Eating Customs and Traditions in Great Britain
Eating Customs and Traditions in Great Britain
The usual meals in Great Britain are breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner; or in simplier homes, breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. Breakfast is generally a bigger meal than you can have it on the Continent, though some English people like a “continental” breakfast of rolls and butter and coffee. But the usual breakfast is porridge or “Corn Flakes” with milk or cream and sugar, becon and eggs, marmalade with butter toast, and tea or coffee. For a change you can have a boiled egg, cold ham, or perhaps fish.
Lunch is usually served between twelve and one o’clock. The businessman in London usually finds it impossible to come home for lunch, and so he goes to a café or to a restaurant, but those who are at home generally take a cold meat, e.g., beef, mutton, veal, ham, with boiled or fried potatoes, salad and pickles, with a pudding or fruit to follow. Sometimes you may have a mutton chop, steak and chips, followed by biscuits and cheese and a cup of coffee.
Afternoon tea follows between four and five o’clock. You can hardly call it a meal, but it is a sociable sort of thing, as friends often come in for a chat while they have their cup of tea, cake or biscuit.
In some houses dinner is the biggest meal of the day. You can have soup, fish, roast chicken, chops, potatoes and vegetables, a sweet, fruit and nuts. The two substantial meals of a day, lunch and dinner, are both more and less the same. But in a great many of English homes the midday meal is the chief one of the day, and in the evening they have the much simplier supper-an omelette, or sausages, sometimes bacon and eggs and sometimes just bread and cheese, a cup of coffee or cocoa and fruit.
The two features of life in England that possibly give visitors their worst impressions are the English weather and English cooking. The former is something that nobody can do anything about, but cooking is something that can be learned. English food has often been described as tasteless. Although this criticism has been more than justifies in the past, and in many instances still is, the situation is changing somewhat. One of the reasons that English cooking is improving is that so many people have been spending their holidays abroad and have learned to appreciate unfamiliar dishes. However, there are still many British people who are so unadventurous when they visit other countries that will condemn everywhere that doesn’t provide them tea and either fish and chips or sausages, baked beans and chips or overdone steak and chips.
One of the traditional grouses about English food is the way that vegetables are cooked. Firstly the only way that many British housewives know to cook green vegetables is to boil them for far too long in too much salt water and then to throw the water away so that all the vitamins are lost. To make matters worst, they don’t strain the vegetables sufficiently so that they appear as a soggy wet mass on the plate.
It would be unfair to say that all English food is bad. Many traditional British dishes are as good as anything you can get anywhere. Nearly everybody knows about roast beef and Yorkshire pudding but this is by no means the only dish that is cooked well. A visitor if invited to an English home might well enjoy steak and kidney pudding or pie, saddle of mutton with red-currant jelly, all sorts of smoked fish, especially kippers, boiled salt beef and carrots to mention but a few.
A strange thing about England that the visitor may notice is that most of the good restaurants in England are run and staffed by foreigners-for example, there is a larger number of Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants and to less extent French and Spanish ones.
The food and beverage department has two principal aims. The first- and the more important one- is to provide a standard of food and beverage service consistent with the expectations of the quests. The second aim is to maintain the food and beverage operation within the limits set by the food and beverage department and thus to contribute to the overall profitability of the establishment. It is clearly that beverage sales are not only an important part of the sales mix of hospitality establishments but also more profitable than food sales.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages of the world. It is made from berries grown in tropical climates and shipped to the country green that is unroasted. The berries produced vary in composition and the treatment after picking. For this reason, Mocha, Java, Arabica and South American coffees are quite distinct from each other. There are three main methods of preparing coffee- boiling, percolating and drip method. The coffee should not stand long before serving.
Tea is made from the leaves of tea bush which is indigenous to the Orient. Black tea is made from leaves which are fermented before drying. Green tea is not fermented; the leaves are steamed and dried. There are two main ways of serving tea: “English” tea is served in cups and with milk or cream; “Russian” tea is served in glasses with a slice of lemon.
