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British food as seen from afar

(48 Posts)
JackyB Fri 02-Apr-21 08:39:17

On reading the thread about bolognesa I was reminded of when we made this at school. The recipe said to cook the mincemeat (probably didn't include garlic in 1967, and anyway, my mother would have refused to buy it), and then add the spaghetti directly into the sauce to cook. Not cook it in a separate pan in boiling water!

I am sure this would make an Italian's toenails curl up.

Funnily enough, these days, I am seeing more and more recipes for "one-pot" pasta dishes, where the noodles are cooked in the sauce. But they never really work.

However, I am sure many traditional foods are modified when taken over by another cuisine. Sometimes even for the better. For example, a neighbour of mine, whose husband is English, had to figure out how to make mince pies. As the Germans don't often make shortcrust pastry, she used a sort of biscuit mixture, adding egg yolk and sugar. It turns out this is a brilliant idea.

But I will never forget reading on the back of a Cornflakes packet (bought in a fit of nostalgia when living in France in the early 70s) the following "serving suggestion":

For a truly British breakfast experience, sprinkle the cornflakes on a plate and place a fried egg on top.

And the horrified look of a compatriot who had read a German recipe for a "proper English breakfast" which involved chopped chives on the fried egg.

In fact, the weird ways foreigners try and replicate traditional British dishes is enough fodder for a thread in itself, but there are probably plenty of examples of this which go the other way.

As I say, some of the modifications might even be an improvement. But not fried eggs on a bed of Cornflakes confused

M0nica Fri 02-Apr-21 08:46:08

Having spent part of my childhood in the Far East, I can remember when we were back in England, going out to eat, a rare occasion, and seeing Beef curry on the menu. I odered it and was presented with a plate, containing a couple of tablespoons of beef curry with rice bedside it, like dumpling. The rest of the plate contained chips and peas.

I was totally discombobulated.

M0nica Fri 02-Apr-21 08:46:41

Oh yes, and the curry was very sweet and sticky with raisins in it.

Lucca Fri 02-Apr-21 08:55:48

Shades of “Vesta curry”......

Nana3 Fri 02-Apr-21 09:07:17

Just googled Vesta Curry and Poundsellers sell it and Vesta Paella, might give it a try (or not).

Ellianne Fri 02-Apr-21 09:08:37

I believe custard originated in the UK but I've tasted far better versions on the continent.

Ellianne Fri 02-Apr-21 09:10:24

You made me laugh JackyB. When I first skimmed through your post I got mincemeat and minced meat mixed up in my head!

Ellianne Fri 02-Apr-21 09:23:33

I think pancakes have successfully been adapted all round the world. Some like them thick, some like them fluffy, some like them crispy, sweet or savoury.

Nannee49 Fri 02-Apr-21 09:52:13

Ah wonderful Vesta meals Lucca! In 1971 we went to Italy for our honeymoon and had never tasted the delights of delicious, genuine pasta. I tried to recreate them when we got home starting with Vesta spaghetti Bolognese.grin
To say it was a disappointment is putting it mildly! Maybe Vesta was some kind of response conspiracy for the awful teabag and lukewarm water scenario that passed for English Tea as Mother Makes abroad. Makes me feel 100 just writing this.

Polarbear2 Fri 02-Apr-21 09:55:41

Ohhh. I used to love Vesta paella. And their Chinese thing which had crispy noodles on the top. And Fray Bentos pies where you took the pastry off - and I think cooked it separately?? Curry with raisins though. Yuk.

Ellianne Fri 02-Apr-21 09:56:16

Packets of creme caramel are pretty horrible too.

Elusivebutterfly Fri 02-Apr-21 10:07:05

The first time I went abroad was to Spain in the early 70s and the hotel served crisps as part of the main course most days- I've always disliked crisps! The food was awful generally and I think they were serving what they imagined the British liked.
I have had three package tours to Spain since and the food was always bad. The last time was in the 90s and all the cafes only served burger and chips/sausage and chips type meals.

Greyduster Fri 02-Apr-21 10:11:45

I was very fond of Vesta chow mien when I was a teenager, and then started frequenting Chinese restaurants and found out was a travesty it was. However, on moving to the Far East to live in my twenties, I found out that “proper” Chinese food was entirely different to our anglicised experiences - some things delicious; some so strange I couldn’t bring myself to try them.

Redhead56 Fri 02-Apr-21 10:16:41

We were brought up on lamb neck soup oxtail soup liver and onions roast heart yuk!! The weekly roast was good and a curry made with mince and fruit. We never got chips from the chippy my mums were cooked in lard and horrible. Scouse was nice with a pastry crust I still make that. Vesta meals Fray Bentos tinned pie and another tinned meal beef curry and rice were a treat to us.

Lillie Fri 02-Apr-21 10:16:59

Elusivebutterfly that is so true. Why is it that the package holidays abroad always seem to serve up uninteresting British style dishes? When there is so much lovely local produce available.

Sago Fri 02-Apr-21 10:48:29

My mother was a dreadful cook and saw no pleasure in feeding us, she discovered those awful Colman’s mixes and used to make us Beef Bourguignon it tasted marginally better than most of her meals although a million miles from the real thing,when she served it she always lowered her voice a few octaves and announced the “Burf Berginon” Despite only being about 11 it made me want to kill her.

