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10 British Flavors Americans Will Never Widely Appreciate
Always remember, dear reader, that one foodie’s weird is another foodie’s wonderful.
Let us begin with perhaps the most obvious flavor of all: Marmite. So polarizing is the sharp saltiness of Marmite’s assault on the senses that even the brand’s own advertising slogan admits, “You either love it or hate it.” Marmite is a yeast extract spread, a by-product of the beer brewing process, and is eaten on toast or bread with some butter. In a sandwich, it pairs pretty well with cucumber, which neutralizes Marmite’s zing. Newcomers should spread lightly, for Marmite is at once pungent, penetrating and powerful, like if soy sauce and A-1 had a bastard child and fed it nothing but wasabi.
Prawn cocktail flavored chips
Chips (or crisps as they’re known in Blighty) are the most commonly eaten snack in the U.K. with Brits consuming around six billion packets per year. There are literally hundreds of exotic flavors to choose from (pickled onion, flame grilled steak, roast beef, to name a few), but prawn cocktail seems to be the seasoning that our American friends find the quaintest.
A crisp sandwich (colloquially known as a crisp butty) is when you sprinkle some of your eccentrically flavored crisps between two slices of bread and chow down. In fact, most Brits think nothing of making a sandwich out of anything that happens to be lying around the kitchen: banana sandwiches, ketchup sandwiches, salad cream sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches… all you need is some bread and a dream.
Kedgeree is an Indian-influenced buttery rice dish made with flaked fish, hard-boiled egg, parsley, and curry powder. When I was a boy, my mother would occasionally serve it up for dinner. I hated it. I hated it so much, in fact, that it led me to the discovery that if I held my nose while chewing I couldn’t taste its foulness. But as a Brit, I’m in the minority because kedgeree is a national dish on a par with toad in the hole and bangers and mash. I was unaware until recently that kedgeree is traditionally a breakfast dish. An American friend had seen it on a brunch menu during a business trip to London and decided to give it a whirl. “Big mistake” was his two-word review.
Fry’s Turkish Delight
Imagine sipping on a bottle of cheap perfume while nibbling on chocolate, and you’re somewhere close to what a bar of Fry’s Turkish Delight tastes like. This sweet is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, so they must be doing something right.
Such is the remarkable popularity of Irn-Bru in its native Scotland that it outsells both Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In the 1980s, the drink’s tagline was “Made in Scotland from girders.” If that isn’t enough to put you off, then perhaps its luminous orange color will be. The taste? It’s sort of citrusy with a hint of ginger that leaves a long lingering finish; the kind that’s only weird if you didn’t grow up with it.
Chips and curry sauce
And by “chips,” I mean fries, and by “curry sauce,” I mean yummy. This dish is a staple of British fish and chip shops and is particularly satisfying as a late-night, post-pub snack. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, for this sweet and spicy condiment complements perfectly the savory fries.
Chips and vinegar
While we’re on the subject of chips, we must of course address the fact that Brits douse their fries in vinegar. Americans find this little corner of the British palate frightfully foreign.
This alcoholic drink has certainly got a kick to it. It’s one part beer, one part cider and an optional splash of blackcurrant cordial. Because it’s cheap to make and quick to intoxicate, Snakebite is particularly popular amongst students, and it’s actually rather refreshing on a hot summer’s day. If you like beer and you like cider, then you can’t really go wrong (unless you drink 18 pints).
Earl Grey tea
In the opening line of Sting’s 1987 hit “Englishman in New York,” the former Police front man croons, “I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear.” And although Mr. Sumner doesn’t mention specifically what type of tea, he is surely a fellow of refined taste, one with a penchant for the floral notes and bergamot aroma of Earl Grey. This flavoring is perhaps a little too distinctive for Americans, who generally prefer their tea sweet.
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