Cocoa and chocolate. As beverages made from them are generally made with milk, they are much more nutritious than the other beverages. Cocoa and chocolate are made from beans or seeds of trees which grow in tropical countries. Also drinks can be classified into soft drinks which contain no spirits (such as lemonades, Pepsi, Coke, etc.) and strong ones, they contain some part of alcohol (such as whisky, gin, wine, liquor, beer). Tea in English is a suitable occasion for social intercourse, when people often come in for a chat over their cup of tea. There are two kinds of tea, “afternoon tea” and “high tea”. “Afternoon tea” takes place between three-thirty and four-thirty and consists of tea, bread, butter and jam, followed by cakes and biscuits. “High tea” is a substantial meal and is eaten between five-thirty and six-thirty by families which don’t usually have a late dinner. In a well-to-do family it will consist of ham or tongue and tomatoes and salad, or a kipper, or tinned salmon, with a strong tea, bread and butter, followed by stewed fruit, or tinned pears, apricots or pineapple with cream or custard and cake.
Tea-making in England is an art. The hostess first of all rinses the teapot with boiling water (this is called “warming the pot”) before adding four or five teaspoons of tea. The amount of tea varies, of course, according to the number of people present. The pot is then filled with boiling water and covered by a tea-cosy to allow the tea to infuse for five minutes. English people seldom put lemon juice or rum into their tea, usually they have it with milk. The English custom of afternoon tea, as it is said, goes back to the late 18th century, when Anne, wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford, decided that she suffered from “a sinking feeling” at around 5 p.m. and needed tea and cakes to bring back her strength. Before long, complaints were heard that “the labourers lose time to come and go to the tea-table and farmers’ servants even demand tea for their breakfast”. Tea had arrived. Fashionable Tea Rooms were opened for high society, and soon tea became the national drink of all classes.
Today the British drink more tea than any other nation – an average of 4 kilos a head per annum, or 1650 cups of tea a year. They drink it in bed in the morning, round the fire on winter afternoons and out in the garden on sunny summer days. In times of trouble the kettle is quickly put on, the tea is made and comforting cups of the warm brown liquid are passes round. Tea has even played its part in wars. When George III of England tried to make the American colonists pay import duty on tea, a group of Americans disguised as Red Indians dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea in Boston Harbour – the Boston Tea Party which led to the War of Independence. In another war the Duke of Wellington sensibly had a cup of tea before starting the Battle of Waterloo, “to clear my head”. In peace time official approval of the national drink came from the Victorian Prime Minister, Gladstone, who remarked: “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.”
What exactly is tea? Basically, it is a drink from the dried leaves of a plant that only grows in hot countries. The British first heard of tea in 1598, and first tasted it in about 1650. For nearly two centuries all the tea was imported from China, until, in 1823, a tea plant was found growing naturally in Assan in India. Sixteen years later the first eight chests of Indian tea were sold in London, and today, London’s tea markets deal in tea from India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and from Africa more than from China. Plum pudding is sure of its place of honour on Christmas dinner table. Some English people could even dispense with mincepies, but a Christmas dinner in Britain without the traditional pudding would be strange indeed. The Christmas pudding is a direct descendant of the old time “hackin”, or plum porridge, beloved by English people in the middle ages. In those days it was made of beef or mutton broth thickened with brown bread, with prunes, raisins, currants, ginger and maize being added to the boiling mixture.
This was served as a thick soup and eaten at the beginning of the meal. In the 18th century, plum porridge began to change its character with the addition of flour. The porridge thus turned into plum pudding and it became the custom to eat it at the end of the meal. Nowadays, in addition to the basic mixture of flour, bread-crumbs, suet and eggs, the ingredients of Christmas pudding include raising, currants, candied peel, chopped almonds and walnuts, grated carrot and a good measure of brandy, whisky or old ale on place of the described mutton broth. In many households the mixing of the pudding is quite a ceremony with all the members of the family taking turns to stir and make a wish.
After being boiled for several hours, the pudding is stored until the time comes for heating it on Christmas Day when it is brought to the table on a large dish, big, round, dark-brown, with a flag or a place of holly stuck in at the top of it, and flames licking round its sides. The Christmas pudding is covered with white sauce and burning in brandy. Receiving each a slice, the guests are warned to eat carefully because sixpenny bits, shillings, a tiny silver bell and a silver horse-shoe have been put in it. Those who find the “treasure” are supposed to have money in the coming year, whoever gets the bell is to be married, and the horse-shoe is the traditional sign of good luck.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 14 January 2017
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