British Food is Bad - Myth or Reality?

Plate, knife and fork on Union Jack
Is British Food Bad?. Adrian Burke / Getty Images

British Food is Bad - A Myth or Reality?

That British food is bad has long been the butt of jokes for its supposed poor food, lack of imagination, stodgy puddings and weak tea. Not anymore. By exploding some of the myths surrounding it you'll discover - British food rules.

With a history of wartime rationing, industrialisation and now, the domination from giant supermarkets, it is no surprise where the false impression of British food is bad.

Like anywhere else in the world, there is both good and bad. French ex-President Jacques Chirac’s comment “One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad” may have been his personal view on British food; in response, I have even found bad food in France (sacre bleu). The delusion that our food is bad comes from the misconception of what passes off for British food, not what British food is.

A Few Myths About British Food


1.The Brits only eat fish and chips and roast beef and the Scots, porridge and haggis? The Irish live on potatoes and the Welsh, leeks.

Yeah, well we do some of it, but we also eat many other foods, including our classic foods which are endless coming as they do with a long heritage and history behind them. We have meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread, fresh fish and seafood. The repertoire of British food includes great puddings, pies, pasties, bread, soups, stews and who was it that invented the sandwich and the Afternoon Tea?

The Brits of course.  

All of this culminates together in a cuisine steeped in history with a strong food heritage. British food is also diverse. It has encompassed and absorbed the food of many other cultures; Chicken Tikka Masala is considered the 3rd national dish of England.

In recent years, the need to know the provenance of our food has become an important factor in choosing and cooking British food.

The explosion of cookery programmes on TV, cookbooks, celebrity chefs (love them or hate them they do get the message out there) has also raised the profile of British food and cooking.


2. The British only eat carrots, peas, sprouts and cabbage.

Oh and let’s add to that, the misconception that we also cook each of them for a minimum of 30 minutes and usually mash them before eating.

As both Great Britain and Ireland are mainly agricultural countries, we do produce more than just the above, in fact, the list is too long to list here but have a look here for just a few of the vegetables alone.

As for the cooking of the above. Back whenever (too long to remember) it was a national joke that before the Sunday roast was placed in the oven the vegetables would be put on to boil. Thankfully those days have gone and you will find in British food that most veg is now steamed, or have the minimum amount of cooking to keep their freshness and nutritional value. Thank goodness for education.

3. In British food it’s hard to find a decent restaurant and pubs have all but disappeared

It may have been true 30 years ago, British restaurants consisted of mainly steak houses with the ubiquitous steak, chips and onion rings but thankfully those days are long gone fro British food.

And it’s not just in London. Throughout the British Isles and Ireland great places to eat are everywhere and the best way to find them is in a recommended guidebook.

Dropping on a good place to eat will still need luck so best to let someone else do the research for you.

The great British pub sadly is in decline. Most publicans find that sales from drinks alone no longer pay the bills. Many have turned into "gastro-pubs" where British food is the emphasis, and the community spirit which held a pub together has moved away making room for more tables. But through the UK and Ireland decent proper pubs can be found and again, if you don’t know a good local use one of the good Pub guides to find one.

4. The British eat dinner at lunch, have tea instead of dinner and eat supper at bedtime.

I agree this one is confusing and to add to the confusion, it varies across the British Isles.

The choice of which word is often considered an indicator of social class in Britain.

Here’s a quick translator of British mealtimes.

  • Breakfast – also called brekkie, the same everywhere.
  • Elevenses – morning coffee break
  • Lunch - in some areas called dinner. Sunday lunch is also often called Sunday dinner, lunch in schools in also referred to as school dinner.
  • Afternoon Tea – traditionally eaten around 3 – 4 o Clock.
  • Tea – eaten early evening and the main meal of the day (dinner) and is considered a mainly northern working-class term.
  • Dinner eaten from early to late evening
  • Supper – an evening meal and a snack before bedtime.
  • An invitation to supper would mean the arrangement is more casual than an invitation to dinner, which is usually more formal.