s
                                            smartie Dec 19, 2011 04:20 PM

                                            I was born in the 50s and my parents around 1930 so they were war children, evacuated for a number of years. They were sent to the countryside and taken in by farmers and their wives as were a great many other children. They learned to live with rationing and ate what frugal offerings they were given. My grandmothers like most all women through that time were plain but inventive cooks. They grew what they could, bartered eggs for flour etc and made do with what they had. This carried over into the 50s and half of the 60s where there was little waste and leftovers became the next night's dinner.

                                            The idea behind rotten British food really comes from the war years when there wasn't a whole lot especially in the cities. When my dad came home from evacuation and before he was evacuated again he and his family spent nights down in the tube stations, I don't suppose gourmet cooking was much in the forefront of people's minds.

                                            Our mums were also fairly plain cooks until the 60s when suddenly it was exotic things like spaghetti bolognese, fondue, quiche, beef bourgignon, coq au vin. Restaurants started booming, the economy came out of the post war gloom. Of course there is awful food in Britain as there is all over the world, I have had nasty meals in the USA, France, Spain, Italy and any place I've travelled to as well as magnificent food.

                                            1. re: smartie
                                              huiray Dec 19, 2011 05:27 PM

                                              Hmm, what about the effects of the war in continental Europe? Surely the various nations (especially the occupied ones and those ravaged by warfare) suffered shortages too? [The UK wasn't the only nation bombed :-) ] The US itself rationed food etc during the war effort...

                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_World_War_II#Social_effects
                                              http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_were_the_effects_of_World_War_2
                                              http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/20-98-world-war-2-Health-facts.html
                                              http://www.genealogytoday.com/guide/war-ration-books.html

                                              http://books.google.com/books?id=zSvH...
                                              :-)

                                    2. re: calny
                                      buttertart Dec 18, 2011 05:12 PM

                                      Jane Grigson is a goddess. Wonderful writer, swell recipes, amazing breadth and depth of knowledge.

                                    3. a
                                      AsperGirl Dec 18, 2011 03:30 AM

                                      Maybe that depends on what your scene is: fine dining, foodie culture, or what's going on in the average home kitchens over there. The first two, yes. What's going on in most home kitchens over there seems a little more sophisticated than what's going on in most home kitchens over here, judging by the recipes for the home cook.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: AsperGirl
                                        h
                                        Harters Dec 18, 2011 07:15 AM

                                        Hi there. I'm a little confused by your post - where are "here" and "there" for you?

                                      2. hannaone Dec 18, 2011 08:54 AM

                                        It seems people have jumped on the title of this post rather than the content -
                                        "Speaking as a true Yorkshireman, just having returned from LA, I think there are a few myths on both sides of the Atllantic that need addressing." - Note the word "myths".

                                        The OP IS SAYING that the "myth" of most British food being bad is wrong and the "myth" that American food consists of only burgers and waffles is also wrong.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: hannaone
                                          linguafood Dec 18, 2011 10:17 AM

                                          Well, there's a poster who claims that, even after "extensive research", found the food to be dismal and lacking as compared to other countries.

                                        2. limster Dec 18, 2011 02:36 PM

                                          It's not just myths that need addressing. That folks are arriving at conclusions based on what they've read or heard, without any critical evaluation of the information or extensive on-the-ground eating is not an ideal situation, and that's the more fundamental cause.

                                          Certain ingredients in the UK are exceptional and not easily surpassed - dairy, pork, lamb, beef, game birds. I love the richness of fatty Cornish crabs, the intensity of the local mackerel. And no need to say more about Scottish langoustines or salmon or other seafoods from those colder climes. An immense impact on all the diverse cuisines in the UK.

                                          I would argue that some of the traditional foods can be great, one just needs to find a good practitioner of the cuisine; in the renaissance you speak of, it's not that these dishes got better, it's that the number of good cooks got higher. In parallel there's also the evolution of restaurants, where places are now cooking dishes and using ingredients and techniques from other cuisines, but even if that didn't happen, the merits of many traditional dishes, when executed properly, can still speak for themselves.

                                          Of course there's the broad range of cuisines spanning that one encounters; the diversity is superb. In Brixton Village I can get excellent Colombian, Thai and Italian within tens of metres.

                                          In most places in the world, finding food that is delicious to one's taste requires independent thinking and the desire to search and critically try stuff out for oneself -- i.e. it requires chowhounding. Finding delicious food in the UK is no exception.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: limster
                                            buttertart Dec 18, 2011 05:16 PM

                                            You just reminded me of two other delights - the cold crab with mayonnaise at Hereford Road (July 08) and the fabulous Cornish oysters - all fat and ruffly - and the Dover sole meunière at Bentley's (Jan 10). Not to mention the sommelier there who suggested a slightly chilled red Santenay to go with that and my husband's entrée, goose. Suited us both down to the ground.

                                            1. re: buttertart
                                              h
                                              Harters Dec 19, 2011 01:32 AM

                                              I've not eaten at Bentley's but know Corrigan's cooking from the Lindsay House. Man's a star. So he is, right enough.

                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                limster Dec 19, 2011 04:14 AM

                                                Try the crab at Wright Bros in Borough Market next time. Would love to hear a comparison.

                                                1. re: limster
                                                  buttertart Dec 19, 2011 10:23 AM

                                                  I shall endeavour to. Bentley's was especially fun because we knew nothing about it, just happened by it, liked the look of the menu and went. What a treat. Clubby without being too too, reminded me of Three Small Rooms in Toronto approximately 500 years ago.

                                            2. l
                                              loumarie Dec 20, 2011 09:51 AM

                                              I can only speak about the British food in London, which I researched thoroughly for a website I run. And I have to say I really enjoyed everything I ate there, from the old-school meat pies & jellied eels to Stichelton cheese and artisanal gin to the beautiful asparagus in butter and roast bone marrow at St. John. In the list I included foods that may be considered native, traditional (including longstanding influences from other cuisines, e.g. India), or locavore (locally made or sourced), and what I found was a huge resurgence of historical foods, and chefs, producers, and pubs making an effort to rewind the country’s gastronomy back to its core basics—wild game, local/seasonal ingredients, nose-to-tail preparations--to much success, in my book. You can check out the full list here: http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/...

                                              (And not on that list, yet anyway, are any of the delicious "modern historical" foods on the menu at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, which is an absolute must for anyone doubting the quality of British food! Also, it's not as pricey as Fat Duck, esp if you go at lunch.)

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