British Food is Probably The Best Thing Ever So Shut Up, Yeah?
There was some dead guy who once said: "To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life." Just imagine what it must've been like to have that kind of confidence in this country. Because, let's face it, whichever way you look at it, things are a bit rough at the mo. Between the fact this time next year the pound probably wont be enough to buy a Freddo, the skyrocketing level of racist attacks and that bizarre car crash they dare to call Top Gear, we really aren't in a great place at all.
And, sadly, we're no longer just dangerously polarised as a nation when it comes to our political views and cultural values. Now, even our own food stuffs, the very bedrock of what we built this fine country on, are also being called into question. You can see it all across the media these days. Fish and chips are 'disgusting'. Full English breakfasts 'suck'. Roast dinners are 'fucking awful'. Even tea, harmless, friendly, welcoming tea (which is basically the equivalent of your nan in a drink in a mug) is being called a 'national disgrace'.
But why? Why are we so grumpy about our own national dishes? Aside from the fact that the writers of these obviously incorrect articles were pretty much just looking to get readers' proverbial goats with their anti-pasty warblings, they are also a part of a growing wave of people our age, so called "millennials", guilty of hating our own country, of hating being British, of revelling in how crap we are.
Now, before you sound the horn of Gondor, alerting all and sundry to the big "millennial" traitor who dares to sound vaguely patriotic (because let's face it - 'patriotism' has essentially become a byword for 'racism'), I'm not about to lay down some misty-eyed yarn about the good ol' days of British grub whilst some Medieval sounding lute soundtracks my mumblings.
Instead, what I want to do is to try to defend British food. Why? Because British food is bloody delicious.
Let's run down the main criticisms of our beloved national dishes and then hit them away with a bat that is proudly British but not overzealously covered in tiny little Poundshop Union Jack stickers.
Let's start with fish and chips, which, in recent times, have been unfairly accused of being flavourless, greasy mush. This is something that I simply cannot abide by.
Firstly, what do you think salt and vinegar is for? If you aren't pumping half the saltshaker and dousing so much vinegar onto your fish supper that it could melt steel beams then you are doing it wrong, and in fact you are doing condiments in general wrong. Secondly, since when are deep-fried, carb-based hunks of yellowy brownish matter not great? Are you saying you don't like the taste of chips? Are you saying a chip butty isn't somehow very delicious, despite literally being two bland flavours wedged together to make one sort of ultimate flavour? Add some mushy peas in there and you've got a holy trinity of tastes so comforting that it could (and in some cases might well) give you a heart attack.
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Which neatly brings me onto roast dinners. As Sunday as crying over your netbank taunting you with the 23 Jægerbombs you bought the night before. The main argument against them seems to be that it' s a collection of bland vegetables with a bit of primitively cooked meat only made edible because of the condiments it's served with. Yes, it does seem to be a theme that British food is quite basic, and that it needs a bit of help of wacky, newfangled things like 'flavourings', but to throw out a whole meal as rich and full of contrasting textures as a roast because it needs a dollop of cranberry, mustard or splash of gravy is like saying 'You know what, I'm bored of sex in the missionary position, so instead of trying literally any other position, I'm just going to give up on sex forever'.
Okay, okay, it's not exactly the same as saying that. Some people actually just quite enjoy missionary and don't need even a dollop of mustard to get their gravies flowing. Kudos to them.
Then, we come to the inexplicable, borderline blasphemy that is fry-up mocking. The argument here being that there are too many delicious things packed together on one plate at any given time. I mean, as arguments go it's not the greatest. It's kind of like complaining that your football team has Messi, Neymar and Suarez playing at the same time. Damn! I wish I could just have a plate just of bacon! Or just a plate of eggs! Having them all on a 12-inch plate is just too much for me, I need the porridge-esque stylings of West Bromwich Albion at once!
Lastly, tea. Now, tea is a tricky one, because really it's the cigarette of national drinks, more so than even beer. When I drink tea, I never think, 'Ah, yes, this lack of flavour is comforting', like I do with chips or roast potatoes. I'm more thinking, 'Ah yes, warm liquid inside me, heal me warm liquid for my soul hath runneth cold'. I'm not going to argue that tea is supremely tasty, because it doesn't have to be. What tea is; and ultimately what all of the above meals are, are wholesome, filling and comforting hugs of ingestion and, at times, indigestion. In they go, the humble British meals. They may not blow your nose off with umami or singe your tongue with spice, but in they go regardless, filling you up pleasantly.
British food is not the most exciting of national cuisines, sure. Most of it does seem to consist of grabbing basic things like meat or vegetables and roasting, deep frying and boiling them lifeless. But, who cares?
We, as British people, have this innate ability to be insecure about ourselves on a national scale, as if every other country in the world is somehow eating lobster for breakfast and not essentially the same bits of pig-willy just with a bit of cayenne pepper thrown in. I know it's easy to feel a bit embarrassed about our country from time to time but that doesn't mean we need to hate everything about ourselves. Go on, have some fish and chips tonight, extra salt, extra vinegar. It might make you a little bit proud to be British again.
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