She had a box of congealed Lion curry powder in the pantry for about 10 years, it would be added to a tin of mixed veg and a pound of mince and boiled until grey.
I think rice was too exotic, we probably had it with chips.
It was a poor introduction to Indian cuisine.

In the late 70’s she got experimental with garlic salt, I think was a ploy to make sure my breath smelled so bad I would hang on to my virginity a bit longer.
It didn’t work.

She was a massive snob and had a long list of things that were common; Omo washing powder, C&A, over the knee socks, you get the drift, well there was a long list of common foods that we were not allowed!
They included ketchup,brown sauce, salad cream, baked beans,spaghetti in a tin and sausage in any form, really all the things that may have made her food taste better.

The permitted non common foods were, the awful medallion shaped tin of ham that was impossible to open with a silly key, M&S chunky chicken, M&S tinned mince beef and anything tha had an acute or grave accent, we ate a lot of pâté.

Witzend Fri 02-Apr-21 10:52:55

As a permanently broke student in the 60s, a Vesta Paella was a very occasional treat for myself.
I think I’d probably still enjoy one, same as I enjoy the very occasional Pot Noodle. Even though I cook virtually everything from scratch.
Must be all that lovely monsodium glutamate, or whatever it is that they put in these things.

As for ‘foreign’ attitudes, one occasion I particularly remember was a dinner out in London, after a conference, with 2 female friends and two non-Brit men I didn’t know, who’d been invited along. We were at a supposedly Lebanese restaurant, where I ordered tabbouleh - a favourite of mine.

It arrived with hardly any parsley, which should be a main ingredient, so I made a polite complaint that it wasn’t right.

One of the men instantly said, in a very sneery tone, ‘You’re British - what the hell do you know about food?’

I replied that having lived in the Middle East for 13 years I did actually know about that sort of food, and that was not anything like an authentic tabbouleh.

That shut him up!
So rude, though.

annodomini Fri 02-Apr-21 10:53:18

In Nairobi in the late '60s, there was an Indian restaurant which, if I remember correctly, served curries in three strengths: hot, medium and British. My then fiancé (show-off), decided to try the 'hot'. I had to laugh. He went scarlet and almost choked, trying to swallow it. He got what he deserved and I enjoyed the medium curry which was quite hot enough. Neither of us would lower ourselves to indulge in the 'British' variety!

Polarbear2 Fri 02-Apr-21 11:17:28

sago “we ate a lot of pate”. ??????. Brilliant ???

Juliet27 Fri 02-Apr-21 11:22:33

The very first pizza I had was at a ‘stall’ on the station in Milan in 1966. Never tasted one as good as that since.

crazyH Fri 02-Apr-21 11:24:08

When my sister in law invited me for my first Sunday Lunch, and told me it would be Roast Beef, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy, I though yuk.....pudding and gravy ????

merlotgran Fri 02-Apr-21 11:38:52

Sago That’s the funniest post I’ve read in a long time. Sounds just like my mother who was a pretty awful cook. When my parents had friends round to play bridge, she would buy a ready made sponge flan base, fill it with tinned apricot pie filling and top the lot with tinned cream.

I was supposed to comment on how it was a family recipe but I used to hide in my room.?

Lillie Fri 02-Apr-21 11:50:03

^ Yorkshire pudding^ and what about toad in the hole?

geekesse Fri 02-Apr-21 11:58:47

My mother is in the running for the world’s worst cook. She once managed to burn boiled eggs. We lived abroad for much of my childhood, and used to get frozen mince in sausage shaped ‘chubbies’. She would defrost it and cook it in a pan with chopped onions. If she added tomato paste, it was bolognese; if curry powder, it was curry; if nothing added, it was stew, and with potato on top it was shepherd’s pie. The only ‘relief’ was fish in Fridays, boiled in water to the texture of rubber with no seasoning or sauce. We didn’t have any spices, seasoning or herbs in the house except for curry powder, just salt and ground white pepper and tomato ketchup.

Her pastry was so hard that if we had apple pie, we had to use the electric carving knife to cut it, and my brothers and I played cricket with her one foray into making bread rolls. In later life she discovered garlic, and roasted lamb with an equal weight of garlic cloves cut into the meat.

Fortunately, her sister, my aunt, was a brilliant cook, and taught me enough that I took over the family cooking when I was about 15. I bought the first jars of herbs and spices we ever used at that time.

Sago Fri 02-Apr-21 12:36:28

I can excuse any nation for screwing up British food, after all look at what we’ve done.... pineapple on pizza?.

The one thing I cannot deal with is tea abroad.
Firstly the usual preferred brands are cast aside in favour of Lipton’s or Hornimans tea.
These sales people must be extraordinarily good, the tea is awful.

Then the water is never boiling or you get a weird mug of water and a weak tea bag that takes so long to open and place in the water the tea is cold and undrinkable.

In Italy I once got the mug of water, tea bag in layers of paper and the HOT milk in a teapot.

I go on holiday armed with my fave Yorkshire tea or Barry’s tea, I’ve given up on any hotel tea.