English Fare

The English know how to do breakfast.

Tradition English fare? As a country in post-war rationing, England had to produce creativity with very little in the way of ingredients. When we Americans think of national foodstuffs we think of pub fare, game, fish, and if lucky perhaps mutton & pork, or if VERY lucky maybe Scottish beef.

Breakfasts are quite hearty, with eggs, gammon, sausages (or bangers), kippers (salted fish), halved grilled tomatoes, & sautéed mushrooms. If going with lighter repast, there’s porridge, baked items like scones, muffins, toast done on one side, with an assortment of jams, jellies, marmalades & clotted cream or butter, or for more adventurous souls treacle or marmite.

And then there’s the variety of unusual foods that emerged due to limited means, like blood sausage & black pudding. (Casings stuffed with bread bits & flavored blood when the meat itself was scarce or saved for those of more means.) I can’t speak to how those delicacies taste, as I’ve never partaken of those national treasures to date.

A first course usually means soup, usually cream-based like leek or watercress.

Cornish game hen, one of many prizes to be yielded from estate grounds.

When staying at both Oxford & Cambridge, respectively, I often found an evening dinner to be a grand affair, with many pieces of silverware to master & glasses of different wines paired to enhance the flavors of each course.

At these suppers, I encountered all types of fish, lamb, & game birds, Welsh rarebit, pasties, savory pies, & Yorkshire puddings one could imagine, accompanied by such foreign treats as minted or mushy peas, curries, & champ.

Wild salmon, sea bass, cod, & snapper are common fish dishes, often served with a cream sauce.

A fine & proper Yorkshire pudding with chips.

Pub fare & home cooking provide more comfort foods than fine dining. Shepherd’s pie, fish & chips, steak & kidney pie, chicken & leek pie, pork pie, beef & ale pie, fish pie… I’m sure you’re noticing a pattern here? Pies are hearty & they hold well. Then there are things like coddled eggs, Scotch woodcock, & beans on toast.

A lovely fruit tart, a sweet ending to an English meal.

All this to say that there IS such a thing as English cuisine. Just as Americans have a somewhat regrettable reputation as purveyors of fast food, so too has England (and much of the UK) suffered in reputation for their so-called bland national dishes. If made with love, you can find the charm in these simple, rustic, tasty recipes, humble in means but rich in culture & history.

Besides, where else can you find prawn-flavored crisps & Pym’s cups?

The famed Pym’s cup.

4 thoughts on “English Fare

  1. American breakfasts used to be heavy, like some of these. Our widespread adoption of cold cereals a century or so ago is in some ways the aberration.

    Back at the end of the nineteenth century, white collar city dwellers, who had already begun switching to lighter fare, would sometimes take a vacation by staying at a farm. Expecting fresh fruit and vegetables, they were appalled by the heavy farm diets, particularly the ubiquity of lard-crust pies. Vermont’s then-equivalent of a tourist board actually advised their farmers hosting city folk to knock off making so much food into pies!

    Liked by 1 person

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