Pete Davison: The Top Arbitrary Number of Quintessentially British Foods

Posted on August 7, 2011 by

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This post is largely aimed at my American readers out there — you know who you are. (Largely because you live in America.) I thought you might be interested to know an arbitrary number of the things that we have over here in Britainland that are considered edible. Some of them you may have come across before, some of them you may not. So without further ado, let us jump into the list.

Bovril

You’ve probably heard of Marmite, the thick, brown, goopy substance that supposedly you either love or hate. Well, its bastard sibling is Bovril, which rather than being made from “yeast extract”, whatever that is, is apparently made from beef. What you end up with is a thick black tar that supposedly tastes of beef but more accurately tastes “of black” and has a propensity to burn the roof of your mouth off if you have too much at once. It’s good on toast. It’s especially good on toast when dipped into Heinz tomato soup. You can also make it into a drink, which is inadvisable unless you like a mug full of black, salty, slightly beefy water.

Biscuits

What you know as “cookies”. You may have the awesomeness that are Chips Ahoy! but we have a wide selection of biscuits that are firmly ingrained into our culture. We have the bourbon cream, for example, which is two chocolatey biscuits with a layer of chocolatey creamy stuff in between and no actual Bourbon involved. We have the custard cream, which is like a bourbon only more square and vanilla-y. We have the jammie dodger, which is another two-layer biscuit with jam in the middle. And we have Rich Teas, which are rubbish until you dunk them into a hot beverage or squish melted marshmallows between them.

Fish and Chips

Plenty of places in the States sell fish and chips, but you haven’t had it the truly British way unless you follow several steps in the process. Firstly, get a portion of chips that is enough for at least three people and put it in some paper. Then smother it in enough salt to give a midget an immediate heart attack. Then drown it in vinegar. Then slap a large, greasy, wet battered fish on top of it. Then wrap it up into a neat little parcel and admire as the grease seeps through the paper. The key element of British fish and chips is the size of the portion. If you can finish a portion, the portion wasn’t big enough. There is also generally an inversely-proportional relationship between the price of a portion of chips and the amount they will give you. The cheaper the chips are at the chip shop, the bigger the portions will be.

Curry Sauce

Companion to the above, the slightly-lumpy brown-green-yellow curry sauce that is on offer in most chippies is the perfect companion to your carb overload. It may look like someone has just blown chunks over your bag of chips, but it’s a one-way ticket to spicy heaven.

Indian Takeaway

British takeaways are something else. You may have had a curry from your local Indian, but you haven’t had it properly until you’ve had it from a dodgy British takeaway — the kind of place that sells dishes like the entertainingly non-specific “meat curry”. Also, when a dish says it’s “hot”, it means it. A vindaloo will probably blow your head off. And having a drink won’t help.

Proper Chocolate

You have chocolate, sure. But you don’t have our chocolate, which is just better. From the immensely calorific Yorkie bars (which still somehow manage to get away with marketing themselves as “not for girls”) to the legendary Cadbury’s chocolate, we sure know how to do it properly.

HP Sauce

HP Sauce is the perfect condiment that goes with pretty much anything and even makes a good sandwich by itself. (On bread, obviously.) It has a taste that is impossible to describe except through the word “brown”. It tastes like brown sauce. Because it is brown sauce. Try it on bacon or sausage sandwiches for the perfect breakfast, or dribbled over baked beans to give them a pleasingly spicy kick.

I hope that’s educated you on British cuisine. Next time you pay us a visit, remember to give them a try.This post is largely aimed at my American readers out there — you know who you are. (Largely because you live in America.) I thought you might be interested to know an arbitrary number of the things that we have over here in Britainland that are considered edible. Some of them you may have come across before, some of them you may not. So without further ado, let us jump into the list.

Bovril

You’ve probably heard of Marmite, the thick, brown, goopy substance that supposedly you either love or hate. Well, its bastard sibling is Bovril, which rather than being made from “yeast extract”, whatever that is, is apparently made from beef. What you end up with is a thick black tar that supposedly tastes of beef but more accurately tastes “of black” and has a propensity to burn the roof of your mouth off if you have too much at once. It’s good on toast. It’s especially good on toast when dipped into Heinz tomato soup. You can also make it into a drink, which is inadvisable unless you like a mug full of black, salty, slightly beefy water.

Biscuits

What you know as “cookies”. You may have the awesomeness that are Chips Ahoy! but we have a wide selection of biscuits that are firmly ingrained into our culture. We have the bourbon cream, for example, which is two chocolatey biscuits with a layer of chocolatey creamy stuff in between and no actual Bourbon involved. We have the custard cream, which is like a bourbon only more square and vanilla-y. We have the jammie dodger, which is another two-layer biscuit with jam in the middle. And we have Rich Teas, which are rubbish until you dunk them into a hot beverage or squish melted marshmallows between them.

Fish and Chips

Plenty of places in the States sell fish and chips, but you haven’t had it the truly British way unless you follow several steps in the process. Firstly, get a portion of chips that is enough for at least three people and put it in some paper. Then smother it in enough salt to give a midget an immediate heart attack. Then drown it in vinegar. Then slap a large, greasy, wet battered fish on top of it. Then wrap it up into a neat little parcel and admire as the grease seeps through the paper. The key element of British fish and chips is the size of the portion. If you can finish a portion, the portion wasn’t big enough. There is also generally an inversely-proportional relationship between the price of a portion of chips and the amount they will give you. The cheaper the chips are at the chip shop, the bigger the portions will be.

Curry Sauce

Companion to the above, the slightly-lumpy brown-green-yellow curry sauce that is on offer in most chippies is the perfect companion to your carb overload. It may look like someone has just blown chunks over your bag of chips, but it’s a one-way ticket to spicy heaven.

Indian Takeaway

British takeaways are something else. You may have had a curry from your local Indian, but you haven’t had it properly until you’ve had it from a dodgy British takeaway — the kind of place that sells dishes like the entertainingly non-specific “meat curry”. Also, when a dish says it’s “hot”, it means it. A vindaloo will probably blow your head off. And having a drink won’t help.

Proper Chocolate

You have chocolate, sure. But you don’t have our chocolate, which is just better. From the immensely calorific Yorkie bars (which still somehow manage to get away with marketing themselves as “not for girls”) to the legendary Cadbury’s chocolate, we sure know how to do it properly.

HP Sauce

HP Sauce is the perfect condiment that goes with pretty much anything and even makes a good sandwich by itself. (On bread, obviously.) It has a taste that is impossible to describe except through the word “brown”. It tastes like brown sauce. Because it is brown sauce. Try it on bacon or sausage sandwiches for the perfect breakfast, or dribbled over baked beans to give them a pleasingly spicy kick.

I hope that’s educated you on British cuisine. Next time you pay us a visit, remember to give them a try.

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Posted in: Pete Davison