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The British Food Revival

In recent years it would seem a British culinary revival, or what is often referred to by professionals as the ‘Modern British Cuisine’, has emerged. Magazines are increasingly recreating contemporary versions of traditional British dishes such as fish pie, roast dinners and Eton Mess. Likewise, The Times Weekend Recipe Exchange began this year featuring readers’ family recipes of traditional British dishes passed down from generation to generation. The BBC has for the past 3 years run the ‘Great British Menu’, which has not only bought regional British gastronomy into light, but it has sought to demonstrate to the globe that British food is now one of the most eminent cuisines. Furthermore, The British Street Food Awards will begin in 2010 recognising an area of British cuisine often overlooked. But it’s not just the media embracing the nation’s cuisine; we as a population are too. According to market analysts Mintel, regional British cheese sales increased by 16% between 2004-2006, whilst continental cheese sales declined by 7% in the same period.

But does anyone really fancy a restoration of greasy fish and chips and stodgy puddings? I don’t think so, somehow. Not when you could eat fragrant Thai curry, creamy rich risotto, or aromatic tagine for dinner. With a vast choice in cosmopolitan restaurants, convenience meals and ingredients available now, why would one choose the humble Yorkshire pud? The British are always looking for novel culinary ideas and this seems likely to be reconfirmed with prophecies of overseas cuisines, currently unexploited in the UK, to flourish, one being South American. Besides this, Great Britannia’s food has never actually been ‘Great’ in terms of reputation, at least not in my lifetime. The French in particular are famous for mocking our home cuisine including their former President Jacques Chirac, who allegedly stated in 2005, “One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad”.

Yet after many cynical thoughts on this resurrection of our national fare, I could not help but consider its potential. Magazines and newspapers have reintroduced recipes of the United Kingdom increasingly since the current economic crisis began. Our hearty dishes such as pasties and puddings not only keep one full and warm through the bitter winters, but can also be easily made at a reasonable price to feed a large family. What’s more, a nation’s historic dishes were usually invented through ingredients grown in that country. Hence, if we cook more British food then undoubtedly we will be utilising more home produce, which of course is only a good thing from a green point of view. And while we love to create dishes that are a fusion with other world cuisines – such as Britain’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala – it’s important we remember the old favourites too. What would life be without sticky toffee pudding?

Rebecca Legg

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