The general consensus on British food is: shit. Those really traditional dishes, born from centuries of using stale bread to thicken sauces and pretending that turnips are edible mean that our food culture is largely defined by potato-based pies, pastry-based pies and Scotch eggs (arguably, also a pie).
To define current British cuisine as the stuff baby boomers ate while they bought up all the houses would be archaic and inaccurate. Unfortunately, our respected friends at YouGov have used exactly these dishes to poll the UK on their favourite foods, measuring the country’s love of things like jellied eels, pork pies and haggis. Helpfully, they’ve created a “meme” of the findings, with foods ranked from “God-tier” (crumpet; fish and chips; fry-up) down to “Crap-tier” (black pudding; kippers; steak and kidney pudding). How do you do, fellow kids of the Empire!
Today, British food encompasses a whole bunch of stuff that would have confused and upset elder generations (and YouGov, clearly), for not being a hue of brown or containing garlic. We’ve come up with our own list of foods that should have been included.
O king of foods, o sovereign of savouries, o deity of delicacies, how could they do this to you? Why have they forsaken you? Since its launch in January, the Greggs vegan sausage roll has changed lives. Retailing at a mere £1, and best sampled at about a 5.5/10 on the warmth scale (this gives the sausage component a chance to solidify), it immediately became one of the most delicious and accessible plant-based foods on the market.
As people who’ve made tweeting “GREGGS ISN’T A PERSONALITY” their personality like to point out, Greggs wasn’t the first company to make a vegan sausage roll, but it was the first to make one available to basically anyone with access to a British high street or train station. It helps that the VSR is properly delicious – buttery, crisp and reminiscent of the real thing, while also forming an entirely independent identity – and as such, the British public are fools for omitting the princely pastry himself from their tier system. But then again, as something that symbolises forward-thinking and progress, I can’t imagine that it’s actually all that popular among us lot in practice.
A Parmo is a Middlesbrough delicacy. It is essentially a deep-fried chicken schnitzel (big nugget) absolutely drowned in Béchamel (white lasagna sauce) and then covered in grated cheese, so you can understand where I am coming from here. A beautiful union of European cultures, brought together in the chip fryers of the north east. A shameful omission of local cuisine by YouGov.
There are two types of people: those raised believing that a scallop is a type of seafood, and those who know what one actually is. For the second camp (i.e. those of us born in the West Midlands, God’s Own Carpark), a scallop is not a bb mollusk that must be delicately cooked in a pan, but a slice of potato, dunked in leftover fish batter at the chippy, and then deep-fried until it is golden and glorious and steaming, exchanged for a warm 50p piece or sometimes less, and clutched in the hands of school children and leathered 12.30AM pub dads. You think you know about potatoes – what they’re about, what they can offer you – and then you eat a scallop, and everything you thought you knew vanishes in a perfect cloud of batter-smell.
Absolute goddest tier packed lunch food. My mom used to let me have these instead of a sandwich in my lunchbox, and no child has ever been more envied or respected.
It’s late. Tesco has shut. You know all that awaits you in the fridge is half a jar of mayo and a hardened block of Pilgrims Choice. A glow in the distance catches your eye, and like a moth to the flame, you walk determinedly towards the hot, oily Mecca that is Morley’s Fried Chicken. In it, you will find a fiery, crispy batter coating a questionably sourced chicken wing. We are so lucky to be alive at the same as Morley’s [sobs]. Substitute for your local top-tier chicken shop – before you come for our mentions, we know Morley’s is more of a south London thing.
Probably the most innovative, efficient creation to grace the UK food market. Doesn’t matter that the parent company, Yoplait, is joint French-American. Is it a yoghurt? Is it an ice lolly? Are you meant to eat it on-the-go? The tube that keeps on giving. Je suis un frube xx.
Think of all the times a kebab or falafel wrap* has saved your drunk or skint or sad life and tell me that steak and kidney pie is more integral to British identity and culture. Perhaps voters were too threatened by the fact that both dishes are actually flavoursome, rather than tasting like queuing and the War? Idk.
*Both included here because while lots of vegetarians swear they’re getting the latter and then fall off the wagon hard for lamb shawarma, the falafel wrap is a fine, noble and arguably better vegan alternative that has saved many a hangover.
For children AND adults, I’ll thank you to know!
Nando’s is more British than colonisation, despite technically being a South African chain. Is our cultural acceptance of their (Portuguese-inspired) flame-grilled chicken… reverse colonialism? Anyway. It is a coming-of-age restaurant for every young person in this country, marking the beginning of their culinary journey (dinner with the lads), then graduating to maybe even a date (!!) c. 17 years of age. Its quality knows no bounds, loved by famous Brits including Stormzy, Lethal Bizzle and Ed Sheeran. This is food so lovingly embraced by Britain, in fact, that the concept of popping in for a meal confuses Americans. An absolute essential.
Every year, on a bank holiday weekend in August, millions of people congregate in Notting Hill to listen to music crackling out of a subwoofer and watch a parade celebrating Caribbean culture, surrounded by stalls selling patties, sugar cane and of course, jerk chicken. Obviously, jerk chicken is Jamaican, but for anyone who likes not-shit food in the UK, it can be considered a much-needed 20th-century improvement to our culinary make-up, post-Windrush.
The vast number of people in the UK for whom “toast as dinner” is a thing should be respected and represented in any official ranking of British food.