English people will joke about their cuisine, or the lack of it, as the infamous meat and two veg is still seen as the epitome of British food. That might be just a sample of the so called British humor or just they don’t know what they are cooking.
Some traditional British foods, such as bread and cheese, sandwiches, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, and some simple fish dishes and some puddings have always been good, on top of that, British cuisine has acknowledged the Anglo-Indian influence, it has incorporated ingredients and ideas from abroad, and it has absorbed ideas and ingredients brought by immigrants. British cooking is not boring, when British bother to cook.
It is true it was not always this way. In the 1980s, garlic was a foul word and anyone mentioning a like for the vile stuff was frowned upon. It was a difficult item to find in a regular British supermarket, one had to go to an Indian shop and sometimes come back with asafoetida instead of garlic.
During the 1990s, garlic was a on every supermarket shelf, but you would still have to go to the Indian or Italian shop to find, for instance, pulses, supermarkets would only store canned ones, and baked beans.
Cooking shows and celebrity chefs have become increasingly popular, almost dominating television. There is a wide choice of ingredients from every world cuisine, and of organic and natural food in the supermarket aisles. There is a huge interest in cooking, particularly healthy cooking -health shops supplying ingredients not usually found in the supermarket thrive, also food co-ops and basket schemes delivering organic and natural foods.
These days there is still a lively interest in cooking and good food, demonstrated by the level of sophistication and variety in the ready to cook, prepared, pre-prepared, or reheat and eat dishes in the supermarket aisles. Celebrity chefs still rule the television roost and supermarkets store a wider range of organic and natural items, but probably less choice in each category, probably reflecting the fact that British, following the world trend, like to eat well without spending that much time in the kitchen.
Best of British food
A cooked breakfast would land on your plate eggs –fried or scrambled- and bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, grilled or fried mushrooms, and baked beans; home fries are sometimes added, black pudding may be served instead of sausages. It would be followed by tea and toasted bread with butter and assorted jams. This is a great way to start the day, especially when lunch is brief and far away as in the typical day in England, but it is not a daily happening, modern Britons are more likely to start their week days on milk and cereals, leaving cooked breakfasts for weekends, if having cooked breakfasts at all.
Home cooked meals end up with a sweet dessert like treacle pudding, apple pie, rhubarb crumble, bread and butter pudding, or the incomparable trifle, usually served with custard.
Tea, almost always served with milk, is consumed throughout the day and sometimes with meals.
British food traditions
A traditional British Christmas will have its climax on Christmas Day with a roast dinner and the exchange and opening of presents; this is a day exclusively for the family. Celebrations have not finished, Boxing Day calls for more informal entertainment, but it is still festive.
The afternoon tea break is one of the most charming British food traditions nearly lost to the demands of modern life. British people rarely indulge on cream teas these days, but there are still plenty of establishments catering to tourists. To serve an afternoon tea in line with the proper British traditions, there should be finger sandwiches, assorted cakes, and scones served with jam and cream.
Meat and two vegetables, and pudding
A typical British dinner consisting of meats and vegetables cooked in a very simple way – usually just boiled - requiring a heavy hand of gravy or bottled sauces to make them juicier and more appetizing.
When the cook has a good hand to find the right point and the ingredients of good quality, it does not need to be bad. I have been treated to some meat and two veg examples that came out quite delicious. But meat and two veggies become tedious if it is served on a daily basis.
The puddings - the dessert - are really good. Trifle has always been a favorite of mine.