What They Eat: United Kingdom
Prior to a trip to the United Kingdom, forget everything were told at school during English classes. Quotable bacon and eggs are only served in hotels to play along with expectations of tourists and iconic phrase “Oatmeal, sir!” can be heard in winter alone: popular belief is that to have hot porridge for a summer breakfast is strange at the very least. Out of “primordial British” dishes, anthemised by Soviet books, fish and chips as well as toast with orange marmalade are still treated with affection by an average Briton.
Truth be told, national cuisine doesn’t exist in the United Kingdom at all. In daily diet of the British grim cocktail of fast food with Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Tai and Latin American delicacies reign. Few gourmets relieve their hearts at Italian, French and Greek restaurants. Trademark of multi-cultured diet of a modern Londoner is now represented by chips and sandwiches richly seasoned with curry – Kipling would have been pretty surprised to learn that East and West get along perfectly within one particular plate. All that proponents of Victorian morals have to console themselves with is the idea that famous five o’clock is still alive in folk memory though recently evening tea has begun drifting smoothly into dinner.
It isn’t customary to do magic over a stove. In weekdays many make do on ready-to-cook food and takeaways postponing traditional family dinner till Sunday. Most popular breakfast in London is sausages with beans in tomato sauce or even just flakes poured over with milk. Place of old-fashioned lunch with broth and rusks has been taken be folded sandwich with fish, ham and pate, baked buns with meat and tikka masala chicken – grilled slices of marinated chicken fillet in hot tomato sauce.
For Sunday Roast they serve cold starters, vegetable soup and substantial meat dishes replacing bread with puddings made of grains and grated vegetables. Thermal treatment of products is reduced to minimum: true English beefsteak oozes with blood while vegetables are sent to stew half-raw. Boiled rice with tomato sauce serves as a garnish for beefsteak more often than not but sometimes ladies don’t mind indulging their home folk with Yorkshire pudding made of whipped-type dough with addition of spicery.
Roast beef plays first fiddle during meals – delicate fillets of beef baked in oven with potatoes, grated carrot and cabbage; and juice of fried pork and beef mixed with spices and simmered onions turns into mouth-watering gravy sauce. Also, bake made of ground meat enjoy popularity: Shepherd’s Pie with lamb meat and mashed potatoes and Beef Wellington – beef with mushrooms wrapped in dough. Selection of spices is behindhand in diversity however it doesn’t lack distinction: it is believed to be routine practice to season pork with apple jam and pork – with mint sauce. At that veal with ground horseradish strikes home!
Against the background of unified tastes of eternally rushing city dwellers, old countryside recipes stand out with juicy local color. Cornwall is famous for its pies stuffed with chopped meat, potatoes and carrots, a native of Yorkshire cannot resist blood sausage smoked on fire and ineradicable habit to ground mashed potatoes with vegetables and onion gives away the Irish. In Scotland they like veal rumen stuffed with inners, shortbread cookies, clap bread and eggs boiled in cured fillet or chopped meat. Should you feel like trying some fruit bread or crispbread made of red algae, your road is the one to Wales.
Though a true gentleman would never admit affection to sweet dishes, a true lady would always take care of a desert. Favorite delights of both children and adults are plum pudding, muffin and trifle – layered sponge cake with cream, custard and berry jelly.
Practical mindset of the British manifests eloquently in attitude towards food, too. Why throw away remains of a past feast if you can cook bubble-and-squeak – finely chopped meat, fried in a pan together with whipped eggs? And an intriguing name toad-in-the-hole harbors a revived sausage past its freshest, sautéed in oil with mashed potatoes that resembles a toad’s head sticking from beneath a snag, indeed.
Flipside of everyday austerity of ordinary British are fantastic culinary experiment in vogue establishment, turned into vanity fairs. If a bill of at least three hundred pounds sits fine with you, pay a visit to iconic Fat Duck restaurant, awarded a chain of prestigious prizes for achievements in the field of molecular cuisine. Permanent chef Heston Blumenthal is tireless about shocking clients with eccentric novelties, offering them to try venison in chocolate or ice-cream made of scrambled eggs with ham.
From gastronomic point of view combination of pigeon flesh with pistachios is curious and was previously regarded as unacceptable until the master came up with the idea of using pancetta bacon as a transition link. Truth be told, conservatives still confine themselves to familiar delicacies of beau monde and order grapevine snails salad, pumpkin risotto with hazelnut and rosemary, crabs in fois gras and oyster ravioli with goat cheese year after year. Fidelity to traditions is an exceptional privilege that one should be proud of.