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Ian Bowie


I like to cook; I like eating what I cook even more. Living in Finland I am often asked what I miss about my home country. Two of the things I mention as missing most are English pubs and Fish and Chips. Why these in particular you may ask? Well, pubs for ‘pub grub’ and fish and chips because you simply can’t beat a good fish supper from the local chippy on a Saturday night.

When I started to think more carefully I realised that basically what I really miss is the food. I know some of you might find that rather surprising as Britain isn’t exactly famous for its cuisine but nevertheless there are certain dishes which actually do taste quite nice.

The best known of all British meals must surely be the traditional Sunday roast. Beef, roasted to tender perfection in the oven, served with cabbage, carrots roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, made from a mixture of milk, flower and eggs and baked for fifteen to twenty minutes in a very hot oven. Yet despite the fact that this all time favourite is both delicious and nutritious it rarely gets served in the homes of British families today. If you find yourself invited to lunch or dinner in Britain today you are more likely to be given lasagne with a bottle of French red wine than Roast beef washed down with a glass of real ale.

The traditional national dishes so common years ago have all but disappeared from the hearts and homes of families in Britain. Today there isn’t a town or city in the country that does not have at least one MacDonalds, Indian Curry House, Chinese Takeaway and Italian pizzeria on the high street. Some cities even have whole areas that are renowned for a certain style of ethnic cooking. Manchester, in the North of England, has its own China Town and Rusholm, about three kilometres south of the city centre, is famous for the excellent Indian restaurants that line the high street. Now please, do not get me wrong, I am not complaining, not at all. The range and variety of food available in Britain today is excellent and certainly more than welcome. Even if you do not want to take advantage, it is nice to know, that should you prefer, an Indian takeaway is just as easy to get as Fish and Chips.

Should you be about to leave on a trip for Britain there is no need to worry, good wholesome British home cooking is still readily available if you know where to look. I mentioned ‘pub grub’ earlier in this article and it is the good old pub is where you will find traditional favourites like Shepherds pie, Steak and Kidney pudding and Roast leg of lamb on the menu of good pubs the length and breadth of the country. Let us not forget the puddings either, for no meal can satisfactorily be finished without a good solid helping of pudding. Choose from Sherry Trifle, Chocolate Fudge Cake or Sticky Toffee Pudding to name but a few. Yum yum!

Like most families with children meals at our house are a mixture of convenience food and home cooking. Hamburgers and pizza are often on the menu as is lasagne and spaghetti, often liberally covered with large amounts of tomato ketchup. Some friends came round for lunch last Sunday. We enjoyed traditional roast beef with all the trimmings prepared by yours truly, it was washed down with a rather excellent Bulgarian red wine and for pudding we had chocolate cheesecake, a food that originates from the United States, now you can’t get much more international than that! The people in Brussels would like us all to be good Europeans and spend our Euros buying straight cucumbers and a standardised size of strawberry. Euro food has arrived and no doubt is here to stay; devoid of taste and uniform in size and shape, now that certainly is food for thought. Pass the ketchup someone!

© Ian Bowie June 2002 - who teaches and runs a magazine about teaching English in Finland

Ian Bowie
The last twenty years of the twentieth century were not kind to the good old English pub.

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