British food heritage

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tom p
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Re: British food heritage

Post by tom p » Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:01 am

Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 8:14 am
I also read a long time ago, can't remember where, that in the early/mid 19th C there was a thriving trade between Waterloo where they dug up the millions of horse/?human bones from the battlefield, ground them and shipped them to London for the bakers to whiten bread. Has anyone heard of this or know whether it was merely apocryphal.
Apparently they were used on the fields of Yorkshire, rather than in the mills of London. And not just Waterloo, but Austerlitz, Liepzig, Brandenburg, US civil war battles. The cannibalism of the yorkies knew no bounds.

Teeth were also taken from the dead soldiers & made available as falsies for Londoners in the 19th century

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:34 am

bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:26 am
I deplore the loss of quality food as much as you do, EPD, but it's had so much to fight against that I think a massive decline was almost inevitable, though not necessarily to the extent that it happened. I'm hugely glad that we're starting to see a reversal* but as long as supermarkets still sell cheap crap, it's going to be something that only the relatively cash-rich and time-not-too-poor are going to be able to access. I'm not sure how that could be changed. Decent bread is simply more expensive than bagged, sliced, fluff so I can't see that ever going away. Although, that said, does it necessarily have to be? I don't know. Would it be possible to mass-produce a better quality of bread at a similar cost? I suspect not but I really don't know enough about the processes involved.
There is currently a huge resurgence of academic interest in heritage varieties. At the moment, conventional agriculture relies on a tiny number of varieties, which are reliably productive as long as you keep them dosed up with large quantities of water, fertilizer and various biocides.

People in positions of power are finally starting to acknowledge that that model isn't sustainable - fertilizer is causing dead zones in rivers and coastal waters, biocides are killing pollinators, soil invertebrates and birds, everyone's running out of water, and agricultural soils are basically dead, prone to erosion and emitting carbon rather than storing it. Plus, the low genetic variety means high vulnerability to disease, with new ones emerging all the time thanks to habitat fragmentation and globalised transportation, and treatment-resistant strains constantly evolving due to the widespread overuse of biocides (see above).

Growing heritage varieties that were already selected for a particular environment reduces the requirements for external inputs and increases resistance to the various upcoming challenges. It also helps with resistance to climate change - one area of agriculture that does still value heritage varieties is winemaking, and French growers are increasingly looking to adopt Portuguese and Spanish grape varieties which are better able to cope with all the drought they're experiencing. Choosing appropriate varieties is one of the recommendations for farmers from the EAT Lancet Commission, for instance.

I think the economics will slowly change, as the externalities of current food production systems - the enormous amounts of pollution and biodiversity loss caused by conventional agriculture - will have to be priced into the market somewhere if we're to have any hope of addressing the climate emergency (1.2°C and counting). But it will be done by incorporating more information into modern agricultural practices, not going backwards to times of hunger - failing to adapt to the coming crises would be a much bigger risk for mass starvation.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by bagpuss » Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:43 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:34 am
bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:26 am
I deplore the loss of quality food as much as you do, EPD, but it's had so much to fight against that I think a massive decline was almost inevitable, though not necessarily to the extent that it happened. I'm hugely glad that we're starting to see a reversal* but as long as supermarkets still sell cheap crap, it's going to be something that only the relatively cash-rich and time-not-too-poor are going to be able to access. I'm not sure how that could be changed. Decent bread is simply more expensive than bagged, sliced, fluff so I can't see that ever going away. Although, that said, does it necessarily have to be? I don't know. Would it be possible to mass-produce a better quality of bread at a similar cost? I suspect not but I really don't know enough about the processes involved.
There is currently a huge resurgence of academic interest in heritage varieties. At the moment, conventional agriculture relies on a tiny number of varieties, which are reliably productive as long as you keep them dosed up with large quantities of water, fertilizer and various biocides.

People in positions of power are finally starting to acknowledge that that model isn't sustainable - fertilizer is causing dead zones in rivers and coastal waters, biocides are killing pollinators, soil invertebrates and birds, everyone's running out of water, and agricultural soils are basically dead, prone to erosion and emitting carbon rather than storing it. Plus, the low genetic variety means high vulnerability to disease, with new ones emerging all the time thanks to habitat fragmentation and globalised transportation, and treatment-resistant strains constantly evolving due to the widespread overuse of biocides (see above).

