7 British Food Habits Americans Will Never Understand


The Scotch egg is a full meal packed into one lil’ ball. (Wiki)

While the U.K. has undoubtedly embraced American food tastes and trends, with the introduction of TGIF and the like, the reciprocity has been a little slow. Indeed, I would go so far as saying that some British food tastes leave Americans scratching their heads.

Our use of Marmite
The most obvious example is Marmite; although not all Brits like it, in my 23 years here, I haven’t met a single American who didn’t want to spit it straight back out. As a colleague once said, “It’s like spreading lug nut oil on your bread.” Brits either love or hate Marmite. The quote at Buzzfeed’s British People Problems sums it up nicely, “My girlfriend claims she’s ‘neither here nor there’ on Marmite. Now I can’t trust anything she says or does.”

Meals on toast
And talking of spreading things on bread, what’s up with us putting everything on toast? The go-to light meal for many a Brit is beans, or eggs on toast, still not adopted here despite recent Anglophilic trends. Saddo that I am, I was thrilled to have found a gourmet-style book on the matter. “Things on Toast: Meals from the Grill – the best thing since Sliced Bread” takes this humble snack to a whole new level with recipes like Bloody Mary spiked tomatoes on toast and Carmalised Shallotts & Soft Cheese on toast. (Americans, the grill in this case is a broiler or toaster.)

Our offal obsession
What surely flummoxes Americans more than anything is our national taste for organs and intestinal delights? Celeb chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall says, “If it’s flavor you’re after, you can’t beat kidneys, or tongue, or liver, or brain …” Indeed, here’s his Offal Manifesto (a very interesting read for the squeamish or germ-phobic). The link also includes a tasty recipe for Devilled Kidneys on Toast, by the way.

Haggis, that infamous dish from Scotland about which Rabbie Burns penned his ode, is basically gussied up sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, served in the stomach, or more recently, in sausage casing. It too, can be eaten on toast.

Haggis. (Photo: zoonabar via Creative Commons 2.0)

Haggis. (Photo: zoonabar via Creative Commons 2.0)

Black or blood pudding (yum, yum)
That’s a sausage made with dried animal’s blood and “filler,” and yes, it’s a hard sell to most Americans. Last time I bought some, my half-British kids wouldn’t even try it. Let’s not forget faggots. No, Americans I haven’t gone totally un-PC; they are a favorite in some parts of the U.K. and basically little balls of pork heart and liver.

Scotch eggs
Despite their deliciousness, and the fact that it’s basically eggs and sausage, Scotch Eggs bemuse many Americans. Take a hard boiled egg, encase it in a ball of sausage meat, roll it in breadcrumbs and deep fry. What’s not to like? In my experience, it’s not that this tasty morsel disgusts Americans, it just begets the question “Why?”

How we hold a fork 
Let’s face it, we turn a fairly efficient utensil into a complete joke when we prod at peas with downward facing tines. As my husband says, “It’s shaped like that for a reason; it’s like using the wrong side of a shovel.”

Do you have any food-related events you’d like to share? 

See More: 
6 American Food Habits Brits Will Never Understand
5 British Food Items You Won’t Find in Major U.S. Grocery Stores
Christmas Traditions: Britain vs. America
Kid Food: What to Prepare When American Children Get the ‘Munchies’


Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a British author who has lived in the USA since 1990. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom and The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students. She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV discussing US/UK matters.
View all posts by Toni Hargis.
  • Ken Byrd

    Well, now you know an American who loves Marmite: this guy. I always keep a jar of it in the cupboard for spreading on toast with butter.

    • Benighted

      My friends send me Marmite from England since I can’t get it here any more. One Christmas my Mum sent a particularly huge jar and it was the first time my boyfriend had seen it. He opened it while I was at work thinking it was some kind of chocolate spread, and shoved a huge tablespoon full of it in his mouth. That was the last time he opened any of my care packages without my permission bwaa haa haa

  • gn

    Putting “salad cream” on everything. (I speak from first-hand experience of touring Britain with a group of Americans: it makes no sense to me either — disgusting stuff).

    By the way, the British way of holding a fork is very efficient when used in conjunction with a knife.

    • MontanaRed

      Is that any worse than putting catsup/ketchup on everything/

      • gn

        That, at least, is usually optional. I’ve been in British restaurants where the food came out of the kitchen already doused in goop.

        • Claire

          I am a Brit and I have never been presented any food with salad cream on. Only exception being when I have asked for it on a salad sandwich.

    • Merry Bond

      What is the difference between salad cream and salad dressing?

      • Benighted

        Salad Cream is a specific dressing. It’s about the consistency of ranch dressing but tastes more like a slightly tangier Miracle Whip, It doesn’t come in different flavors like salad dressing does.

