Fancy a curry, kebab or pizza?

Posted on September 4th, 2009 by ethicaleater

Hi from Chester, U.K.

Food is inherently linked with cultural identity.  Consequently, migrants will always carry their cuisine with them wherever they go.  In the case of sizeable migration, as inevitably as the new communities expand the society of the host country, so their food choices infiltrate native eating habits.

 This can be seen in Britain today in the prevalence of multicultural cuisine in the restaurants and takeaways of our high streets, and in our homes via exotic ingredients from supermarkets, and the plethora of international cookery books and TV programmes.  International cuisine has moved from the exotic to the prosaic, a fact that reflects the impact of and assimilation into British society of the waves of immigrants since 1945.

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  ‘Acculturation’ is where both the host country and migrant populations adjust to the customs of each other’s culture .  Ordinarily, this is a two-way approach dominated by one cultural group, usually that of the host country; as a rule, migrants adapt their food habits to those prevailing in the new homeland.  However this suggests a conflict between the diffusion of cuisine into an alien culture, and the importance of retaining authentic cuisine in reinforcing cultural identity. 

 The adaptation of migrants to host cuisines can take many forms.  Migrants may recreate their traditional cuisine in the host country but purely through necessity have to compromise ingredients as to what is available.  This is evident in the migrants from the Indian subcontinent having to substitute fresh chillies with ground chilli powder.  Migrants may also bring important food and cooking equipment from their home countries.  The early Afro-Caribbeans arriving from the late 1940s onwards, smuggled food aboard in their luggage, whereas in the 1970s traditional tandoori cooking ovens arrived from the Punjab.

There are many other significant migrant contributions to British cuisine; the Chinese in particular.  Even a provincial town such as Chester shows considerable multiculturalism in offering Japanese, Spanish, Cuban, French, Greek, Turkish, Thai, and Indonesian food within a few short miles. Young generations now tend to think of pizza and curries as British food.  It will be interesting to see how new waves of migrants, such as those from the recently expanded EU, make their mark on British cuisine in the future.

Today, international cuisine is part of everyday life in the UK’s multi-cultural society.  The acculturation of cuisine between the British and Italian and Indian migrants does appear to have been dominated by the migrant cuisines.  Why was this?  Is British cuisine not a significant part of its culture?

Migrants have contributed more to our cuisine than we have to theirs. This is not to underestimate the cultural importance of British cuisine; perhaps it just lacks appeal to migrants.  If the British appear to have embraced many migrant cuisines, why has no one embraced ours?  There is little evidence to suggest that migrants have adapted to British cuisine. 

Did (and does) Britain have an identity reflected in its cuisine anyway?

16 Responses to “Fancy a curry, kebab or pizza?”

  1. BoSnr says:

    Hi EE from just down the road in Rossett.
    You may have seen the news about a chip shop and e-coli.
    This shop when checked by the local council hygene police was found wanting and was issued zero stars.
    Surely it should have been shut down until it satified the regulations.
    It was not british food

    • ethicaleater says:

      Yo BoSnr

      I did indeed here about said chip shop, it made national news-hit the big time.

      It’s a good example of how, aong with imported dishes, come imported standards of hygiene which as we know differ considerably around the globe.

      Nevertheless, I agree with you, due to the harm caused, it should have been closed until health and safety standards were met.

      If you wanted to single out a classic UK dish(s) that has influenced another country, what would it be?
      .-= ethicaleater´s last blog ..coffeesister and Jim are now friends =-.

      • BoSnr says:

        Greasy Bacon
        Greasy Egg
        Greasy Sausage
        Greasy Fried Bread
        Greasy Black Pudding

        and a nice healthy Orange Juice

  2. Purple13 says:

    I read somewhere that the French think the English kill their lamb twice – once when they slaughter it and once when they cook it.

    What about Afternoon Tea? Surely the one indisputable contribution to western civilisation…. Anyone for a cucumber sandwich?

    Or bread and butter pudding, cornish pasties, roast beef….mmmmm
    .-= Purple13´s last blog ..New – Engraved gifts for him =-.

    • ethicaleater says:

      Hi Purple13

      love the comment about lamb…how can we ever compete with the culinary wizardary of our neighbours??

      Apparantly, under the reign of Louis XIV C.1682 the roast dinner found it’s way to Blighty.

      But the rest has to be quintessentially British.
      High Tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong anyone?

      Cheers Purple13
      .-= ethicaleater´s last blog ..coffeesister and Jim are now friends =-.

  3. Oh my God what I would not give for a good tandoori!
    Canada as a multicultural society has everything to offer – except when you reach the middle of the continent that has minus 25 to 40 temperatures – damn it!
    .-= Angela in Canada´s last blog ..Food or Fodder? =-.

  4. Lib says:

    Hi EE,

    Interesting post, one tradition of ours that has been adapted in the far east that springs to mind immediately, and one that I have indulged in, is afternoon tea at Raffles, Singapore, a colonial remnant I’m sure. I think tourists embrace this tradition over here as well.

    And as Purple says, the Sunday roast has been adopted by the British and to me is the quintessential national dish.

    I think we struggle for an identity via food because we are more willing to embrace other cultural identities, definitely not a bad thing, than other countries.

    And to be fair, British food (of old) is quite simplistic and not really very tasty, I would imagine, to anyone else.

    Right, where did I put that take away menu….

  5. I think part of the trouble there is a problem identifying British cusisine as such is that the country embraced convenience food just as avidly as the North American market did. Which tends to water down any traditional fare to a point where it becomes just an unrecognisable, prepackaged quick fix like any other.

    Ethnic dishes from other countries still tend to be prepared with more whole food and fresh ingerdients, from scratc,h by the people that bring them to a new cultural environment. That is why these dishes are still identifiable as “food” in the first place.
    .-= Angela in Canada´s last blog ..Food or Fodder? =-.

  6. Jim says:

    ‘They’ do reckon chicken tikka massaalla is the most popular dish in the uk but I’d be more inclined to tag Brits with the old Sunday Roast……


  7. Having lived in Southern California my whole life, I have always had access to authentic cuisine of almost any culture you can imagine. The better farmer’s market will reveal that…yummy. For ingredients and cooking utensils you can find most or some are available online.

    As an American when I think of British food, it think of fish & chips, roast beef, crumpets, scones are Scottish? (my cookbooks confuse me), lemon curd (?) and those little pastries filled with seasoned meats or veggies…hmmm…getting hungry…or would that be Hungarian. :) .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog ..Worship in Song ~ "The Great Adventure/Live Out Loud" ~ Steven Curtis Chapman =-.

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