I thought I might meander around a brief and undocumented history of British cuisine, before getting to my main point. A disorganised start, if you will, whilst I feel my way around.
The British seem, historically to have gone in for comparing their cuisine with the French. I suppose this has a lot to do with the Common Norman ancestry, of the various ruling dynasties.
It was said that the Court of Henry VIII had a kitchen that outshone the French Royals. And I have some of the recipes – they sound horrid. But it demonstrates the start of the propagandisation of cuisine if you will.
But enough of the Olde Dayf. I want to turn my attention to the early nineteenth century. The Genesis of much of our modern cuisine.
We can infer that before the French revolution, the French peasant probably had a worse diet than the British, despite having a better climate for producing agricultural products.
Seriously, a culture that eats Snails and frog’s legs as part of its gastronomy must have been hard up, despite all Rick Stein can say about snails being great with garlic.
That these Gallic twats took the piss out the Brits of the time, by calling us, Les Rosbifs, is telling – enjoy sucking your snails, cuntz.
What then allowed the French to make massive culinary strides at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth century?
Well it seems the French Aristocracy had stuck with the tradition of keeping good cuisine, the matter of status it was, in earlier times. They had good, highly paid chefs.
Unfortunately, this tradition came to an end with the French revolution, where anybody who had a soupcon of wealth and good taste was beheaded. Their chefs were handed P45s, as they wept by the scaffold. And who can blame them, for the concept of redundancy pay had yet to be invented.
These highly trained chefs had to find gainful employment. Thus started the tradition of the French restaurant. Where the middle classes could enjoy the food of the aristocracy, for a few bob. And it caught on from there.
Whilst in Victorian Britain, we can examine, if not a poor cuisine, then a cuisine that lacked discipline, in the instructive “Mrs Beaton’s Book of Household Management”.
The turning point came when Escoffier was appointed chef at the trendy Victorian Savoy Hotel.
This is maybe the dawn of modern British cuisine, though it didn’t bear any real fruits till about a century later.
For Britain, the first half of the twentieth century was a miserable period, where the cash made by its empire was, by necessity, used to fight the Hun, instead of having fun. A point made graphically, in Grumpy Angler’s essays, on life in the mid-century.
Things started to change in the 1960s. And here we see the development of two schools of Cuisine,
The Escoffian French school, with its famous Text “Practical Cookery” by Cesserani and Kinton, which was the City and Guilds main text, for trainee chefs, in the Technical Colleges of the time.
And the American School, led by recipes and ideas plagiarized from American books and magazines. Made popular to the house wife of the time by magazines such as “Good Housekeeping”.
I’m going to argue the American influence was far more important than we think. And that all this changed, when the UK joined the “Common Market” in the early seventies.
That’s for another article though, as I have gone on for long enough.
Feel free to shower me with praise and encouragement if you wish me to write it.