Growing heritage varieties that were already selected for a particular environment reduces the requirements for external inputs and increases resistance to the various upcoming challenges. It also helps with resistance to climate change - one area of agriculture that does still value heritage varieties is winemaking, and French growers are increasingly looking to adopt Portuguese and Spanish grape varieties which are better able to cope with all the drought they're experiencing. Choosing appropriate varieties is one of the recommendations for farmers from the EAT Lancet Commission, for instance.

I think the economics will slowly change, as the externalities of current food production systems - the enormous amounts of pollution and biodiversity loss caused by conventional agriculture - will have to be priced into the market somewhere if we're to have any hope of addressing the climate emergency (1.2°C and counting). But it will be done by incorporating more information into modern agricultural practices, not going backwards to times of hunger - failing to adapt to the coming crises would be a much bigger risk for mass starvation.
Very interesting, thank you.

So heritage varieties may actually prove to be a solution to problems that growers are experiencing, which could push them that way when they might otherwise have no interest in doing so? While the reason behind it is clearly bad*, it is good that the solution may bring other substantial benefits too.



*heck of an understatement

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:51 am

I think so, yes. Whether it will happen more at the level of individual growers (which are often large-ish businesses anyway), or via seed companies researching and marketing (and probably in some cases patenting) those varieties and/or traits from them I wouldn't like to say. ETA but I think there are hard-headed business reasons that might push farmers in that direction.

Something I'm not clear on is whether the stuff in supermarkets tastes crap because of the varieties used, or the methods used to produce them. Quite possibly unripe fruits and veg grown in dead rock just taste like garbage anyway.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Tessa K » Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:08 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:51 am
I think so, yes. Whether it will happen more at the level of individual growers (which are often large-ish businesses anyway), or via seed companies researching and marketing (and probably in some cases patenting) those varieties and/or traits from them I wouldn't like to say. ETA but I think there are hard-headed business reasons that might push farmers in that direction.

Something I'm not clear on is whether the stuff in supermarkets tastes crap because of the varieties used, or the methods used to produce them. Quite possibly unripe fruits and veg grown in dead rock just taste like garbage anyway.
There's a storage element to taste. Many types of fruit and veg are shipped (or otherwise sent out) while still unripe to lengthen shelf life and don't ripen properly before we eat them. We think of fruit ripening but sometimes forget that veg has to ripen too, especially if there's no colour change when they are ripe. I very rarely buy avocados as the labelling that says 'Ripe and ready to eat' is inevitably a lie. They don't taste good and often go brown inside before they go ripe. Squeezing them doesn't help as they may just be soft because they've been squeezed by several other people.

Packaging is a double edged sword. It extends shelf life both at the production and consumer end of the chain but plastics are bad for the environment. So what we need is better packaging, not less.

Eating local produce is great if it's bought locally but eating, for example, British strawberries out of season means they will have been grown in a heated polytunnel, which is bad for the planet while eating foreign imports may be better as they've been grown outdoors.

So it's not just about varieties, it's about production and delivery, as you suggest.

Sometimes the method of cooking makes a difference too. Steaming veg can bring out the flavour.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by nezumi » Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:20 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:08 pm
<snip>
Sometimes the method of cooking makes a difference too. Steaming veg can bring out the flavour.
I'll also add that the soil the plants are grown in makes an enormous difference. The plant requires a few things in order to grow properly and to produce the phytochemicals that make the flavour. That means there's a couple of other things needed for truly flavourful food. Those are 1: a good mix of nutrients in the soil which you won't get by simply using a 3 chemical fertilizer, manure and actual compost are the best. The other thing (and I would strongly recommend reading this book cos it's very good) is mycorrhizae. It should be there naturally but, of course, in intensively farmed fields, it ain't.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:25 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:08 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:51 am
I think so, yes. Whether it will happen more at the level of individual growers (which are often large-ish businesses anyway), or via seed companies researching and marketing (and probably in some cases patenting) those varieties and/or traits from them I wouldn't like to say. ETA but I think there are hard-headed business reasons that might push farmers in that direction.

Something I'm not clear on is whether the stuff in supermarkets tastes crap because of the varieties used, or the methods used to produce them. Quite possibly unripe fruits and veg grown in dead rock just taste like garbage anyway.
There's a storage element to taste. Many types of fruit and veg are shipped (or otherwise sent out) while still unripe to lengthen shelf life and don't ripen properly before we eat them. We think of fruit ripening but sometimes forget that veg has to ripen too, especially if there's no colour change when they are ripe. I very rarely buy avocados as the labelling that says 'Ripe and ready to eat' is inevitably a lie. They don't taste good and often go brown inside before they go ripe. Squeezing them doesn't help as they may just be soft because they've been squeezed by several other people.

