In Defense of English Cuisine

Having spent about five of the last eighteen months in the British Isles, we’ve learned a bit about the English and their ways of living. When we tell people about our time in England, frequently the topic of cuisine comes up. Specifically that English cuisine is terrible.

We always wonder: what alternate dimension have these people visited? Did they eat out of London dumpsters when they visited?

People love stereotypes. They love to believe in them. They love to perpetuate them. We never pontificate about our travels, but we’ve spent enough time in England that we gladly come to the defense of English cuisine. We can speak from a position of informed authority here: English cuisine is great. It might not have the zest and zeal of the cuisines of Spain or Italy or the complexity and sophistication of French cuisine, but it’s got a wonderful stick-to-the-bones, fill-your-belly comfort food appeal you should expect from a Northern European country. If you doubt us, the next time you’re in England seek out a carvery: we defy you to not enjoy it.

Of course, pigeonholing a modern country’s cuisine isn’t exactly fair. What, for example, is “American Cuisine”? Hot dogs and apple pies? For most foodies, modern English cuisine is as varied as their 19th century empire was and includes, at the very least, Anglicized Indian cuisine (not to mention Chinese, Indonesian, South African, Southeast Asian, etc.). We’ve tried Anglicized Indian cuisine and it just isn’t our thing, so when we say “English Cuisine” we mean the traditional basics, like…

Fish and Chips

Everywhere you turn in England you’ll run into a fish and chips shop, and every pub and restaurant (practically) has it on their menus. Even picky eaters will find something to like about battered and fried white fish and fries (title picture and below). They’re often served with “mushy peas”, basically mashed English peas, sometimes (if you’re lucky) embellished and enflavored with cream.

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Bangers and Mash

Also ubiquitous eating in England, sausages and mash potatoes in brown gravy are the very definition of comfort food.

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Fine Dining Meat and Potatoes

If you demand something fancier, you’ll find it in both pubs and restaurants, from the common variances of pot pies to chicken and pork cooked a thousand ways.

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Pies: Savory and Sweet

Speaking of pies, the English have perfected pie making of all varieties. When we’re not in England we sometimes crave a good mince and onion (ground beef and onion for our fellow Americans) pie. Ooh, and then there’s the fruit pies.

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Scones: Savory and Sweet

And just to be clear, Starbucks didn’t invent scones. The English produce them fresh daily in mass quantities, both sweet and savory varieties.

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English Tea, Beer & Cider, and Desert

So have your scone with afternoon tea…

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…but be sure to have a cider or beer at dinner (need we tell you how good the English are at brewing these?)

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And don’t forget your spotted dick for desert!

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