The Smells and Flavors of Traditional British Cuisine
There is a lot of misunderstanding on the surface of the subject of British cuisine. This is mainly because British cuisine varies widely, depending on what part of the country you’re visiting. The cuisine of London, for example, is far different from the cuisine of Yorkshire, or the cuisine of tiny, unfamiliar regions scattered across the country and virtually unknown to Americans. In my opinion, the true cuisine of the British is not what is found in the big cities, but the unknown treasures of the table that are hiding in the farmlands and countrysides and old villages across Great Britain.
If you are ever wandering the British countryside, and you stop at a local pub or restaurant for breakfast, prepare yourself. The classic British breakfast is a large meal, bigger than what we’re used to as Americans, and most of it tends to be fried. Fried bacon and eggs, fried bread, and fried tomatoes are standards. The true British country experience involves a breakfast heavier than your knapsack.
Asking for coffee with your breakfast in the UK is just no fun. Give the tea sensation a try. British cuisine leans heavily on tea, served with milk and sugar, the latter of which is usually coarse, brown, and unrefined. Tea is served for any meal and any time in between. It’s just as classically British as it sounds.
Any typical British meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, tends to consist of some form of potatoes. Especially in the countryside, the British rely heavily on potatoes and serve them in very traditional manners. A wonderful British treat is something called a pasty. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, and warm gravy are wrapped in a flaky bakery crust and sold ready to eat. Pasties are treated like take-out sandwiches or fast food, walking down the street with a paper cone or napkin wrapped around them. They keep your hands warm too!
The other major staple of typical British food is, of course, fish and chips. Fish and chip shops abound in all cities in England. British fish and chips are amazingly crackly, cooked until the coating is rich brown and salty, and the meat inside tenders white and flaky. Chips, or potato wedges, are served hot and crispy on the side, and generally, the whole thing is smothered in as much vinegar and salt as the consumer can stand. There is something distinctly British about that malt vinegar- left on the tables at restaurants like American ketchup.
The smells and flavors of traditional British cuisine are well worth experiencing. If you find yourself in England, take time out to explore the sites, the back pathways, and rolling fields. And stop at a bakery for a pasty, stop for fish and chips. Order tea instead of the usual coffee. The British experience just isn’t the same if you miss out on this marvelous tradition- authentic British food!