Packaging is a double edged sword. It extends shelf life both at the production and consumer end of the chain but plastics are bad for the environment. So what we need is better packaging, not less.

Eating local produce is great if it's bought locally but eating, for example, British strawberries out of season means they will have been grown in a heated polytunnel, which is bad for the planet while eating foreign imports may be better as they've been grown outdoors.

So it's not just about varieties, it's about production and delivery, as you suggest.

Sometimes the method of cooking makes a difference too. Steaming veg can bring out the flavour.
For sure. Once we have carbon pricing I suspect there will be a shift to eating more seasonally again, as it simply won't be economic to heat polytunnels or fly fruits from the southern hemisphere. OTOH we might be able to do some clever circular-economy stuff and re-use waste heat from decomposing waste or industrial processes e.g. pick-your-own polytunnels on supermarket rooftops, heated by old food and aircon outflow?

I've never found a ripe avocado in the UK. In Portugal, I'd say it's about 50:50 during the Spanish season, and even worse for ones that come from further away. Which is devastating for Mrs BoaF who's used to having properly ripe avocados year-round. Until I ate one straight from a tree I never realised that they are meant to be moist and juicy like a pear (a ripe pear, not one in a UK supermarket).
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Tessa K » Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:35 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:25 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 12:08 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:51 am
I think so, yes. Whether it will happen more at the level of individual growers (which are often large-ish businesses anyway), or via seed companies researching and marketing (and probably in some cases patenting) those varieties and/or traits from them I wouldn't like to say. ETA but I think there are hard-headed business reasons that might push farmers in that direction.

Something I'm not clear on is whether the stuff in supermarkets tastes crap because of the varieties used, or the methods used to produce them. Quite possibly unripe fruits and veg grown in dead rock just taste like garbage anyway.
There's a storage element to taste. Many types of fruit and veg are shipped (or otherwise sent out) while still unripe to lengthen shelf life and don't ripen properly before we eat them. We think of fruit ripening but sometimes forget that veg has to ripen too, especially if there's no colour change when they are ripe. I very rarely buy avocados as the labelling that says 'Ripe and ready to eat' is inevitably a lie. They don't taste good and often go brown inside before they go ripe. Squeezing them doesn't help as they may just be soft because they've been squeezed by several other people.

Packaging is a double edged sword. It extends shelf life both at the production and consumer end of the chain but plastics are bad for the environment. So what we need is better packaging, not less.

Eating local produce is great if it's bought locally but eating, for example, British strawberries out of season means they will have been grown in a heated polytunnel, which is bad for the planet while eating foreign imports may be better as they've been grown outdoors.

So it's not just about varieties, it's about production and delivery, as you suggest.

Sometimes the method of cooking makes a difference too. Steaming veg can bring out the flavour.
For sure. Once we have carbon pricing I suspect there will be a shift to eating more seasonally again, as it simply won't be economic to heat polytunnels or fly fruits from the southern hemisphere. OTOH we might be able to do some clever circular-economy stuff and re-use waste heat from decomposing waste or industrial processes e.g. pick-your-own polytunnels on supermarket rooftops, heated by old food and aircon outflow?

I've never found a ripe avocado in the UK. In Portugal, I'd say it's about 50:50 during the Spanish season, and even worse for ones that come from further away. Which is devastating for Mrs BoaF who's used to having properly ripe avocados year-round. Until I ate one straight from a tree I never realised that they are meant to be moist and juicy like a pear (a ripe pear, not one in a UK supermarket).
The only good quality ripe ones I've found have come from market stalls but they've mostly gone now. I've never been able to quite replicate the guacamole I had in Mexico.

Supermarket mangos usually go from green and hard to brown and soft with nothing in between. The best place to get them is from smaller shops in areas with a large ethnic community from countries where they have a definite season.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Lydia Gwilt » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:43 pm

tom p wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:01 am
Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 8:14 am
I also read a long time ago, can't remember where, that in the early/mid 19th C there was a thriving trade between Waterloo where they dug up the millions of horse/?human bones from the battlefield, ground them and shipped them to London for the bakers to whiten bread. Has anyone heard of this or know whether it was merely apocryphal.
Apparently they were used on the fields of Yorkshire, rather than in the mills of London. And not just Waterloo, but Austerlitz, Liepzig, Brandenburg, US civil war battles. The cannibalism of the yorkies knew no bounds.

Teeth were also taken from the dead soldiers & made available as falsies for Londoners in the 19th century
Fascinating article, thank you!

