Influences on British Cuisine
When it comes to food, Britain has one of the most diverse offerings available anywhere in the world, but where did this appetite come from?
The union of the three countries offers up an answer, when hundreds of years ago the Scottish, Welsh and the English exchanged not only bows and arrows but culinary flavours too, but this does not go all the way to explaining the insatiable diverse yearning we have for all the different flavours of the world.
We see British chefs, from Rick Stein to the Hairy Bikers, travel around the globe beaming back the foods they have discovered or a variation to how we currently eat something; why are we hooked to these shows?
The answer may actually be a ‘bitter sweet’ story.
At the peak of her power and spurred by the industrial revolution, Great Britain was the largest empire the world has ever seen. Only a small island, she influenced nearly a quarter of the world’s population and land mass and was known as 'the empire on which the sun never sets'; such was the vastness of her conquest. Sugar and Spice, seen as ‘everyday’ items today were luxury products reserved for the elites of the time, were shipped back home and demand greatly outstripped supply.
Controlling the vast empire required delegates to be stationed in the conquered country; this led to the delegates embracing many local customs (and indeed, many married native women). Delegates would write to their families about their general wellbeing and often cite about the food they are eating. Eventually, as travelling became more accessible, it was common for the delegates’ family to go and join the delegate abroad and return with new food ideas, coupled with the availability of sugar and spice amongst many other exotic ingredients at home.
What can be gleaned from this is that Britain has always been a conquering explorer!
Although the world is a different place now and much of the empires control and influence has dwindled to politics, it has left Britain much more of a learned land and appreciative of other cultures that she used to dominate, but her lust for flavours is ever hungry.
Having controlled so much of the world and enjoyed such spectrum of flavours, she was not going to live a bland life.
After two world wars left Britain practically on her knees, she opened her arms and borders to subjects she once dominated to help rebuild her country. These ex-subjects came to take up work in factories, hospitals, corner shops and sowed the seed for takeaways and restaurants, which would ultimately be furthered by their next
generation. The result today is a multibillion pound food and drinks industry which acts like a magnet, attracting other diverse food.
This magnet shines like a beacon telling the world that Britain knows all about food and this is evident as our towns, regardless of the size, has many different types of takeaways, restaurants and food places and the way our dining out habit has developed (especially post world war 2).
This just underlines that Britain may not be the empire it once was, but the British people remain the explorers they always were.