The Olympics of British Food: A User's Guide from a British Guy

beanstoast_nickrallonew.jpg
Nick Rallo
Beans and toast at the Jones Wood Foundry in New York
When the Observer emailed me with the offer to, and I quote, "continue our gross exploitation of your heritage" by somehow shoehorning together the two subjects of the Olympics and food, how could I possibly resist? I suppose this allows me to tackle that thorniest of subjects, British "cuisine".

While I have much greater knowledge of this subject than I do of BBQ, this blog will still be badly researched and contain factual errors, so, if you're British, try not to get too upset. I am also, and I will be up front about this, just going to put some plain lies in to see if I get called on them, because that is the sort of exercise I find amusing, and we can dedicate at least one of these columns to me being amused, rather than the usual result of no-one being amused.

So, British cuisine.

The Olympics are in Britain and the readers of this blog like food. Fine. But I will require more Olympics references than that to pass muster, so, here we go with the Olympics of British food. There are three categories, and medals Bronze through Gold. I know, but seriously, they want me to write about the Olympics and food. What would you do? Far less clichéd suggestions on a postcard, please.

The Most Commonly Misunderstood British Food

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Flickr user Gene Hunt
Bronze -- Gravy
I can't tell you how confused I was by the appearance of white gravy when I first got over here. It's thick, it's like sort of savoury double cream, and I am scared of it. It shouldn't taste how it looks. British gravy -- always made of meat fat and chicken/beef stock, almost always with onions in, and much, much thinner than any I've encountered in the U.S., is delicious. Will improve any meal apart from cheese-based ones, at which point the whole dish becomes confusing.

spotteddick_flickr.jpg
Flickr user cote
Silver -- Spotted Dick
Hah! He said dick! In reality, a delicious spongy dessert with raisins in, sponge puddings being another thing that has passed America by. Usually features custard. More on custard later.

Londoner Fish and Chips.JPG
Scott Reitz
The Fish and Chippers at the Londoner
Gold -- Fish and Chips
I have lost count of the places I have seen over here (I'm looking squarely at you, The Londoner) that will serve fish and chips delectably battered, with thin, crispy fries for $12. No. No no no. This is not fish and chips. Fish and chips are obtained down "the chippy," a feature of every British high street, they cost about $5 at most, and are served in newspaper, by a man who's not working for tips, and therefore could not care less (note the proper use of this phrase, could care less is entirely nonsensical) about you or your food.

It is poorly battered, often hotter than the sun, the chips are soggy and the size of potato wedges, and it is invariably accompanied by mushy peas, a pickled onion, or some other side you would shrink in horror from. I like mine with Brown Sauce. It is literally called Brown Sauce. No, I can't describe it. It tastes like Brown Sauce. If I opened a proper chippy over here, I would be out of business before you can say "small ex-pat community."

Up next: the British food that sounds disgusting but is totally delicious.


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44 comments
joshWAH__
joshWAH__

Mince Tatties and some donner fries. best hangover cure.  

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

British recipe.  Put anything in a pot.  Boil the taste out of it.  Serve to someone too drunk to care.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Article is entertaining, but Daughter just returned and must say she was most definely not a fan of British Food

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Speaking of the Olympics, Romney made a complete ass of himself, embarrassed America, and offended the Brits with his comments about their preparations for the Games.

J_A_
J_A_

I learned so much. Please don't stop writing for the Observer.

t.poulton
t.poulton

Bonjour Gavin, it's your old drummer! I'm living in Chicago at the moment and your voice of truth in all things British fills the hole that American 'bacon' leaves in a bacon and egg butty! Don't get me wrong, bacon is bacon, it's like saying Charlize Theron isn't as good as Kate Beckinsale, you know which one you'd rather have but they both make you dribble!

 

also:

a) Custard is the food of the gods (there's a reason they called it Ambrosia)!

b) I would suffer eternal damnation in hell to have a full on English breakfast right now.

c) For the American audience, Brown Sauce is sort of like a thicker, better version of Als Steak Sauce from what I can tell?

 

Keep them coming Gavin!

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Can't understand why we have so few restaurants serving British cuisine over here. And how do you guys keep all those great football players on that side of the Atlantic?

Mervis
Mervis

I need a big plate of BBQ.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I enjoy your EPL thats transplanted over here on TV, and other than Top Gear (the british version), the Arash AF-10 and British Airways, you can keep the rest

Flubber
Flubber

Or just go to Fortnum's.  Great place.  Best in the World.  

littleloo
littleloo

I don't understand the beans on toast for breakfast.  Please enlighten me.  Beans are great, just don't understand how they come into play for breakfast?

merritt6
merritt6

Big fan of this. Love British food. But now, Gavin, please tell us where the best restaurants are for finding dishes so I don't have to make them! Also, how am I merritt6? That's just weird. And for the record I prefer odd numbers.  

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Breakfasts are good.  But, go to ethnic restos for decent food.  Skip the nasty bangers and mash and all that other chazzerei.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

please open your 'proper chippy' here. right next to one of those fancy pants places with a one word name. promise i'll take my friends there.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

British food is a darn mess.........look at those foods.  I'd be heading to "Macdonald's" for all my meals!

ScottP
ScottP

I love British food, both here at pubs and there. Nothing better than a visit to England and when it's cold, cloudy, rainy and a bit dreary; a traditional dish and a few pints couldn't be better. Sunday Roasts are magical.

 

But after a few weeks there last fall, I was crawling on the streets gasping for some iced tea with plenty of ice, some spicy food (couldn't get much spice even in Indian restaurants) and some margaritas and mexican food.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Love British food, love the post. I really wish Pret A Manger would open up some locations here. NYC, DC, and Chicago shouldn't get all the fun.

 

I plan to drink many, many drams of Scotch in honor of the Olympics in Britain.

nick.rallo
nick.rallo moderator

Gavin, what is a traditional presentation of Spotted Dick? (No, really asking)

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

What's it like to be obsessed by a single boogeyman for all issue and all topics?

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @JaniceA I'm going to keep writing until they make me stop or I get deported, whichever is sooner.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @t.poulton tommy p! you raise some good points. And you can make your own full english, you just have to look in the right places, and spend a lot of money. When are you coming down Texas way?!

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @PerryMoore We don't have any of that salary cap nonsense that keeps the league fair. And all our good athletes don't end up playing American football/basketball/baseball.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @littleloo SOMETHING RIGHT OUT OF "BLAZING SADDLES" COWBOY ROUNDUP CATTLE DRIVE CUISINE

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @merritt6 If I ever find a restaurant over here that serves the food I have described, I will tell everyone about it. I'm not holding my breath.

Mervis
Mervis

 @merritt6

 You can edit your profile and change your name.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @ScottP I was trying to think of someway to get a traditional Sunday Roast in there, but I'd already overrun by some way. I do make a mean roast dinner, though.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

 @ScottP I've felt your pain. The closest Ice tea I've ever found is at Friday's in the departure area at Heathrow  Airport!

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @ScottP

 

" I love British food"  ........oh boy.  You probably like 300 pounders, with pock marked upper thighs.  I believe they call that "hail damage".  

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

 @Sotiredofitall Romney the Blunderer goes on to the Middle East next. We'll be lucky if he doesn't start another war over there.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

 @Flubber I've lived in England. They also love their (Heinz) baked beans in a jacket (baked) potato!

dixiechickidie
dixiechickidie

 @GavinCleaver  @nick.rallo I'm so curious about Spotted Dick. Really because of the possibility of having a pudding mold collection. I wonder how hard it is to find beef suet here in the States...

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