Almost every European makes fun of English food as being bland and tasteless. But is that bad name deserved? Or does English food have a rather fascinating tradition? I decided to check it out.
I’m leaving out British food inspired by other parts of the Kingdom or the former commonwealth for another time, this article is just about English food, so no Scottish Haggis, nor any Curries and the like. I’m also leaving out dishes like Roast Beef with all the trimmings, or a Beef Wellington because no one considers these items as ‘bad tasting’.
These classical dishes are mostly common men grub, I’m a common man with common tastes. But more importantly, not many people think of the rare upper class dishes anyway, so really scones and sultanas or some other fancy stuff would not be a good gauge of whether English cuisine deserves its infamy.
Fish and Chips/Chippie
It was Jewish immigrants who introduced fried fish and Francophone immigrants who introduced potatoes but it was the English who put two and two together to give us the modern day Fish and Chips. England is located on an island so seafood especially cod is easily available. The industrial revolution introduced trains that could criss cross the country and enable seafood to be shipped from the coasts inland. This meant the large supply of fish could be cheaply and easily transported around the country, making fish and chips one of the most accessible foods of the common man.
Fish and Chips is essentially deep fried battered fish, served with a side of fried potatoes (usually thick pieces not the thin McDonalds sort) and wrapped in newspaper for service. Additions today include a side of mushy peas for example. Just as the Dutch have annual competitions for fried Patats, the English have competitions for the best Chippie in town (that’s what fish and chip shops are called), the current winner is Miller’s in York.
Fish and Chips from a Chippie in London
There are solid chippies all over the UK, crunchy batter with flaky, juicy fish and solid warm potatoes. That’s a good lunch that is.
A cornish pasty is basically an English version of a curry puff, just with different pastry and filling. That sentence above only made sense to a very small segment of people, let’s redo that introduction.
A cornish pasty is a pastry cased with some sort of meat and baked in an oven. While easily found all over England, the pasty is most traditionally associated with Cornwall although the exact reason is not too well known. Traditional fillings include beef, potatoes, turnips and onions seasoned with salt and pepper.
Cornish Pasties sold on a street in Oxford
Much like fish and chips, cornish pasties were a favourite of the working class because they were easy to eat and filling.
A good puff is good anywhere, I’m. Not objecting 😉
British Meat Pies
The core ingredients are the same with a pasty, but the preparation method and eating method is rather different – welcome to the British Meat Pies. Pies are again a baked pastry dish with chopped meat fillings inside, made in the shape of a little pot pie and covered with another piece of pastry on the top. Unlike a pasty, these pies tend to flow with a bit of gravy on them too.
The most well known ingredients are Pork pies, Steak and kidney pies, and then a Steak and ale pie, because everythinh tastes better with a little bit of alcohol in it.
Now pies, especially steak pies are synonymous with football games and are eaten before the game or at half time, (a bit like how prawn sandwiches are synonymous with Manchester United games), so much so that there is even a prize for the best football pie.
Bangers and Mash
Well basically sausages and mashed potatoes with a generous serving of gravy at the side. The dish is really a British Isle one, since it is common across the UK and Ireland. It is considered pub grub (pub food) which means it is relatively easy to makeij large quantities.
The name “bangers” was popularised relatively recently, during World War I, when there was a shortage of meat to make the sausage and a lot more water was added – meaning they popped more when cooked under high heat.
Meat and potatoes is a combination that cannot fail to both fill you, and satisfy you 😉
Bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, grilled tomatos, mushrooms, hashed browns, toast and coffee that’s what makes a full English Brekkie.
Bad poem but what’s not to like about that combination of food?
Because everything in the meal is fried, the dish is also called an English Fry-up.
Regional variations are found all over the British Isles but the core ingredients don’t really change. When you think about it, this is really the same full American/McDonald’s breakfast menu too… Then again, the US was a former British colony.
None of these dishes are super healthy, but since when was good food even discussed in terms of healthiness, its always been about how tasty the food is. And in that respect, classically English food are actually rather tasty. Considering that traditional English food comes from a land that is not particularly rich in spicesthe variety and flavours are really tasty, so in answer to the question in the title, “no, English food doesn’t deserve the infamy and jokes.”