OK, Eleanor and Russell kindly gave me enough time and info that I was able to split this bad boy into two pieces. So here’s part two.
A lot of the differences between American and British food quickly arise when you’re simply talking about definitions. My mistake with using “pants” from Part One could easily happen with British food, as well. The best-known example is with “chips”, which in America we generally call “fries”. But Eleanor and Russell gave me other examples. There’s a British concentrated drink mix called either cordials or fruit squashes that I would maybe liken to a less sugary version of a fruit juice concentrate. You add the liquid to water to get your final drink. I tried the blackcurrant version which was similar to a less sweet mixed berry juice. You generally won’t find blackcurrant in the States, because it can carry a fungus that will damage some local trees. Another name difference comes with the word “pudding”. So, there are standard, pudding-like puddings, and then there are foods called black pudding and white pudding, and these are… sausages. Wait, what? Why are they both called pudding? “We’re actually not sure”, Russell and Eleanor told me. Well. OK then. Oh, and there’s a cake with raisins and custard called “spotted dick cake” or “spotted dick pudding”. Heh. Heh heh.
The UK has some common food brands that are beloved by Brits, and they aren’t only famous due to the Queen’s approval. Some brands are just a big deal there. There’s a sauce called HP Sauce (which IS admittedly Queen-approved), and the way that Russell described it to me, Brits generally use this sauce whenever we’d use ketchup, or mustard, or barbecue sauce… in other words, pretty much any time there’s a condiment to be used. He described it as a combination between barbecue sauce and A1 sauce. Another is a drink that uses a famous British brand called Pimm’s, which is fruity summer drink mixed with sloe gin and garnished with fruit and sometimes mint leaves.
OK, so what about the stereotype about English food? Eleanor and Russell insist it’s not true. In fact, they say there are two main reasons for the stereotype: 1) It’s generally hard to grow stuff in the UK, and while that’s… true, it doesn’t mean they can’t do food well, and 2) A lot of the bad name comes from the post-war years where GI’s were still in England during the periods of food rationing. At those times, yeah, food was a scarce commodity and making things awesome wasn’t a priority.
Today, British foods are typically simple and hardy, but with well-made, high quality, and fresh ingredients. Russell showed me a marmalade at the store, and there were two ingredients -- oranges and sugar. He also said that the cows and chickens are all grass-fed, and that makes for hardier products like milk and eggs. In fact, in the UK milk and eggs are generally not sold refrigerated. They don’t need to be. Same sort of thing goes for their dairy products, their desserts, and their chocolates. When I asked about the three most prominent ingredients, I was given pork (including back bacon, a leaner, dry-cured strip that is like a crispy pork chop), root vegetables in general, and butter. For sauces, HP Sauce and worcestershire (pronounced “worst-eh-sure”) sauce take the cake.
So there was a ton for me to learn about British food on my first visit, and that was with the kitchen closed. I’m going back soon to actually, y’know, eat the food, and I’ll post on that then. In the meantime, I’m going to write something up about a big British past time -- tea time. (C’mon, I can’t forget that.)
Filed under: Cuisine and Culture