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Re: British food heritage

Post by tom p » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:51 pm

Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:43 pm
tom p wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 11:01 am
Lydia Gwilt wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 8:14 am
I also read a long time ago, can't remember where, that in the early/mid 19th C there was a thriving trade between Waterloo where they dug up the millions of horse/?human bones from the battlefield, ground them and shipped them to London for the bakers to whiten bread. Has anyone heard of this or know whether it was merely apocryphal.
Apparently they were used on the fields of Yorkshire, rather than in the mills of London. And not just Waterloo, but Austerlitz, Liepzig, Brandenburg, US civil war battles. The cannibalism of the yorkies knew no bounds.

Teeth were also taken from the dead soldiers & made available as falsies for Londoners in the 19th century
Fascinating article, thank you!
Any time.
Something I learned a few years ago is that there's not usually that many dead from old wars. Armies in a particular battle would often only number in the 10s of thousands, and maybe 5-10%, even of the losing side, would be killed, so you're talking a handful of thousands (maybe 10k died on all sides at waterloo).
It's been very different since WWI, of course (about a million men died in the 140 days between July and November at the Somme - ~30k of them on day 1)

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Re: British food heritage

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:42 pm

bagpuss wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:26 am
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:47 am
Tessa K wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:46 am


Pre WW2 there was a lot of food poverty so people didn't have much choice in what they ate unless they lived in rural areas and were able to grow their own veg. No one 'forgot' their heritage during WW2 as attempts to come up with recipes that replicated pre-war food show. Many people ate better during the war as rationing at least meant there was access to some foods they couldn't afford or get before and they were forced to eat more veg with less meat and dairy available. Of course people cooked 'simply', they didn't have the kitchens to do anything else.

The bacon thread isn't a sign we've forgotten our heritage.
The bacon thread is a very strong sign that we've forgotten our heritage. Good, dry-cured, actually-smoked bacon, whether streaky or back, is a lovely thing. But the vast majority of people (not just a bunch of middle class people on a small forum) don't eat that, they eat watery supermarket sh.t. With bread, the Chorleywood process for many killed off access to decent bread for decades. The cheese industry was almost destroyed by WW2, and we've only seen the re-emergence of cheeses such as proper red Leicester cheese in the last couple of decades. British butter and cream are shadows of their former selves, mainly as they're produced by (generally) Friesian cows when Guernsey or similar cattle produce a much better product with a higher cream level. I doubt any of us has ever tried a proper Cumberland sausage, because the last Cumberland pig died in 1960, after centuries of the breed being produced. Proper Lancashire hotpot is hard to make as well, because getting old of mutton scrag is f.cking difficult, and it's not the same with lamb. Pannage pork is a thing of wonder but hardly anyone has heard of it and hardly anyone can get hold of it, because many of the people who have the rights to produce it don't do so. For decades most of the chickens that we've consumed have been horrifically treated battery chickens, and again, moving back to slow-bred, good quality and ethically produced chicken has only been a concern in recent times.

Compared to the French or Italians, for example, who were no less poor, no more able to access cooking facilities, no less damaged by WW2, and yet have retained a very strong food culture rooted in their past, British people have allowed many of the excellent food produce we've developed over the years to wane or disappear completely, whereas in France or Italy there's been a high demand for good quality which hasn't been replicated over here (they have their problems, of course, like everywhere). There's been some recovery in recent years but still lots more to do.

Of course, the survival or former existence of foods such as Aylesbury duck (one producer left in the whole country), all the different pig, sheep and cattle breeds that the UK has produced (and occasionally exported to other countries where they are better received than they are in the UK), the hotpots and puddings and cured meats and breads and cakes and cheeses and so on gives the lie to the idea that everything everyone here ate was just boiled mush. It's just complete bollocks.
A contributor to the fall of good quality food in the UK compared with Italy and France, is a higher proportion of working women in the UK. In the early post-war years, France actually had a higher proportion than the UK but that switched over in the 50s and Italy has always been well below. Despite more women working, they still mostly had the responsibility for shopping and cooking and they had little time to actually do it. With a little more money and a heck of a lot less time, women had to turn to supermarkets as they just couldn't shop in umpteen specialist shops any more and not only that, they wanted to get food on plates with minimal time and effort. Add in the rise of a consumer culture giving us more things to spend money on, so a greater desire to buy food as cheaply as possible to leave more for other things, and what happened was pretty much inevitable. Had we had a much stronger food culture, it might have just about survived despite all that but with all of those things together, it would have had to be one heck of a strong culture to make it.

