The UK has good food and here is why

Dear Reader,

Traveling always gives me ideas and myths to break. Today I am going to break the British Bad Food myth.

I went back on an exploration to my second favourite country in Europe, the UK, my home for few years. A trip down memory lane, basically, and as such an important culinary destination as well.

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At breakfast in Piccadilly I found delicious coffee in these delicious mugs.

We all know that the United Kingdom is rightfully recognised for many contributions throughout history (did you know, for example, that printed press was invented in England in the 1534?) and for some obscure reason food has never been one of them. I remember friends complaining about the excessive amount of meat and specifically lamb in most menus, or the plain taste of fish and chips spots all around London. Often the subject of ridicule, even the locals sometimes seem to not appreciate their cuisine.

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Fish and Chips on Notting Hill street.

I’ve heard similar opinions on Canadian food and even the US, and while I might actually agree there, I prefer to stop and focus on the UK first.

I started thinking of what the reasons could be. Is it because Britain’s cuisine scene is saturated with a myriad cultures settling in and highlighting their flavours? Maybe because the most iconic dishes don’t have an understandable name that give an idea to an outsider or seem unfussy? Take the Yorkshire Pudding, Shepherd’s Pie. And my new favourite, the Guinness Pie. Unless you enquire about the recipe, you can’t know what they’re made of. The pressing presence of international cuisines does not mean that British simple sauces dishes should be overlooked, let alone mocked.

Why do people believe food in the UK is bad?

After done some research and asking around, the answer is: History, of course.

England’s monarchs were all different in tastes and dislikes. Kings. Often Queens. Britain saw an enormous change and addition to its fashion style and culinary creativity in the 16th century given the alliances built with European powers and eagerness to explore. In England this is particularly true and documented in many letters found at the hand of reform seekers. French sauces and the growing saffron in England became an inspiration.

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The famous English Breakfast kept me energised the entire day. This one I had at Cafe 1 in Bethnal Green.

Then we come to the Victorian age. While famous for bringing all sort of innovations and entertainment in the country, the Victorian age somehow threw a disapproving eye on exciting food especially if inspired from abroad. The traditional English Breakfast is in fact a Victorian invention mostly prepared and served in the upper and upper-middle classes, such as bankers.

Then the WW II came. Food rationing persisted for many years after the war’s end, giving the Brits an almost permanent greasy-pastry menu of dishes. Under the rationing period, many ingredients were unavailable and so substitutes of inferior quality and canned food took over and became wildly used.

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Canned peas.

The 1990s saw the emergence of reinventing things. Many chefs looked around and revitalised old recipes with new ingredients in an effort to bring in some culinary excitement and leave behind the old plain days. Plus low cost airlines made it easy for British people to eat better quality dishes and realised they could demand better quality from their home-country kitchens. More on the cuisine reinvention is found here.

I think that was the right move. The New British food, if prepared with the adequate ingredients and passion, is actually quite amazing.

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Hampton Court

Dear Reader,

This is Hampton Court Palace, a palace fit for a king, someone once said… With its unique red-brick style, Hampton Court was once the envy of most sovereigns in Europe, especially France and its rival palace of Versailles.

Originally built in 1514 for Cardinal Wolsey, his failure to secure an annulment for Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon led the Cardinal and royal chancellor to cede this residence to his king.

Here are some curious things to know about this royal palace:

1- You can pray where Henry VIII for his Chapel Royal is still there and intact.

2- the kings’tennis court is still there and functioning as an actual sports club for tennis and squash.

3- It’s haunted. England is full of ghosts stories and Hampton Court is not exempted. There are whispers of strange chills and ghostly sightings. Someone even told me to have witnessed a beheaded woman wondering in the halls…

4- Hampton Court has the largest surviving 16th century kitchens in the world. 200 cooks worked slavishly from sunrise to sunset to feed 800 guests (sometimes even more) when Henry’s entourage was staying at the palace.

Stanito at Madame Tussaud’s in London

Dear Reader,

In spite of being highly touristic, the Madame Tussaud Museum in London was one of the most fun I’ve seen in the UK. Many wax celebrities are strikingly similar, like … Tom Cruise Stanito_Tom_Cruise_Madame_Tussaud_London_UK Britney Spears Stanito_Britney_Spears_Madame_Tussaud_London_UK Whoopi Goldberg Stanito_Whoopy_Goldberg_Madame_Tussaud_London_UK Some others fail to give a realistic look and end up having a fake waxy look like… Brangelina

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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt looked too fake and shiny. Stanito ergo didn’t bother to take a photo with them

However, wax or not, I couldn’t help but enjoy few moments as they were real. Below are two of my favourites: my kiss with George Clooney Stanito_George_Clooney_Madame_Tussaud_London_UK And fun time with Jim Carrey Stanito_Jim_Carrey_Madame_Tussaud_London_UK A girl is always allowed to dream 🙂