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Ethnic Cuisine: Britain

by Lou Seibert Pappas

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Great Britain, an island country in northwestern Europe, is really four countries -- England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It goes by the familiar names of Britain and the United Kingdom, as well. It ranks 73rd in size among the countries of the world and has about one percent of the population.

Though this country contains few natural resources, it has played a prominent role world-wide. It started the Industrial Revolution and founded the largest, most powerful empire in the world -- and then declined. By 1900 its empire covered one-fourth of the world's land, containing one-fourth of the people. Though still a leader, it is no longer the world power it once was.

British cookery has been much maligned and has improved dramatically in the restaurants and country inns in the past decade.

Traditional British cuisine is substantial, yet simple and wholesome. The Brits have long believed in four meals a day. Their fare has been influenced by the traditions and tastes from different parts of the ritish empire: teas from Ceylon and chutney, kedgeree, and ulligatawny soup from India. The British nanny has also played a role with her nursery favorites, such as Bread and Butter Pudding, Spotted Dick, and Treacle Tart. Roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Plum Pudding are important contributions to international cuisine. Other popular dishes include Cornish Pasties and Beefsteak and Kidney Pie. The English developed a line of spicy sauces including ketchup, mint sauce, Worcestershire sauce and deviled sauce.

Today there is an emphasis on fine, fresh ingredients in the better restaurants and their markets offer countless worldly items. Salmon, Dover sole, prawns, game, and lamb are choice items. Wild fowl and game are specialties.

Among English cakes and pastries, many are tied to the various holidays of the year. Hot Cross Buns are eaten on Good Friday, Simnel Cake is for Mothering Sunday, Plum Pudding for Christmas, and Twelfth Night Cake for Epiphany. Local delicacies include Bath Buns, Chelsea Buns, Eccles Cakes, and Banbury Cakes. Cheeses are choice regional specialties, including Stilton, farm-house cheddars and Cheshire Cheese.

The Scottish have their own national dishes, based upon wild products and food, locally produced in this northern region. They include oats, barley, fowl, game, mutton, salmon, herring, and haddock. Oat cakes, shortbread, black buns, bannocks, finnan haddies and haggis are specialties.

Ethnic restaurants -- French, Italian, Indian, Greek, Thai and many others -- are very popular in the British Isles.

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