It's easy to blame supermarkets, and they definitely bear a portion of the blame, but there really was an incredibly strong demand for convenience over almost anything, especially in the 1970s - how else could you explain the horror that is Smash?

I deplore the loss of quality food as much as you do, EPD, but it's had so much to fight against that I think a massive decline was almost inevitable, though not necessarily to the extent that it happened. I'm hugely glad that we're starting to see a reversal* but as long as supermarkets still sell cheap crap, it's going to be something that only the relatively cash-rich and time-not-too-poor are going to be able to access. I'm not sure how that could be changed. Decent bread is simply more expensive than bagged, sliced, fluff so I can't see that ever going away. Although, that said, does it necessarily have to be? I don't know. Would it be possible to mass-produce a better quality of bread at a similar cost? I suspect not but I really don't know enough about the processes involved.


*There's a local farm that sells their excellent beef directly to the public. We have a cheese shop in our very small town that sells only high quality British cheese as well as some British produced charcuterie. Even our local Budgens sells locally butcher-made sausages, pies, etc. For bacon I'm stuck with supermarket produced stuff as the fabulous local bacon producer I used to buy from a few years ago seems to have disappeared.
You make a lot of good points - and of course cost and convenience are going to win out over time, but if I could somehow replay history I'd like to somehow see quality and taste play a stronger part in matters as well. And it's good that there's a recovery going on, and lots of innovation too. Whatever the reasons for the British being less aware or proud of our food culture and heritage than our continental neighbours, a good part of the solution would seem to me to be education - I can't speak now for what food education is like in schools, but in the 90s it was a shambles. There's an ideal of seeing things passed down within families, but that's just not going to happen any more. Seeing as it's such a huge part of our culture, and just day to day living, educating people about their food heritage would seem useful and good to me.

And then there's celebration - why not hold a British festival of food, with events up and down the country, rather than some f.cking gobshite Brexit festival or whatever the f.ck it's called? There are of course food festivals that happen in lots of places anyway, but it seems an easy win to me.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by FlammableFlower » Wed Apr 21, 2021 9:44 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:42 pm
Whatever the reasons for the British being less aware or proud of our food culture and heritage than our continental neighbours, a good part of the solution would seem to me to be education - I can't speak now for what food education is like in schools, but in the 90s it was a shambles. There's an ideal of seeing things passed down within families, but that's just not going to happen any more. Seeing as it's such a huge part of our culture, and just day to day living, educating people about their food heritage would seem useful and good to me.

And then there's celebration - why not hold a British festival of food, with events up and down the country, rather than some f.cking gobshite Brexit festival or whatever the f.ck it's called? There are of course food festivals that happen in lots of places anyway, but it seems an easy win to me.
It's funny you should mention that - as my mum taught cookery (aka Home Economics) from the 70s to the late 90s. She had a lot to vent about the changes that happened over time. When she trained to be a cookery teacher in the late 60s, she went off to a teacher training college (now Bath Spa uni) and included in her cookery training was, well.. a lot of cooking and chef skills - including working in some higher end restaurants. Early cookery lessons were more about just that, how to cook, whereas as time went on there was less and less practical skills teaching. She very much despaired the lack of skills she was allowed to teach as the national curriculum took so much out.

On the other hand, it meant we (and my parents friends) had the benefit of all that knowledge. My mum and dad often had friends round for meals where I'd get to first observe and then help with the cooking. She taught me a lot, not just skills, but also a deep love of cooking in general and in preparing meals for others to enjoy too.

But overall, cooking had (has?) very little status as a subject - few wanted to do it after the compulsory lessons in the first 3 years of secondary. From my perspective it's very important.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm

The Portuguese are incredibly proud of their culinary heritage, and it is, for the most part, what is sometimes called "peasant food" - simple food cooked well.

Like, if you go to a seafood place and order a fish, you will get a fish that's been grilled on charcoal. With the eyes and skin and bones and stuff. (They eat things like sardines whole, like seagulls do. I don't think they cough up pellets, though.)

A lot of meat comes in white bread. Very occasionally there's a simple sauce (probably tomato based), but normally just olive oil, salt, maybe some lemon or vinegar on a side salad. It's not easy to do vegetarian versions. Everything is served with rice and potatoes - possibly fries, possibly boiled, both if you're a large group. And bread. Cooked vegetables are rare in restaurants, outside of the cherished caldo verde ("green soup"), which is cabbage and potatoes and water.

The wine is excellent, but often quite haphazardly produced. The industry is rapidly modernising, and suddenly winning loads of awards for stuff other than port. And people drink a lot of it unpretensiously, often just ordering "red" or "white" without asking the name or grape variety or anything.

A typical lunchtime meal deal here might be €3.50, and go: green soup, grilled meat in a bread, possibly a potato option, coffee (espresso) and a drink. The drink can be a can of coke (etc), a small beer, or a 0.5 l carafe of wine. (The beer is either garbage, or very expensive hipster artesenal stuff).

But people have a strong sense of food being tied to geography. The best sheep cheese is from this region. The best sausage is from this kind of pig in that kind of forest down there. Want to quaff a light white wine in the sun? Up here.

And desserts! Every time I tell someone where I live, or which random town I'm looking at birds near tomorrow, they always specific a kind of cake or pastry that is famous in that town. Literally every town has its own pastry, and visitors seek them out. They're all good.


It's difficult to export. There are very few Portuguese restaurants because there's no real concept to exploit. You can grill a mackerel in Detroit, but nobody is going to consider that "Portuguese cuisine".

And there's been no postcolonial adoption of spices. Portugal kicked off its imperialism by monopolising the sea route to the spice islands of Asia, undercutting whichever other empire had the monopoly over the land route and was taxing the arse out of it.

But while the empire is remembered with wistful pride, try and find a Goan or Timorese or Mozambiquean restaurants or dishes. (There's quite a few Cabo Verdean places around, to be fair, and they are fantastic! And clearly also an influence on north Brazilian cuisine, which makes sense). There's probably more Mozambiquean food in London than in Portugal - Nandos dresses up as Portuguese, but it's actually Mozambique food and run by a South African. Peri-peri is the Ronga word for "pepper" and was imported via Portuguese. Every restaurant has a bottle of piripiri sauce with the salt and pepper - but that's it, really. Well, and there's sugar in all the desserts.


The UK could easily harness an entirely wholesome sense of national and regional appreciation around cuisine. Everyone likes eating. There's loads of interesting local variations, influences from regional history (and herstory), plus a global story to tell.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Martin_B » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:01 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
But while the empire is remembered with wistful pride, try and find a Goan or Timorese or Mozambiquean restaurants or dishes. (There's quite a few Cabo Verdean places around, to be fair, and they are fantastic! And clearly also an influence on north Brazilian cuisine, which makes sense). There's probably more Mozambiquean food in London than in Portugal - Nandos dresses up as Portuguese, but it's actually Mozambique food and run by a South African. Peri-peri is the Ronga word for "pepper" and was imported via Portuguese. Every restaurant has a bottle of piripiri sauce with the salt and pepper - but that's it, really. Well, and there's sugar in all the desserts.
The Portuguese did import potatoes, tomatoes and some peppers to India via Goa, so has had quite the impact on 'British' food heritage and the make-up of the average British High Street!
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Re: British food heritage

Post by monkey » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:24 am

Martin_B wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:01 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
But while the empire is remembered with wistful pride, try and find a Goan or Timorese or Mozambiquean restaurants or dishes. (There's quite a few Cabo Verdean places around, to be fair, and they are fantastic! And clearly also an influence on north Brazilian cuisine, which makes sense). There's probably more Mozambiquean food in London than in Portugal - Nandos dresses up as Portuguese, but it's actually Mozambique food and run by a South African. Peri-peri is the Ronga word for "pepper" and was imported via Portuguese. Every restaurant has a bottle of piripiri sauce with the salt and pepper - but that's it, really. Well, and there's sugar in all the desserts.
The Portuguese did import potatoes, tomatoes and some peppers to India via Goa, so has had quite the impact on 'British' food heritage and the make-up of the average British High Street!
Nandos too :twisted:

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Re: British food heritage

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Thu Apr 22, 2021 8:16 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
The Portuguese are incredibly proud of their culinary heritage, and it is, for the most part, what is sometimes called "peasant food" - simple food cooked well.

... <lots of good stuff>

The UK could easily harness an entirely wholesome sense of national and regional appreciation around cuisine. Everyone likes eating. There's loads of interesting local variations, influences from regional history (and herstory), plus a global story to tell.
There's actually a Portuguese place in Bletchley, not far from here, called "House of Chicken" and which looks like a greasy spoon, but is run by an adorable family and who make a small menu of things, unsurprisingly centred around cooking chicken. But they do other stuff, like some weird ham and cheese sandwich cooked in a sauce, and salt cod (which you have to ring up a couple of days in advance if you want to order). It's really really good.

But yes, something along those lines in the UK would be great - knowledge of what comes from where, of which cow breeds make the best beef, or what bara brith is and who makes the best ones, or why the best cheddar in the country comes from Cheddar, or who makes the best meat pies, or whatever. Like Portuguese cuisine, I can't imagine that we'll end up with "traditional British" restaurants outside of the UK (the pubs you find in airports and Magaluf don't count), but it'd be interesting for that shared sense of national heritage, and regional speciality to be fostered. People being aware of York ham or pannage pork or proper Melton pork pies and things that aren't pork-based as well.

And it isn't like it should be a closed shop - one of the brilliant strengths of the UK is that we have that heritage, but we've also invited in a lot of other types of cuisine as well (often bastardising them, but that's going to happen everywhere a food culture is imported) and have a really rich restaurant scene. There's no reason why the two can't co-exist.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Lydia Gwilt » Thu Apr 22, 2021 9:04 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm

The wine is excellent, but often quite haphazardly produced. The industry is rapidly modernising, and suddenly winning loads of awards for stuff other than port. And people drink a lot of it unpretensiously, often just ordering "red" or "white" without asking the name or grape variety or anything.
In the late 80s there was suddenly a lot of Portuguese wine in London branches of Oddbins - amazing stuff from the 1960s, incredibly deep and oaky reds, with mould growing between the cork and the (really) lead capsule. And then just as suddenly the supply dried up. I imagine that as Portugal moved towards joining Europe they offloaded a lot of stuff that they hadn't been able to sell before. But round Porto in 83 the white wines were also lovely and extraordinarily cheap, even by student standards. Wonderful place, but back then there were still frightening numbers of children with polio injuries.
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
And desserts! Every time I tell someone where I live, or which random town I'm looking at birds near tomorrow, they always specific a kind of cake or pastry that is famous in that town. Literally every town has its own pastry, and visitors seek them out. They're all good.
Yes, I found the pastries were a continual temptation - it was only because I was building roads that I didn't come back spherical!

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Tessa K » Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:21 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 8:16 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
The Portuguese are incredibly proud of their culinary heritage, and it is, for the most part, what is sometimes called "peasant food" - simple food cooked well.

... <lots of good stuff>

The UK could easily harness an entirely wholesome sense of national and regional appreciation around cuisine. Everyone likes eating. There's loads of interesting local variations, influences from regional history (and herstory), plus a global story to tell.
There's actually a Portuguese place in Bletchley, not far from here, called "House of Chicken" and which looks like a greasy spoon, but is run by an adorable family and who make a small menu of things, unsurprisingly centred around cooking chicken. But they do other stuff, like some weird ham and cheese sandwich cooked in a sauce, and salt cod (which you have to ring up a couple of days in advance if you want to order). It's really really good.

But yes, something along those lines in the UK would be great - knowledge of what comes from where, of which cow breeds make the best beef, or what bara brith is and who makes the best ones, or why the best cheddar in the country comes from Cheddar, or who makes the best meat pies, or whatever. Like Portuguese cuisine, I can't imagine that we'll end up with "traditional British" restaurants outside of the UK (the pubs you find in airports and Magaluf don't count), but it'd be interesting for that shared sense of national heritage, and regional speciality to be fostered. People being aware of York ham or pannage pork or proper Melton pork pies and things that aren't pork-based as well.

And it isn't like it should be a closed shop - one of the brilliant strengths of the UK is that we have that heritage, but we've also invited in a lot of other types of cuisine as well (often bastardising them, but that's going to happen everywhere a food culture is imported) and have a really rich restaurant scene. There's no reason why the two can't co-exist.

Bara brith versus barm brack taste off?

The revival of interest in baking doesn't seem to have extended to an interest in 'traditional' cooking generally here. Cookery shows on TV are mostly making things too complicated or expensive for most of us. The Hairy Bikers did a Best of British show; I don't know how accessible the recipes were as I rarely watching cooking shows.

I would like to take a moment to extol the joys of pearl barley, a good old traditional stew element.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:30 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 8:16 am
There's actually a Portuguese place in Bletchley, not far from here, called "House of Chicken" and which looks like a greasy spoon, but is run by an adorable family and who make a small menu of things, unsurprisingly centred around cooking chicken. But they do other stuff, like some weird ham and cheese sandwich cooked in a sauce, and salt cod (which you have to ring up a couple of days in advance if you want to order). It's really really good.
Sounds very authentic - there's lots of places called "Casa do Frango" round here, and most of the nicest restaurants look super run down (my top-tip for Lisbon is find a place with metal tables and chairs, paper table cloths and no menu). That sandwich thing sounds like a francesinha, from Porto - the sauce is made from tomato, peri-peri and beer, and it's fantastic: easily the best sandwich in the world. And as a Boafy Bonus it's one thing I can often get a veggie version of (just don't put the ham in).
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Re: British food heritage

Post by bagpuss » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:09 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:21 am

Bara brith versus barm brack taste off?

The revival of interest in baking doesn't seem to have extended to an interest in 'traditional' cooking generally here. Cookery shows on TV are mostly making things too complicated or expensive for most of us. The Hairy Bikers did a Best of British show; I don't know how accessible the recipes were as I rarely watching cooking shows.

I would like to take a moment to extol the joys of pearl barley, a good old traditional stew element.


I think there are a lot of cooking programmes that focus on cooking straightforward but good food - a lot of Nigella's recipes, Jamie Oliver's, probably others too but I don't tend to watch very many either. But I would agree that those are not concentrating on traditional British food/recipes for the most part. I've watched the odd episode of the Hairy Bikers programmes and I like them and their approach to food but i don't find the way they show them cooking is very encouraging of people going away and doing it themselves.

And I will add my voice to your praise of pearl barley - I always add it to a chicken casserole and sometimes to soup. Soaks up lots of good flavour and adds both texture and fillingness.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by bjn » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:53 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
And desserts! Every time I tell someone where I live, or which random town I'm looking at birds near tomorrow, they always specific a kind of cake or pastry that is famous in that town. Literally every town has its own pastry, and visitors seek them out. They're all good.
I know it is a stereotype, but I love Pastéis de Nata, divine things that they are. Lovely memories of having breakfast in an unpretentious Lisbon café wolfing them down with espressos. Nom.

There does seem to be a thing in the UK (and Oz for that matter), that if you care about food you are some sort of pretentious git. My parents were of working class and peasant Italian families and food mattered.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by Gfamily » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:58 pm

bjn wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:53 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
And desserts! Every time I tell someone where I live, or which random town I'm looking at birds near tomorrow, they always specific a kind of cake or pastry that is famous in that town. Literally every town has its own pastry, and visitors seek them out. They're all good.
I know it is a stereotype, but I love Pastéis de Nata, divine things that they are. Lovely memories of having breakfast in an unpretentious Lisbon café wolfing them down with espressos. Nom.
It sounds unlikely, but Lidl bake them in store, and there are just the best.
Nom indeed

My only regret* is that we can't persuade Gfamson that they aren't just 'custard tarts'.


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Re: British food heritage

Post by Tessa K » Thu Apr 22, 2021 3:15 pm

bjn wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:53 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 10:30 pm
And desserts! Every time I tell someone where I live, or which random town I'm looking at birds near tomorrow, they always specific a kind of cake or pastry that is famous in that town. Literally every town has its own pastry, and visitors seek them out. They're all good.
I know it is a stereotype, but I love Pastéis de Nata, divine things that they are. Lovely memories of having breakfast in an unpretentious Lisbon café wolfing them down with espressos. Nom.

There does seem to be a thing in the UK (and Oz for that matter), that if you care about food you are some sort of pretentious git. My parents were of working class and peasant Italian families and food mattered.
My very yokel aunt was a good cook, some traditional British and Irish, some a bit more exotic like black forest gateau. She was known for it in the family and beyond. She always made Christmas cakes for other family members. She'd grown up in a poor family so food was important but in a different way from its importance to some better-off people. Not that caring about quality is a bad thing, I hasten to add.

I suspect there's a social element to the role of food at play here too. For some British people, the social element of eating plays a smaller part than it does in some other cultures. I know in my family, meal times were not for conversation and socialising as much as getting it down you.

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Re: British food heritage

Post by JQH » Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:38 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 3:15 pm

I suspect there's a social element to the role of food at play here too. For some British people, the social element of eating plays a smaller part than it does in some other cultures. I know in my family, meal times were not for conversation and socialising as much as getting it down you.
Sounds like my family.
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Re: British food heritage

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:12 pm

Eating out in a "proper" restaurant is much more affordable in a lot of places. I can get a three course dinner with a bottle of wine each for €10. So young people go out to eat together in places other than Nandos. I've basically never gone out for a meal with friends my age in the UK.

And yes, I feel it's more acceptable to be enthusiastic about food in some other cultures. Like, I eat food about three times a day, I'd love to learn nerdy facts about it. But if you start talking about heritage potatoes in the UK people think you're some kind of w.nker. (Which I may be, but that's not why.)
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