Photo by Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

Heaven is where the chefs are British

In praise, and not just defence, of British cooking

Artillery Row

Readers dining out on social media in recent weeks might have come across a familiar dish: the old argument over the merits of British food. Is it tasteless? Is it unsophisticated? Is it unimaginative? No, no and no. In fact, I maintain its objective and universal superiority.

To many, this is a bold claim to make. Didn’t the Anglo build his empire, as the saying goes, to escape the British weather, British women and British food?

Well, yes, but a little bit of context is required.

The Anglo is a creature of moderation. Highly sensitive to the Golden Mean, which he often refers to as “Common Sense”, it was practically inevitable — having spent centuries on his rainy little island, chowing down on roast beef and boiled vegetables — that he wanted to switch things up.

The Anglo wanted a bit of spice in his life, so he conquered India.

As the reaction of those in the Americas would suggest, this pathology is strange to many, especially those who are happy to subsist on a diet of spicy food without deviation. When confronted with British food, they are quick to remark that it is “bland” or that it “lacks flavour”, forgetting their own habits are comparable to chain smoking. They shot their taste buds to pieces by early adulthood.

The fundamental conviction of all British food is to ensure balanc: between authority and liberty, between despotism and the state of nature. Just as Hobbes’ Leviathan casts its shadow over the polis, sword and sceptre in hand, the Anglo towers over his grub wielding knife and fork.

The Anglo’s take on food is a pragmatic hodgepodge of everything good

Consider the Full Breakfast. Here we see individual components from across the food pyramid, assembled in an orderly and harmoniously balanced compact. This pattern is replicated in several other British dishes, such as the bountiful Sunday roast, fish and chips with mushy peas, ham, egg and chips (they’re potatoes, it counts!), and the conveniently dissectible steak and ale pie, accompanied by a dollop of creamy mash and baked beans.

Similar to his take on Christianity, the Anglo’s take on food is a pragmatic hodgepodge of everything good on offer. The Anglo may take as much or as little of each ingredient as he likes, giving him room to experiment and prudently tailor his meal to fit his needs.

Compare this to Mexican cuisine, which is socialistic and Catholic in nature. Every ingredient is brought together in an indiscriminate Latin mass. Individuality and differentiation are denied, as a rigid egalitarian homogeneity is established through a censorious amount of spice.

As with all socialist projects, there is no room for innovation — hence why Mexican cuisine tends to be, to paraphrase Billy Connolly, all the same, just folded differently. Just as all socialist projects inevitably fall apart, so too does every taco when moved from plate to mouth.

In contrast to this collectivism, American cuisine is individualist. A product of the Puritan work ethic, its utilitarian design allows it to be consumed on-the-go. The Yanks’ fixation with fast-food emerges from the subconscious fear of their house being destroyed in a tornado, giving cause to pack up shop and travel miles elsewhere to achieve salvation.

Unlike his deracinated American counterpart, the Anglo partakes in the ceremony of sitting down and savouring his food, yet he is not enslaved to the matriarchal tyranny of a spoon-wielding grandmama.

The meticulousness of our food is nothing short of genius. Compared to splitting the atom, cultivating the British palate has taken far more precision and care. Our food is agreeable enough to the native populus to keep them fed, yet disgusting enough to everyone else to ensure an occupation of Britain has become unthinkable, an action amounting to self-harm and bordering on suicide.

One needn’t go down the route of explaining the effect of Britain’s wartime food rationing on its eating habits. The sovereignty of the British people is symbolised just as much by beans on toast as it is by the Union Jack.

Of course, British food is only recognised as British when it is being denigrated. Fish and chips are British until you consider them good, in which case they’re Jewish or Spanish or Portuguese or Dutch or whatever. Contrary to prevailing narratives, progressives think not with their head nor their heart, but with their stomach. Immigration is good because they make curry and chow mein. Brexit is bad because it means no more pizza or Pret a Manger.

There are many aspects of Partygate you could fixate on — the deaths, the lockdown, how unnecessary it all was, the press reaction and trial-by-committee — but the fact progressives chose to fixate on the mention of cheese and wine surely says something about their political mentality.

This fact makes a defensive crusade on behalf of British food all the more necessary. Besides, being a source of inspiration does not entitle you to ownership of another’s original creations. Allowing Spaniards to own fish and chips because of pescado frito would be like allowing the Arabs to own Morris dancing or the Italians to own the pantomime.

None of their creations have bested a slice of treacle tart

That said, the Italians can lay claim to several great creations and are generally a safe bet when you’re in the mood for foreign muck. The excellence of calamari, and all fried squid for that matter, as well as their wine, is undeniable. Likewise, the French are good winemakers. Along with the Swiss, they are talented at making desserts, even if none of their creations have bested a slice of treacle tart, Victoria sponge or jam roly-poly.

Aside from that, the cuisine of continental Europe is best summarised as the austere misery of cold cuts, plain stodge and weak cheese, drowned out by various forms of alcohol. The best of which are rarely as good as a pint of cider, expertly made from the diverse range of apples that are native to English orchards.

Similarly, the strenuous mental gymnastics required to opt for a kebab over battered sausage to soothe a night of heavy drinking is surely worse for one’s health than a deep-fried Mars bar.

What else? England’s cheese is uncontested. Cheddar, Stilton and Wensleydale (especially with cranberries) sit atop the world of cheese like the Greek pantheon atop Mount Olympus. Our fish is so desirable the EU has fought tooth and nail to cast their nets in our waters, even after we told them to get stuffed. We are home to such an extensive and delectable range of jams, honeys, creams, custards and sauces, we could use them as plaster to build a wall to prevent them from doing so.

All meat procured by the Anglo is said to be world-class, yet little is said of his talent, his culinary Midas Touch, which enables him to turn entrails into a delicacy.

It may be a universal item, but who has done more for the reputation of the sausage than the British? It takes a special type of people to turn pig’s blood into the best part of waking up — unless, of course, you’re a filthy communist or suffering from arrested development.

In decisive conclusion, British food is the best in the world. Our decision to abstain from burying all of our creations in spice and faeces is not a casus belli for other nations to “civilise” our “barbaric” ways.

Luckily for us, most are silently conscious of this blatant fact. This is why, to paraphrase George Orwell, we will need a lot of quelling and extensive legislation against the safe-edgy bashers of Anglo food, should we want to restore a balanced and common-sense approach to the art of cooking.

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