‘Bad British’ cuisine: Breaking an entrenched stereotype

Gordon Ramsay, Alton Brown, and Jamie Oliver are just some of the many household names in cooking that hail from the United Kingdom. But for all the near omnipresence of British chefs on the media, Britain itself has been saddled with the most unfair of culinary stereotypes. British food, so says a lot of people, is terrible, and the prevalence of many strange dishes is often enough to reinforce this thinking.

Image source: lifedeathprizes.com

The names certainly don’t help: stargazey pie, jellied eels, toad in a hole, spotted dick. The former refers to seafood whereas the latter pertains to sausages. Even the most quintessential British food items, bangers and mash and fish and chips, are all unusually bland and ordinary compared with the hearty contents of other European meal traditions.

And we’re not just talking about the most familiar culinary traditions in Britain. While the English get the bulk of the bad press, the Scottish don’t go off scot-free. Haggis is the go-to dish for ridicule, often derided in pop culture as the epitome of disgusting.

Part of the reason for the bad rap of British cuisine lies mainly in the wide cultural gulf between the Brits and other nationalities. The British seem to prefer many foods a certain way, even though it may seem taboo to other cultures. Some foods simply look weird or made in a bizarre manner: the Cornish stargazey pie involves fish heads sticking out of a pie, whereas more people know about haggis’ mode of production than its actual taste.

Often, the foods themselves seem disgusting but have unexpectedly pleasant flavors. I’ve come to love haggis, which is basically just another sausage but with a richer, burger-like taste. Black pudding (sausage using pig’s blood) is another dish said to taste better than it looks.

All things considered, British food goes beyond its crazy reputation for the weird and disgusting-seeming. Looking past the stereotypes can reveal many underrated delicacies. Hey, the Brits eat them with zeal for a reason.

Image source: independent.co.uk

I’m Wayne Imber, a retired psychologist turned cook. Catch up on this old man’s culinary musings and experiments here.