Saturday, June 16, 2012

Traditional food in London

Food is wonderful in London. The variety of restaurants and different kinds of food that you can find is amazing. You can find food from all over the world.

Food in England has been influenced by the many cultures that invaded it and then those that made up its grand Empire. When the Normans invaded, they brought with them the spices of the east: cinnamon, saffron, mace, nutmeg, pepper, ginger. Sugar came to England at that time, and was considered a spice, rare and expensive. The few Medieval cookery books that remain record dishes that use every spice in the larder, and chefs across Europe saw their task to be the almost alchemical transformation of raw ingredients into something entirely new. (for centuries the English aristocracy ate French food which they felt distinguished them from the peasants)

During Victorian times Heavy foods like roast mixed with exotic spices from all over the Empire. And today despite being part of Europe they've kept up their links with the countries of the former British Empire, now united under the Commonwealth. One of the benefits of having an empire is that they did learn quite a bit from the colonies. From East Asia (China) they adopted tea (and exported the habit to India), and from India they adopted curry-style spicing, they even developed a line of spicy sauces including ketchup, mint sauce, Worcestershire sauce and deviled sauce to indulge these tastes. Today it would be fair to say that curry has become a national dish.

Among English cakes and pastries, many are tied to the various religious holidays of the year. Hot Cross Buns are eaten on Good Friday, Simnel Cake is for Mothering Sunday, Plum Pudding for Christmas, and Twelfth Night Cake for Epiphany.

Unfortunately a great deal of damage was done to British cuisine during the two world wars. The war effort used up goods and services and so less were left over for the populace. Ships importing food stuffs had to travel in convoys and so they could make fewer journeys. During the second world war food rationing began in January 1940 and was lifted only gradually after the war.

As a result, the British tradition of stews, pies and breads went into terminal decline. English food let itself become a gastronomic joke.

In London especially, one can not only experiment with the best of British, but the best of the world as there are many distinct ethnic cuisines to sample, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Greek restaurants are the most popular.

Although some traditional dishes such as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Cornish pasties, steak and kidney pie, Bangers and Mash, bread and butter pudding, treacle tart, spotted dick or fish and chips, remain popular, there has been a significant shift in eating habits in Britain. Rice and pasta have accounted for the decrease in potato consumption and the consumption of meat has also fallen. Vegetable and salad oils have largely replaced the use of butter.Roast beef is still the national culinary pride. It is called a "joint," and is served at midday on Sunday with roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, two vegetables, a good strong horseradish, gravy, and mustard.

Today there is more emphasis on fine, fresh ingredients in the better restaurants and markets in the UK offer food items from all over the world. Salmon, Dover sole, exotic fruit, Norwegian prawns and New Zealand lamb are choice items. Wild fowl and game are other specialties on offer.

So, if you are planning a trip today, you are in luck. In England, you will have the cuisine of the world at your doorstep - but do try a Sunday Roast before you leave.

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