  • Tara

    All of the puddings confuse me. In America, there’s basically one type of pudding, which is a sweet desert. Like, seriously, what is Yorkshire pudding?! It looks like a bread roll, and tastes yummy, but my brain cannot reconcile that it’s called “pudding”.

    • Mark Smith

      See also Suet Pudding. On top of that, pudding is a generic term for dessert, also “afters” and “sweet” are used.

    • MontanaRed

      Yorkshire pudding…YUM! My mom used to make it. Now I have to eat gluten-free and can’t have it. :-(

    • Jwb52z

      For those outside the US, people should probably say something like “Jello Pudding” because pudding in the US is a thick substance almost like pie filling.

      • LMJ

        Sometimes it *is* pie filling. Graham cracker crust and whipped cream? Mmm!

      • Merry Bond

        Ah, much more apt description! Thanks!

    • Guest

      I did not know about the butter thing until I was fortunate enough to visit England and purchased a sandwich. It took me a while to figure out what the substance smeared so liberally on the bread was! But once I took a bite I was in love. I cannot imagine putting butter and peanut butter together but it doesn’t sound half as gross as many of the sandwiches I have seen eaten here. Pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, etc. I don’t even like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

    • Merry Bond

      I know! I think of pudding as a soft dessert that comes in multiple flavors (butterscotch, banana, chocolate, etc.). British pudding looks like cake, but denser… I have never tried, but would like to try it!

    • Angelique


  • Fallbaby51

    I grew up eating a dish made up of organ meats whenever there was a fresh butchering of beef or pork. It included the tongue, heart, lungs, pancreas, but not the kidneys or liver. All boiled up together and heavily peppered. We called it “hashlits.” My grandmother was a Nash and therefore probably of Scotch descent. Maybe this was a form of haggis.

    • maggie

      Funny you should mention tongue, I found one at the supermarket yesterday and plan on cooking it this weekend. The check out lady and the bagger couldn’t believe I’d bought it. I think it is mostly Hispanics who buy them.The elderly bagger almost turned green when I told him I also cooked kidneys for steak and kidney pies

      • Aurelas

        Kidneys aren’t even available for sale here. You have to butcher your own animal to get them! I was treated like a weirdo for asking a butcher to save them for me and basically told to get lost even though I wanted to pay for them. I don’t see what the fuss is about considering that liver is so popular here (rural NW Florida), especially fried or cooked in onions. Why is one organ meat thought of as delicious and another taboo? i have to say that the thought of eating brains bothers me; it is done here by some but my family never served them.

        • Benighted

          Brains is the one thing I’ve never been able to bring myself to try, though I suppose if it was mushed up in something else and I didn’t know it wouldn’t bother me. I love kidneys but only occasionally see beef kidney in the stores (New York) and it’s a real pain in the you-know-what to hack all the bits off the stem. I’ve never seen lamb kidneys here, which are the best ones. I’m not wild about heart but but I’ll eat most other bits without flinching!

  • Benighted

    Most of my American friends are baffled by the English habit of buttering the bread when we make sandwiches. It seems to particularly disgust them when peanut butter is also involved.

    • Phylosics

      Peanut butter savoury sandwiches are great. Glues the layers together very nicely. Actually, I doubt Americans are disgusted by it, since I saw an “Elvis-wich” option that featured peanut butter at a Which Wich store in Austin, TX.

      • Benighted

        It’s not the peanut butter per se, it’s the combination of butter and peanut butter that Americans don’t seem to like. I’ve lived in NY for 17 years now and everyone who has ever seen me make one of my peanut butter and butter sandwiches has been grossed out by it. Mind you I’m grossed out by their insistence on putting grape jelly in with theirs, which to me tastes like Germoline!

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

          Oh, I don’t go that far (with the butter and PB) but always forget, when making the kids’ friends sandwiches) not to put marg or butter on. Have to start all over again. Pah.

        • Jwb52z

          A friend of mine eats peanut butter and mayonaise sandwiches, so almost nothing surprises me anymore. Also, I had to google “germoline”, so thanks for the vocabulary lesson. :)

          • Aurelas

            Wow, I thought my sister’s peanut butter and balogna sandwiches were disgusting…

          • Benighted

            You’re welcome! I have a friend who eats peanut butter and mayo too. She says her grandfather ate them and he used to feed them to her when she was little so I guess it’s as much a nostalgia thing as actually liking them. She made me try one once…. let’s just saying not something I could ever acquire a taste for!

          • Luigie

            Peanut butter, lettuce and mayo was the combo I remember from a long time ago. Also peanut butter and bacon!

          • Benighted

            Well, bacon makes everything better so I don’t see anything wrong with that!

