In this week’s class we looked at foreign influences on British food. My aim was to show that today’s British food is a result of our wider history.
If you deconstruct “traditional British” foods the foreign influence becomes evident. Today a mug of builders’ tea seems a very British thing but neither the tea nor the sugar is originally from Britain. Similarly ginger cake can hardly be considered foreign although McVitie’s recognise its origins by labelling their version “Jamaican Ginger Cake”. These examples illustrate how we have incorporated foreign ingredients and adapted food traditions from abroad.
In the class we touched, briefly, on the history of the East India Company and the spice trade. The East India Company was incredibly influential in establishing the British Empire. It also had an impact on British Food. To find out more about the history of the East India Company listen to this episode of In Our Time.
If you want to go further back in history and understand about what happened before Britain was British then I would recommend the book A Taste of History. This will tell you how the Romans introduced plums, cabbages, onions and much more, that citrus fruits were first imported during the late 13th century and tomatoes during the 16th century.