In history

Did you know coca cola, one of the UK’s most popular beverages was introduced to the UK on 31st August 1900? To mark the occasion, we thought we would delve into the origins of these traditional British foods – some of them might surprise you!

Fish and Chips

Is there anything more British than fish and chips eaten out of newspaper? Once thought of as being a quick meal of the working classes, fish and chips is just as popular as it has ever been but considering how ingrained it is in our culture, you might be surprised to learn that the dish didn’t originate in Britain at all. Firstly, the potato was first thought to have been introduced to England during the 17th Century by Sir Walter Raleigh, while the concept of cutting the potato into chips and frying them is thought to have come from the French.

As to combining chips and fried fish together – both Lancaster and London claim that they invented fish and chips. Chips were a staple food of the industrial north of England, while fried fish was popular in London’s East End, so between the two of them, fish and chips became more popular. The first known fish and chip shop selling fried fish and chips was in London and was run by Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant. Eating fried fish is a staple within Jewish communities, so it was an ideal business venture for him. The shop opened in the 1860s on Cleveland Way in the East End.

From then, fish and chip shops opened up all over the country, often run from the front room of a house by a family. Fish and chips became essential to the diets of working people by the 1930s that some shops had to employ doormen to control the queues and it was one of the few foods that wasn’t rationed during WWII.

So – fish and chips introduced to the masses by Jewish immigrants.

Afternoon Tea

One of Britain’s most quintessential customs is indulging in an Afternoon Tea, but just how British is it? Well, tea as we know dates back to the third millennium but not in Britain, tea as we know it was imported from China and was popularised in England in the 1660s by the wife of Charles II. The queen, Catherine de Braganza was from Portugal where tea had been drunk for years.

A few years later in 1840, the Duchess of Bedford created the Afternoon Tea. At the time, the upper classes would often leave long periods of time between meals, not dining until late. The Duchess of Bedford would complain of being hungry in the afternoons and would ask for trays of tea, sandwiches and cake to be brought to her rooms while she was entertaining and the trend caught on. Afternoon Tea would soon become a fashionable social event among the upper classes and traditionally consisted of a selection of thinly sliced sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and preserves, cakes and pastries. The tea would also be served in bone china cups.

The scones, clotted cream and preserves came to being in Tavistock in Devon, after being served by monks. This has sparked a war between Devon and Cornwall who both claim to be the originator of the cream tea and are very clear on the order in which the scones should be assembled.

The full English Breakfast

Another tradition is the full English Breakfast, also known as a fry up, the full English consists of fried eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and a slice of black pudding. More modern versions also include baked beans and hash browns, while eggs can also be scrambled or poached. There are regional versions, for instance, in Northern Ireland you can have the Ulster Fry, which includes Irish soda bread; in Scotland the fry up includes a potato scone and depending on where you are, a little bit of haggis, the Welsh breakfast includes lavebread which is made from seaweed and in Cornwall, you’ll find breakfasts with hogs pudding. Wherever you are in the UK enjoying breakfast, you’ll want to know that the concept of eating breakfast dates back to the Middle Ages, with the nobility enjoying a much more lavish breakfast than the poorer people in society. The industrial revolution brought full English breakfasts to the working class and remains a popular treat.

Yorkshire Pudding

Unlike some of England’s other favourites, Yorkshire puddings do have origins in Yorkshire, though the exact details are unknown. The general consensus is that they are generally associated with the North of England and the prefix of Yorkshire was added in the 1700s. Initially, Yorkshire Puddings were served before the main meal as an appetiser with some gravy over the top, this is because meat was expensive and working people could fill up on the cheaper Yorkshire Puddings.

What are your favourite traditional British foods?

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