Monday, 27 August 2007

British vs American Quick Recipes

Toward the end of July, I blogged about how The New York Times featured a list of 101 recipes, designed for the summer heat and getting in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes or fewer. Perhaps because the weather has been so notoriously poor this summer it was delayed, but the Observer Food monthly has finally featured these recipes in this month's edition of the magazine. Ah, I thought at first, I've already copied them down. But then I began to wonder how much cross over there was between recipes, and how many had been tweaked for the two different cultures.

The answer is, there are some differences but it's mostly the same (I was enough of a special-sort to go through the two lists, side by side, checking and crossing off dishes as they appeared. Sigh). There are a couple fewer vegetarian recipes in the UK version (which surprises me, since vegetarianism is more easy to negotiate in the UK), although mackerel makes a slightly greater appearance as do other fishes (salmon, prawns). And, no surprise, rhubarb is a guest star in the UK but gets no mention in the US.

All boring and factual, but to me the underlying curiosity had to do with food prejudices and presumptions. British cuisine still has a poor reputation in places, particular the US; bad British teeth and bad British cooking are two stock jokes about life in the UK. Now that I've relocated, I find it really rankles me when someone trots out these lazy stereotypes, particularly given the quality of cooking that you can get served at restaurants as well as the food-literacy and appreciation of so much of the public. My cross-checking of the lists heartened me from the point of view that the 101 suggested dishes weren't dumbed down with their transplant across the Atlantic, and that to create relevance a few of the native British food stuffs were given their place of honor. Although, interestingly, the Observer attributes the dishes to the NY Times writer Mark Bittman and to the UK chefs Tom Norrington-Davies and Allegra McEvedy, while the NY Times only credits Mark Bittman. Hooray British food.


Sylvia said...

Nice entry, i don´t like stereotypes too,and I eat quite good in London,not only fish and chips. And you blog is very interesting.

June said...

I have to admit that before I moved to the UK, I, too, belived that British food left much to be desired. It wasn't until I moved here and started eating at my in laws' and non toursity places that I learned to appreciate British food. I mean, who wouldn't want a fry up? You'd be hard pressed to find one on Piccadilly Circus though! Then there's my all time favorite, sticky tofee pudding. Roasts, yorkshires, puds, cottage pie, etc, just to name a few.

It is not gourmet food but no denying the Brits do have some seriously tasty dishes!