The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Food and Drink

Category: Leisure

English cooking is heavy, substantial and plain. The ideal English breakfast consists of cereals, either porridge (borrowed from the Scots), or cornflakes, with milk and sugar, followed by bacon and eggs, or sausages and tomatoes, toast and marmalade, and finally, of course, a cup of tea.

Tea is part of the prose of British life, as necessary as potatoes or bread. It must be made “just like mother makes it’’, one teaspoonful of tea for each person and “one for the pot’’. Boiling water is added and the tea is allowed to stand, brew or draw. It is drunk with or without sugar but almost always with milk. No self-respecting Briton would drink a cup of tea which has not been made in a teapot in a civilized way; he would certainly never accept acup with that monstrosity, a tea bag, dangling in it.

The midday: meal is called lunch. This meal consists on weekdays, for example, of stew, fried fish, chops, liver, or sausages, and some kind of vegetable, usually carrots, cabbage, cauliflower or peas, and potatoes. Meat is rather expensive in Britain and the working class tend to buy the cheaper cuts and imported rather than home-produced meat. Rice and macaroni are seldom served. Vegetables such as carrots, peas and cabbage are cooked for lofig periods in lots of water, then strained and served. They are not seasoned with sweet-sour sauces or with herbs. The sweet, sometimes called dessert, may consist of fruit and custard or the famous steamed or boiled pudding. Another favourite sweet is rice pudding or sago. There are many varieties of pie. Fruit baked in a covering of pastry with a “lid’’ is called a pie; without a lid it is called a tart. These pies or tarts are eaten hot or cold, often with custard.

Sunday dinner is a special occasion, a week-end joint of beef or lamb being bought and eaten hot with vegetables. After this there will probably follow a large, heavy pudding with custard; a cup of tea completes the meal. The English occasionally like to drink water or beer with their meal, but only in the expefisive restaurants or among upper class people are spirits taken with the meal. Spirits are generally too expensive for the normal household, except at Christmas time.

Tea is a peculiar meal; in upper class circles it is a snack of thin bread and butter and cups of tea with small cakes. Dinner, for them, follows at seven o’clock and supper some time after nine. For the working class household, however, tea is a fairly substantial meal, often consisting of boiled ham and salad or a boiled egg, bread and butter and jam, and tea. On weekdays, some families eat a hot meal in the evening. that is at tea-time. Supper is usually a snack of bread and cheese and cocoa.

The English have a popular speciality known as fish and chips. This meal, fit for a king, is only appreciated by those with a specially trained palate. Fish and chips can be made at home but the b2st fish and chips are sold in fish and chip shops. Fish ccated in batter are fried golden-brown and served with chips — strips of raw potato also fried in fat — on a piece of paper, salt and vinegar are added and the meal is then wrapped in a final sheet of newspaper. One hurries horne with the precious bundle, its delicious odour wafting through the newspaper, or else the fish and chips are simply eaten out of the newspaper, in the street, with one’s fingers. This is one of the joys of being English!

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