        • Guest

          I did not know about the butter thing until I was fortunate enough to visit England and purchased a sandwich. It took me a while to figure out what the substance smeared so liberally on the bread was! But once I took a bite I was in love. I cannot imagine putting butter and peanut butter together but it doesn’t sound half as gross as many of the sandwiches I have seen eaten here. Pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, etc. I don’t even like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

      • Jwb52z

        Texans and Southerners in general in the US eat some odd things ourselves, so some of it isn’t that surprising even if we don’t like it anymore than Northern people. Elvis had a thing for fried balogna and also fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

        • LMJ

          C’mon, now fried bologna is tasty. Get that edge browned, and the sugars in the meat caramelized just a bit…toss on a slice of American and some potato chips, and you have a sandwich!

          Yeah, that actually does sound pretty good right now. Then again, I like Spam, so…

          • Benighted

            I can take or leave fried bologna but I love fried Spam. Back in medieval times when I was at school in England we had Spam fritters for lunch which were the best things ever but try as I may I’ve never been able to exactly recreate the batter.

    • Aurelas

      I did not know about the butter thing until I was fortunate enough to visit England and purchased a sandwich. It took me a while to figure out what the substance smeared so liberally on the bread was! But once I took a bite I was in love. Sometimes now I put butter on my turkey or roast beef sandwiches. I cannot imagine putting butter and peanut butter together but it doesn’t sound half as gross as many of the sandwiches I have seen eaten here. Pineapple and mayonnaise sandwiches, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, etc. I don’t even like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

    • Cheryl

      Hmmm, I’m neither British nor American, but I always butter my bread when making a sandwich including peanut butter. The butter improves both texture and taste.

    • Merry Bond

      Wow! I have always buttered my bread prior to adding peanut butter and jam. My mom taught me to do it that way. I never knew it was “unAmerican.”

    • Monny287

      I didn’t know that was a British thing. My American grandmother has always buttered her bread before adding sandwich toppings. Mostly because my grandfather won’t eat anything but very soft white bread, and she doesn’t like soggy sandwiches. I’m personally not a fan.

  • Jwb52z

    Why is marmite considered food? It’s a concentrated form of brewer’s yeast, which is a waste by product of brewing beer.

  • debbie

    None of this is too weird, except the Marmite. But then again we have deep fried candybars and Twinkies.

  • Guest

    Maybe this is just

  • Trekgal

    Maybe it is just my British husband, but he turns everything into a butty. If we have bread and butter on the dinner table, then he makes a butty out of the main course.

    • Alex Wright

      Perhaps he’s from the north of England? Butties are common up there – particularly chip (French fries) butties seemingly.

  • Brandy

    I think the Scotch eggs sound interesting and would like to try them! My meat loving family would most likely enjoy them.

  • JPMcMillen

    My only question about Scottish Eggs is where can I find a place that serves them? Seriously, I first heard about them years ago and they sound delicious.

    • clarkeyruns13

      Scotch not Scottish,

      • expatmum

        I was in a restaurant in St. Paul last week where they had Scotch eggs on the menu but called them Scottish eggs. (It was inside the Embassy Suites in case anyone wants to try them!)

    • Marsha Smith

      I am wondering why the differences between scones and American baked goods was not pointed out by native Brits.

  • Yankee_loves_some

    I’m a Yank, and I love scotch eggs! I don’t know why more Americans don’t get into them. We deep fry butter for Pete’s sake… and we created turduckin!

  • Steven Brown

    Scotch eggs should be a lot more popular here than they are. The hard boiled egg may be the problem, as to many of us here in America, we think of the stinky hard boiled eggs from our childhood when we used to dye them for Easter. The only place I’ve ever had a Scotch egg at took them off the menu because there weren’t too many people ordering them. When they were asking on Facebook what prior menu items ought to return for the Fall menu, I suggested the Scotch egg. I got positive feedback on the suggestion, but they didn’t put it back on the menu.

  • Metafrost

    Love Scotch Eggs, love butter on my sandwiches, and love stuff on toast or toast in general. Then again my Great Grandfather was British so, that probably explains a lot.

  • Sally

    I am an America living in London and on a recent trip to Hampton Court a travelling historian told us that the way Americans eat with fork and knife is how the Brits did as well during colonial times. However, the Brits are so heavily influenced by French cultural traditions, they eventually went the way of the continent.

    He went on to say that many, many differences between the US and UK, including language, are more a result of the UK going more continental and that the US is closer in such things to the UK hundreds of years ago.

    Makes you go hmmmmm.

    • clarkeyruns13

      Nothing annoys a Brit more than watching the table manners and cutlery usage of your average American, with a fork in all manner of way but the right one – it’s perfectly simple to eat peas the right way. In the middle ages our table manners left a lot to be desired too, we have moved on though.

  • John Wheeler

    I had Black pudding at a restaurant in London last month. I didn’t care for it mostly because it was desert like dry and had no real flavor- like eating dust. Compared to the rest of the meal, it just wasn’t appetizing.

    • clarkeyruns13

      it wasn’t cooked properly then.

      • IndyfromAZ

        Very Probably. But as I have nothing to compare it with….It was at a Garfunkels across from Paddington Station.