Let me start off by saying that I am not in any way a food critic, nor great food connoisseur, but I definitely like food and find eating my way through other countries a great way to go. In fact, Pete and I often joke that half of the reason we travel is the food. Most of us have had pizza in our own country, or perhaps Swedish meatballs at our friendly, local Ikea, but there’s nothing quite like having food in its native land. Is it the different ingredients provided in each place that give the local food its character? Or is it the different techniques handed down through generations that other countries are not privy to? Maybe it’s simply the ambience of that region. Whatever the case may be, we find that food always tastes best in its own country. Having read that English food is bland and unexciting, these 2 foodies decided to put it to the test. Here is our list for the top 5 foods. Next stop, London!
The Full English Breakfast
I’ve never been a great morning person, whether it be my personality (poor Pete), or my desire for breakfast. But on vacation there’s no such thing as ‘not being a morning person’. So much to see and so little time to see it, we are always late to sleep and early to rise. Aside from a ridiculous amount of caffeine, a hearty breakfast is a good way to jumpstart a busy day, and the Full English, or Fry-Up, is nothing if not a hearty breakfast.
Generally served with 2 eggs (I prefer sunny side up), bacon, sausage, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, baked beans, fried toast, and black pudding. It’s also sometimes served with bubbles and squeak, a mixture of fried cabbage and potatoes. The bacon is much different than the bacon in the United States. It’s better. Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL bacon, but the cut of pork in an English Breakfast wins hands down. Sausage, fried tomatoes, and mushrooms, how can that be wrong? And Pete’s favorite, the black pudding (blood sausage). I was originally put off at the idea of eating blood sausage, but quickly learned to enjoy its rich, irony flavor. This meal will keep you satisfied and moving for many hours, that is, if you can get up from the table.
Bangers and Mash
Bangers and Mash, also referred to as Sausages and Mash, are exactly that. They are generally served with 2 or 3 large sausages atop a heaping pile of mashed potatoes. Sometimes this dish is served up with a delicious onion gravy and fried onions. I’m one of those people who thinks onion goes with everything, so I’m partial to this. The sausage is made from a variety of meats including pork, beef, and lamb. And depending on the restaurant, you may even score yourself a helping of mushy peas with this menu choice, although we will save those peas for Pete. I’m not a huge fan of the mushy peas, which puts me in a league of my own, as they’re a very popular side dish. All in all, Bangers and Mash are a must try (and even the mushy peas too).
Pie and Mash
Well, if you read the above paragraph, you at least know what half of this dish consists of, the mashed potatoes. But what exactly is the pie? The pie is a baked pastry-like crust filled with minced beef and a dark brown gravy. In some restaurants, it’s served with a parsley sauce. The parsley sauce, also known as eel liquor (non-alcoholic), is sometimes made with stewed eel water. The crusts themselves seem to vary greatly. We ate Pies and Mash many different times during our stay in London, and can’t say we had the same crust twice. Some were thin and flaky, while others were thick and filling. And the beef in some restaurants is so tender, it melts in your mouth. If you are a meat and potatoes type of person, then this is the dish for you.
The Sunday Roast is served all over London on, you guessed it, Sunday. Prior to our trip to England, we knew we’d have to try it at least once. It’s commonly served with either roast beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. Depending on the season, other game meats are also an option. Roasted potatoes and roasted seasonal vegetables are the typical accompaniments. It reminded me in many ways of the Sunday dinners my mom used to cook (if you’re reading this Mom, yours is better). The one big difference was the Yorkshire Pudding they also get as part of the deal in England, which to my surprise, was not a pudding at all. In fact, to me, it’s more of a light bread than anything… covered in gravy. After all, almost everything is better with gravy.
This seems to be more of an afternoon meal, as it was originally served after attending church. But afternoon or not, it’s enough to keep you feeling full for the remainder of the day. Unless you’re us of course, I mean, how often do we get to enjoy the foods of London?
Fish and Chips
Last, but not at all least, Fish and Chips. No, it’s not glamorous or unusual, but it’s as British as they come. The fish is generally made of Cod or Haddock, dipped in batter and fried. Some recipes call for a simple flour batter while others step it up with beer. I tried it many different times in many different eateries, and the verdict always remained the same. It’s simple, but it’s good, and it doesn’t need a whole lot to ‘doctor it up’. Maybe a squeeze of lemon, or a little vinegar if that’s your thing. Not hard to come by either, sitting down in a pub, or wrapped in newspaper and on the go. In the sit down version, you may even get an added side of those mushy peas once more. And let’s face it, how can you say you’ve been to London and never ate the Fish and Chips?
Before we wrap it up here, we should mention that the price of food in London was much lower than I was expecting it to be. At around $10-$15 each per meal, before drinks, we ate like kings. Although we could have cut costs and eaten for less, we always budget in a little extra for food. In closing, London is a giant metropolis with many different cultural influences and amazing different types of food. But we always try to focus our attention (and stomachs) to the foods of the city/country that we temporarily call home. And London, you did not disappoint.