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9 Signs You've Never Really Eaten British Food

United Kingdom
by Jeremy Ullmann Jan 16, 2015
1. You think Indian food is from India.

Well, if we’re being pedantic then yes it is, historically. But almost all Indian restaurants in the country have adapted to the British taste buds over the last fifty years, and some of the more popular dishes don’t even exist back in India. Many cooks from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh who immigrated to Britain created recipes which frequently were simply a hybrid of popular British foods and Indian spices. Chicken tikka masala, for example, is actually a British dish. You could even say nowadays that a typical night out wouldn’t be complete without ‘having an Indian’.

2. Yorkshire pudding is pudding and it’s from Yorkshire — right? Wrong!

It might be from Yorkshire, which is more than we can say about chicken tikka masala. The Yorkshire pudding is a key component in a Sunday roast meal. Some odd people might argue you can still serve it as a dessert but pay no attention to them, for once it was discovered that this wonderful batter-dish made from a mishmash of eggs, flour, and milk complemented our beef gravy so perfectly, English cuisine changed forever. And thus we will spend the rest of our lives explaining to foreigners how it is not a pudding and how it only might be from Yorkshire.

3. You overestimate the difference between a cottage and a shepherd’s pie.

If you went to a British primary school, you were either in team cottage or team shepherd, or, more commonly, you didn’t really have a clue about the difference. Fundamentally, shepherd’s uses minced lamb, and cottage uses minced beef, but even that is not always agreed upon. Cottage pie is frequently used for ‘all meat’. This is a classic Monday dish though; one which usually delights mothers in using leftover scraps from that wonderful Sunday roast.

4. You think mince pies are just small cottage pies.

Mini pies with mincemeat in them? They actually haven’t had any meat in them for ages and ages. It’s actually minced fruit in a shortcrust or filo pastry that we have as Christmas party food. Once cut open, they probably tie for first place with our Christmas pudding (a pudding that’s actually a pudding) for the most visually unappetising Christmas food — but don’t be misled, these little blighters are deliciously sweet and a British Christmas wouldn’t be a British Christmas without them.

5. You expect cream tea to be light.

Again, cream tea is not cream with tea. It’s a light meal which includes a cup of tea with a scone filled with clotted cream and jam — the order in which they are spread on the scone is actually an age-long topic of debate (absolutely not joking). Scones (whose pronunciation is also a topic of debate) are incredibly filling and usually keep us going until our ridiculously early dinner (by European standards).

6. You think you’ll love / hate marmite before trying it.

You have no idea. Literally no idea.

7. You think you’re ready for a Sunday lunch.

These are almost sacred in England. Every Sunday, whether it’s in a pub or at home, most Brits sit down as a family to enjoy a Sunday roast. Full of carbs, vegetables, meat, and finished off with delicious gravy, rarely do people get through an entire plate. Mint, horseradish, cranberry, or apple sauce can accompany the meal along with redcurrant jelly depending on your choice of meat. For dessert, the exquisite crusty fruit crumbles bathed in hot custard are never turned down. Mixing so many tastes together might sound eccentric — but mark my words, it makes the long hard week worthwhile.

8. You think an English breakfast is “only” a breakfast.

I’ve seen them before. Everyone has. The ‘English breakfast’ option abroad is so pathetic you can actually visualise the process of its creation. The chef in question hears distantly about how the Brits love ‘eggs and bacon’ for breakfast and so comes up with a polite little hot plate, cutely arranged and ready to be eaten in a couple mouthfuls. The real English breakfast however, wouldn’t blush if it was four times that size. Eggs and bacon do have their place, but they are outnumbered massively by an extensive array of other important components. These include baked beans, sausages, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, hash browns, fried bread, and your preference of either a glass of orange juice or a cup of tea. It is essentially an early brunch — something which could potentially keep you full for most of the day. ‘Breakfast’ is therefore an inadequate description.

9. You think our food is awful.

English food being awful has been the butt of many jokes for a long time. When I worked in an English school for foreign nationals I was always faced with the question, “Can you direct us somewhere that actually serves good food?” This perception of our food has been around for a long time, and many people of my generation remain a little puzzled about it.

Essentially, when you think of ‘good food’ you think of countries with culinary identities: Italian food with its pizzas and pastas, Chinese food with their noodles and sweet and sour sauces, whereas in Britain, our identity is very much defined by our multiculturalism. I’ve already mentioned that the Indian food in Britain is very much British in how it’s usually made, and the same can be said for other countries bringing their cuisine across and fusing it with domestic cooking methods. But even the old traditional dishes we still have are (surprisingly for tourists) — pretty tasty. Bad food? Try any random pub on a Sunday lunch and get ready (more often than not) to eat those words.

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