Food and British Culture.
Nothing quite defines a nation's culture like that of it's food.
For years the British diet was given a bad press, but with the onset of the Celebrity Chef, the British are now up there with the other great food nations such as France, Italy and India, due to their fine dining, love of good wine and cosmopolitan cuisine.
Just like other countries, Britain excels in it's traditional food industries of beer, cheese and preserve making, and has a world wide customer base for it's smoked fish, salad produce and meat products.
It's temperate climate allows all manner of fruit, vegetables and cereals to be home grown and it's people's love of sugar has given the world some of the oldest dessert recipes in the world.
Just like any other country, Great Britain also has a vast history pertaining to it's many regional foodstuffs, many of which are quite unknown to the outsider.
In recent years however, with the influx of foreign nationals, British food culture has changed somewhat, with the British becoming very cosmopolitan in it's choice of food, with curry and spaghetti bolognese being on it's list of top ten dishes cooked at home.
More recently the onset of the fast food restaurant has not helped in the dietary health of the nation, with many people preferring the convienience of pizza, Indian and Chinese takeaways and kebabs, to that of home cooking.
Even so, the British diet still consists of many tasty,healthy, tried and tested favourites that have been around for centuries
Below I will give you the history of some of Britain's most popular and historic foodstuffs.
FISH AND CHIPS.
I have started my list with what is considered to be Britain's most iconic foodstuff, fish and chips. So popular is this British staple, that Britain even has shops - the chippy - set aside solely for the buying of this delicacy.
Obviously being an island nation one would expect Britain to have a fish dish as it's most popular foodstuff, but strangely, the British do not tend to eat that much fish.
The big pull of fish and chips is the chip, which can be served with anything, not just fish.Chips are easy to cook, so making them at home is not a problem, even growing the potatoes to make the chips from, can be done at home, so it's easy to see how they caught on, particularly during the war years, when food was hard to come by.
Ironically, Britain's favourite dish is actually of Jewish / Belgium origins, with chips having been a staple of the Belgium people since the late sixteen hundreds and the fried fish in batter actually being a Jewish recipe.
For years cod was the British favourite with chips, but with the world's cod supplies now being in crisis, the British are being encouraged to try out different fish with their traditional chip meals, such as whiting and pollock.
Like most things in Britain, the fish and chip shop became popular after the onset of the railways, when fish became easilly transported from coastal towns, inland.
The first fish and chip shop was opened in Oldham, Lancashire, by Jewish immigrant Joseph Malin, who wanted to reproduce his favourite Jewish fish dish into the Britsh culture. Well he certainly succeeded there.
Not only did Malin introduce the nation to what would become their most favourite meal, he also introduced the very first fast food emporium into the country.
ROAST BEEF AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING.
So popular in Britain is this dish, their French neighbours even call the British, Rosbif, after this popular, traditional meal.
The roast beef obviously has been around for millenia, being an agricultural nation such as Britain is, roasting meat joints in the oven or over an open fire is an old tradition, but Yorkshire Pudding, the traditional accompaniment to roast beef was not introduced until around the mid 1700's.
As it's name suggests it's origins are in Yorkshire and it uses a traditional pancake recipe that is baked in the oven, rather than fried.
These two foodstuffs when eaten together result in the traditional British Sunday Dinner / Lunch or Sunday roast, and is traditionally eaten, as it's name suggests, on a Sunday.
It has been said, that the British only have one sauce and that they pour it onto everything. Well, they are right, they do.
Astonishingly, gravy has been around since 3000 BC, when evidence of it was found in Egyptian cuisine. It was also enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and was most probably brought to England by the Romans.
Of course Britain does indeed have other sauces, but none of which that have caught on quite like the thick, brown, greasy sauce known as gravy, which is quite unlike any other gravy found in other cuisines.
I told you Britain had other sauces and this is one of them, custard, otherwise known as Creme Anglais by the rest of the world, and a British staple and component of many tried and tested British deserts and savoury dishes.
The custard recipe dates back to the middle ages, when it was made from eggs and milk, althought now adays the British tend to use ready made, shop brought mixes.
Custard is traditionally of European origins althought the name custard is from old English.
THE FULL ENGLISH.
The full English is the name attributed to the British breakfast, known the world over and lusted after by every Briton on the planet where ever he may be. The thing about this once, working man's breakfast, is that it is addictive, hence the reason so many emporiums abroad specifically sell it for the English tourist or traveller.
Two hundred or so years ago, nearly every British home had a pig and some chickens, which is how the working man's breakfast came to have so many pork items - sausage, bacon, black pudding - and eggs in it's makeup.The full fat breakfast was considered a healthy and nutritious start to the day for a man that would spend upwards of twelve hours a day working on the land or digging roads or working down coal mines.
The British novelist, Somerset Maughan (1874 - 1965) once said of the Full English, that the only way to eat well in England is to eat the English breakfast three times a day, giving the breakfast the new title of the All Day Breakfast. The meal is also known as a Fry Up, as most of the meal consists of fried foodstuffs.
The full English looks disgusting, will kill you if eaten to extremes and the British would'nt change it for the world.
Of course bread is the oldest food staple in the world and is eaten by every culture, but 17th century Europeans, probably the Dutch, instigated the sandwich that we know today.
Before plates were commonplace, stale bread was used as a platter with which to hold one's food and after the food was eaten, the food soaked bread would be given to beggars or servants.
Also around this time, English Inns began to sell cooked meat wrapped in bread to it's customers, as a form of packaging, and this led to a liking for the meat soaked bread.
This idea then led to the English working classes using the same method for carrying their mid day meal to work, leading to the sandwich becoming the most popular form of working man's lunch all over the world, even to this day.
Well one can not write an article about British cuisine without mentioning the Great British accompaniment to all meals, beer.
Beer has been around since 9,500 BC when it was widely drunk by the ancient Egyptians.
Around 3,000 BC beer was introduced into the Celtic culture by Germanic monks, who made the beer with fruit and honey and exotic herbs and spices.
During the 16th century, beer was sold to the working classes as a good source of nutrients and also became popular in the local inns and taverns for the same reason.
During the late 1700's when medical men began to realise most of the British water supply was infact polluted and led to it's drinkers being ill, beer was then drank in great quantities as a much safer alternative.
Today, beer is the third most popular drink in the world after water and tea and comes in many different types.
FOOD THAT THE BRITISH GAVE TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.
Britain has introduced the world to many traditional foodstuffs, that other cultures have grown to love. Below is a list of some of these British food trendsetters.
Strawberries and cream.
Victoria sponge cake.
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