If you haven’t been bitten by the travel bug yet, watch out because Angharad from Eating for England just might tempt your tastebuds to hop over the pond to jolly ol’ England! Besides having a fabulous British accent, Angharad (pronounced Aing-hair-ad, did I get that right lady?) is also a new friend in and out of the blogosphere. She’s funny, a killer food photographer and loves the Cher song ”Believe.” What more do you want?
British food. It’s an odd entity. Having traveled a bit and settled overseas I have an even more acute sense of how weird and wonderful we Brits are in our eating habits. What constitutes British cuisine? That’s what I’m going to mull over in this guest post, so thanks to Holly for giving me the chance to reminisce and explain.
By reputation, the British have some of the worst food on the planet. We’re lambasted for being old fashioned and bland – and sometimes rightly so. It can be downright tricky to find a good restaurant selling traditional and tasty English fare. It’s a sad tale that American imports like Chili’s are often peoples’ idea of a good meal out.
So, when I think of British food, what do I imagine? I think of eating fish and chips doused in salt and vinegar out of a newspaper cone at the seaside, with the salty wind blowing in my face.
I think of sitting down in a curry house with friends to share naan bread, poppadoms, lentil curry, chicken tikka, lamb saag and chicken bhuna; and getting bright yellow stains all over myself while I’m at it.
I think of sitting in a country pub with a pint of cider and a steak and ale pie, the crust as thin and delicate as tissue paper; the insides dark, creamy and gravy-coated.
I think of sharing a pot of tea in a little cafe, served with scones (jam and clotted cream essential).
I fondly think of my mum’s shepherd’s pie, full of creamy ground beef, carrots and peas and the softest, most buttery mash on top.
And I think of perfectly honey-colored Cheddar cheese (from Cheddar, England no less!) made in a village barn and eaten on crusty, fresh brown bread with a glob of Branston Pickle.
Those are some decidedly British images for you. I don’t know if it gets anyone else salivating but it’s enough to get me on a plane home! And yet it is easier to find a Starbucks these days than it is to find a traditional tea room. You’re more likely to see someone carrying a latte and gigantic American-style muffin to-go than you are to see them tucking into tea and a bacon sarnie. Pub dinners are still popular but Chili’s and Pizza Express and countless other chain restaurants are far more visited.
I really think you would be foolish to label us boring and bland. Every international cuisine is represented and many are adored (Indian, Thai, and Greek, for example) and in so many ways our food is rich, diverse and exciting. We also hold up a cup of tea and a biscuit as being one of the key components of our culture (a little worrying? she asks as she sips a cup of Yorkshire) and the be all and end all of happiness and comfort (it is for me!)
As you can see there’s a bit of a dichotomy between how we Brits consider and consume food. I hope you’ve got a brief glimpse into what food is really about in England. Certainly you can find the dull and tasteless, depending on where you choose to dine, but find the right gal to take you out and about and I guarantee a culinary feast!
Before I go, here are some top tips for places to visit for a top-notch culinary experience (you know, for next time you’re popping over):
- Borough Market, London: One of my favorite places to wander around of an afternoon. The market is located under a railway viaduct and it’s over 250 years old making it the oldest food market in London. You can find everything you’d expect from a tradish market here plus more and samples are a given! Cheeses, jams, bread, chutney, pickle, fruits, veg, meats, fish; sample to your heart’s content! You can also buy made-to-order grub like sandwiches, gourmet hot dogs, tacos, etc etc. It’s a feast to behold!
- Wensleydale, North Yorkshire: oop north as we say. Wensleydale is actually a region in North Yorkshire in England where the cheese made famous by Wallace and Grommit gets made. I went there with my parents several years ago to visit the Hawes Creamery where the luscious stuff is created. True heaven for cheese lovers! More samples galore!
- Brick Lane, London: You can’t visit England and not indulge in a curry. Brick Lane is famous for it’s curry houses – it’s like being in another world wandering up and down the street as people try to usher you into their restaurant.
- Brighton or Bournemouth: Both of these are seaside towns where you can most certainly find the aforementioned fish and chips, preferably sold in the newspaper cones with a wooden fork to boot. There is honestly nothing like it.
- Castleton, Sheffield: I went to university in Sheffield in the north of England and we had the Peak District on our doorstep. Many a time did we venture into Castleton, (a tiny town, dating back to 1086, famous for its castle ruins) for brisk walks and explorations of the caves known as The Devil’s Arse (I kid you not, friends). Also on tap are a selection of awesome country pubs where you can indulge in delicious savory pies. You can also find the traditional English tea rooms with scones a-plenty right there.
Thanks for reading my guest post – I’ve had so much fun writing it! I hope you’ve learned a little about what Eating for England is really like and that I’ve armed you with more to do than just visit the Tower of London next time you’re hopping over the pond! Cheers!