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Food For Thought – Post-Brexit Britain’s International Menu
General Discussion

Food For Thought – Post-Brexit Britain’s International Menu

Alycia Gordan
4 months ago
   

At least in political terms, Britain is a nation divided.

When we left the EU on 31st January, extreme Brexiteers were in cracking open the champagne, staunch Remainers were crying into their cuppas and many members of the public with ambivalent feelings were merely relieved that it might no longer saturate the news.

Meanwhile, one of the less pleasant charges levied at certain parties who campaigned to leave was that they traded on a type of nostalgic exceptionalism – the belief that Britain could return to splendid isolation and become a hermetically-sealed enclave which is entirely self-sufficient.

However, this type of revisionism doesn’t withstand intelligent interrogation when it comes to food – British recipes have benefitted from foreign ingredients for centuries, many of the utensils we eat with were originally imported (the drinking vessels of the Beaker Folk, for instance) and our favorite dishes originate beyond our shores.

So while we’re politically neutral, we’re passionate about food that’s inclusive, outward-looking and internationalist – which is why it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves of the international roots of Britain’s post-Brexit menu.

Curry

Curry is Britain’s favorite dish and, although its many British incarnations have been adapted for our palates, it’s unarguably Indian in origin.

According to Historic UK, it has engendered an industry that contributes more than £5 billion to the economy and millions of us regularly savor Tikka Masalas, Bhunas, Jalfrezis, and Vindaloos.

Curry was first served in the UK in the 18th Century to British colonialists returning from India who was hankering for a little authentic spice to tingle their taste buds and its popularity has exploded in the generations since.

Tip: Bolton’s Hot Chilli restaurant was recently named national Champion of Champions in the prestigious Asian Restaurant & Takeaway Awards (ARTA) – sample their sumptuous dishes next time you’re in Lancashire.

Rice

Rice is often used as an accompaniment to dishes like curries, but it’s also the mainstay of meals like Italian Risottos and Chinese Egg Fried Rice.

It’s referred to in Medieval cookbooks and at that time probably reached Britain via Spain, Southern Italy or Arabian lands.

It isn’t grown in the UK but The Rice Association reminds us that the British rice industry is worth £750 million annually, most of the varieties on our shelves are imported from India and Thailand and it’s bought by 90 percent of British households.

Tip: If you want to source high-quality rice for a tasty mushroom risotto, grain specialist Riso Gallo is one of the best suppliers in the market – their website also features a host of handy rice recipes from across the globe.

Fish and chips

For many of us, fish and chips feel as British as Morris Dancing, Beefeaters, London Bridge and Boris Johnson dangling precariously from a zip line while frantically waving miniature Union Jacks.

But actually, this is another dish that we would know nothing about if it wasn’t brought here by people from abroad who were kind enough to share their culinary expertise.

The BBC’s James Alexander reports that the origin of fish and chips lies outwith our borders – chips were supposedly invented in 16th Century Belgium when resourceful housewives cut potatoes into fish shapes and fried them up when rivers were frozen and no bona fide fish were available. Meanwhile, at around the same time, Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal introduced fried fish, the stars aligned and, by a stroke of sociohistorical good luck, the result was a culinary match made in heaven.

Furthermore, as time progressed, other immigrant groups specialized in running fish and chip shops – such as the Chinese community in Merseyside and the Italians in Scotland.

Tip: Fans of freshly-caught fish and crunchy chips should make a bee-line for the Anstruther Fish Bar in Fife, Scotland – it’s been voted the best in the land multiple times.

Haggis

Celebrated with much pomp and ceremony every Burns night, Scotland’s national dish Haggis might be an acquired taste, but it’s eaten across its home nation and in expatriate populations around the world.

This savory meat pudding comprises sheep’s offal, suet, onions, oatmeal and spices and, provided you’re not vegetarian or vegan, tastes considerably better than it sounds.

However, the shocker is that it’s not entirely Scottish. A recent Scotsman article explains that haggis was mentioned in the 8th Century in Homer’s Odyssey and that the Roman’s were the first to use dishes similar to haggis in a widespread fashion, as an easily preserved food served to soldiers.

And in a revelation that will send sporrans quivering from Galashiels to John O’Groats, it might have been eaten in England at around the same time it became popular in Scotland – it’s first mentioned in historical records from both kingdoms around the 16th-17th Centuries.

Tip: The best shop-bought haggis might be made by Macsween – it’s available in many supermarkets and butchers, and a vegan version has recently been unveiled.

So there you have it – it seems British cuisine, like its contemporary populace and culture, is much more of a glorious mash-up of ingredients from around the world than a bland monolithic mass which materialized out of thin air as part of a manufactured creation myth.

What do you think about international cuisine in post-Brexit Britain? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About the Author

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia