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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 12:39 GMT
Is British cuisine inadequate?
The only restaurant in Paris serving traditional British cuisine is shutting its doors, because the French can't be tempted to eat the food.
Traditional British tuck such as fish and chips, steak and kidney pie and spotted dick and custard are not living up to the French standards of cuisine.
But is any surprise that in the gastronomic capital of the world such food is seen as undesirable?
Can Britain compete in the cuisine stakes? Which do you prefer - L'escargot or egg and chips?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Well if British food is bland compared to the rest of Europe - at least its safe to eat. The French for example have an extremely bad reputation for hygiene.
I've just come back from France and have to say that some of the restaurant food was every bit as bad as anything you might find in the UK. British food is not up to much, but then what great culinary contributions have most countries around the world made? Germany? sauerkraut and sausages! Holland? herrings! Spain? paella and tapas, like wow? Eastern Europe? Boiled meat and potatoes! Scandinavia - ? The only truly great and diverse cuisine comes from Italy which benefits from its regional culture. Real Italian food kicks French and Asian food right into touch.
Whilst driving around many different parts of France I have found that no matter where you stop to eat you are almost guaranteed good food. Even the more basic meals, steak-au-poivre, chips and salad are almost always great. The same can not be said of the UK. It is normally a surprise if any cheap(ish) meal in this country is decent. You can still find places that have fruit juice listed as a starter - unbelievable.
I wake up, have a full "English" breakfast, have a slice of "Italian" pizza at lunchtime, "Indian" curry for dinner and a "'Turkish" kebab on the way home from the club. The people in the UK who are of Italian, Indian and Turkish descent are British to me, and so is their food!
In general I think the British have fairly bland tastes. My girlfriend's mum has never tried anything spicier than a Pot Noodle. Although I enjoy things such as pie and mash it does not really inspire creativity.
I like snails!
Uhhhh....we are talking snails here - that's molluscs. No siree, no thanks - I'll just stick to my black pudding, thank you very much.
Cora Ellis, UK
I spent a couple of weeks touring provincial France by car thirty years ago, sampling their fare at a variety of local restaurants as I went. I was never so glad to get back to England to eat some REAL food. I have never seen any foreign restaurant yet that could beat the excellent food I have encountered while on holiday in Great Britain.
Having just finished a lunch of Scottish meat pies and "real" HP sauce that I have shipped in from a shop in Maine, I can honestly say that I enjoy British food. Oh French cuisine is fine. I just find it difficult to hold my nose that far in the air for any length of time...
To Nick Bell - the best chocolate is not made in the UK but in either
Belgium or Switzerland. Most British chocolate is far too weak in taste
and it's also too sweet.
British food is good and underestimated. The myriad pies, roasts, puddings, pastries and cakes are a treat. Pub grub has its own flavour. I had the pleasure of trying these out on my trip to the UK in '97. May Brit food continue to prosper.
I have enjoyed wonderful food in Britain, but always of international
style. Traditional British food gives me indigestion. Modern food, widely available in Britain, is as good as anywhere. American food may be hearty, but you can go weeks in the US without seeing a vegetable. Italian cuisine is superb, but they are mean with the portions served in restaurants, lots of pasta, a dribble of sauce, but where's the meat? Seldom get to try the food in France other than to fill up on the free bread whilst waiting to be served.
I've been amused while living in Hong Kong by the eating habits of some of our European cousins. A couple of times I've been on holiday with Swiss and German expats to other Asian destinations. I'm always game for trying a local dish or two, especially a good "British" curry - our cosmopolitan Europeans? They always head for the nearest dreary, tiresome Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerkraut and dumplings - all the while deploring British food! They really haven't a clue about traditional British dishes, best just to ignore them, I find!
Thanks to the average Briton now being one of the most travelled on earth I think the food in recent years has improved markedly. Much of the problems in the past was due in part to the terrible war and the few years after when food rationing of two lamb chops per week was the ration per person. I was stationed there during those sad years and have since seen improvements. I asked a head waiter in Frankfurt in 1956 what he thought of British cooking as he had apprenticed there for a year in one of the finest London hotels, "Shocking." Your tech schools and travel are changing this for the better.
When asked to comment on the Heinz plan to withdraw Salad Cream from their product range, who was it that said: "I have never understood Salad Cream"?
The quality of the cook itself is far more important than the cuisine. It doesn't matter from which cuisine the meal is if it isn't cooked properly.
But that doesn't state anything about the expectations of the guests. I made lots of visits to France, and I found that the French appreciate cuisines that are more like theirs, like the Italian cuisine and the Algerian. The British cuisine is apparently too different from the French.
I'm a big fan of world cuisine but I don't think French food would even make my top ten.
Some of their exports are nice enough (cheese and wine) but the rest of their fayre is pretty dire.
What the Brits lack in some of their main dishes, they make up for in their chocolate.
Peter C. Kohler, USA
I would have thought that the decision by Mcdonalds to buy into Pret a Manger indicates that English cuisine is good. There are many restaurants in the US which try to emulate British cooking and fail miserably. Stuck in a restaurant in Niagra falls where they had failed to parboil the potatoes before making chips, I was accosted by a Canadian woman who wanted to know how I could make her Yorkshire puddings rise.
British food is terrible! I have been to many countries and every one has much better food than we do. Better taste, variety and proportions.
Why is every one assuming that traditional British cooking is fish and chips or unhealthy? I admit traditional British canteen food can be unappetising, however a homemade meal made with fresh ingredients can be both healthy and enjoyable. For example roast gammon in cider and fresh vegetables followed by baked apples.
Alan, UK (in USA)
Living here in Kansas is good, but as a young man born and bred in England I really miss such things as Bangers and Mash, Cornish Pasties, Trifle etc. Wish there was a quote "British" cafe here in Kansas City.
There is still nothing as wonderful as a ploughmans' (extra brannie, and two pints!)
Any food can be prepared badly. I get the shivers when I see what the rest of America thinks is Pizza (New York having what is generally considered to be the best pizza). But I bet if you went to someone's house in Italy you'd be blown away by their Pizza. What you are served in a restaurant as typical regional food bears little resemblance to the "real thing" (if that exists at all).
British cuisine is doing well here in New York. "Tea & Sympathy" have just opened a fish and chip shop on Greenwich Street which is going down very well with the natives.
British ingredients are first rate, British chefs are some of the best, our traditional recipes can be fantastic. The problem lies in our lack of care in how we cook and present food and our desire to take short cuts in preparing food.
Richard Phillips, UK
Actually, Britain doesn't necessarily lose out by having boring, bland, or unhealthy 'cuisine'. I have found that the choice of foreign, and ethnic restaurants in the UK to be far greater and of far better quality than anywhere else in the world, probably as a result of this.
I will agree. It's not as good as it
was thirty years ago or so.
That is because of all the
foreign food that Europe
is making us take on our
shelves. Why can't this once
great and good nation take its
place amongst the master of
good food and wine again?
I am a vegetarian. Recently I went to Paris for a conference in a high quality hotel and the attempt at a vegetarian meal (i.e. a plateful of vegetables) was quite appalling, and showed a total lack of imagination. There again, what do you expect from a nation who eat horses?
The worst meal I ever had was
chicken - burnt on the outside, raw in
the middle - near Nice, France!
British food has a bad reputation in Germany, but I'm afraid I don't think this is justified. They - all 81 million Germans - certainly don't know how to make a decent cuppa. Generalisations are always dangerous, but the amount of fat used in German cooking far outweighs that in Britain as they fry everything. No, you just can't beat a full English breakfast, and I think the whole world knows that really by instinct.
Jim Hutton, UK and France
British food is adequate for the majority of British people. A bit like the pound.
British cuisine may not be the best but I challenge anyone to find a breakfast anywhere in the world that beats a 'Full English' - croissants, pah!
Although I enjoy SOME English food, I am not a huge fan. I find that dishes do not have enough flavour and are often too bland.
Of all the restaurants I could choose, it certainly would not be one with English cuisine. Saying that, I can't resist a Sunday roast at the pub!
I think we have some wonderful restaurants around England. We also have the opportunity to pop into the local pub and have a meal at a reasonable prices. Snails and frogs legs, no thanks! My perception is that the French don't favour anything from England, even our singing - nil point!!!!!!!
Maybe if the relationship between the UK and France was a little more amicable this restaurant may have flourished.
Chris Klein, UK
The answer is no, it is not inadequate. British food is good, wholesome food. The problem is that it is not served in the same fashion that the continentals like, so they say it is rubbish. I have worked in Germany for nearly 2½ years now, I have also worked in the Netherlands and had several holidays in France. I have to say that in most cases, wherever I have been the food is good. What the UK needs is not so much a lesson in cooking but in serving!
Did the restaurant have HP Sauce? That would have made it truly authentic!
The days when British cooking meant stodgy, fatty, tasteless gunk are long gone. If you really enjoy that kind of food you can still find it, but the best British cooking is to be found in country pubs, using fresh local produce.
How can anyone who eats snails complain???
Volker, England (ex-Germany)
Talking of British Cuisine is like talking about German humour; French generosity; Italian self-control; Belgian usefulness; or American modesty.
As a whole, the French people appear to reject anything that is not French. Hence I am not surprised that a 'British' restaurant did not appeal to them.
My husband has eaten at Berties in Paris and found it to be an elitist interpretation of British cuisine: where else would you find deep fried battered salmon served as fish and chips!
Bring back the traditional Sunday roast lunch!
I think that British cuisine can be far superior to French, and vice-versa: it all depends on the quality of products used, and the chef doing the cooking.
British fish, fruit and vegetables can be wonderful, but an old scrag-end of mutton, or boiled tripe are hardly going to fire up the palate!
The French have an inherent parochialism and accordingly non-French items will always struggle to sell in France.
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