“One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.” Or so said former French president Jacques Chirac during an international meeting circa 2005.
For those who have never heard the quote, he was, of course, referencing British food, once widely considered the runt of the European culinary litter. Not so much the case today, though. In fact, thanks to the re-emphasis on heritage recipes, a notable rise in restaurants serving flavours from across the globe- particularly, but not solely, in major cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham- and the ongoing popularity of cookery TV and radio shows, the UK and Ireland are now fully-fledged foodie nations.
And in many ways this is actually nothing new. Our reviled palette largely emerged as a result of two devastating world wars, and the aftermath of the rationing that had to be introduced in order to ensure these islands didn’t run out of comparatively scarce produce during periods when resources were needed elsewhere. Cast your mind back further into history, and everything from the 700-plus varieties of domestic cheeses (significantly more than France has to offer, Mr. Chirac), to the role of the empire in the spice trade, point to a far more flavoursome place than some would give us credit for.
With this in mind it’s perhaps less surprising that Britons outdo their Gallic counterparts when it comes to the amount of time spent in the kitchen preparing dishes. According to a survey conducted by the BBC’s food magazine, Olive, back in 2010, half of all its UK-based readers would dedicate more than 30-minutes each night to cooking. In comparison, only 27-per cent of French readers did the same. Some might point to the difference in price when it comes to eating out, and the perception of France as a country with abundant good eateries in every village, town and city, meaning natives could well have a greater tendency to leave the home for a good plate full, but nevertheless the stats speak volumes about how much the British Isles, or more accurately its residents, enjoy making tasty meals.
It’s a vastly different picture compared with two decades ago, not least when you take into account that 52% of Britons claim to be adept at cooking ten or more different dishes. Clearly, then, we care much about what goes into our stomachs, and as such also carry a torch for creating the perfect space in which to prepare those breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Understandably, then, the kitchen is now widely seen as the most important room in the home, taking up more square-meterage than any other corner of the house, and providing a popular area for socialising, along with the obvious oven-related activities. Food for thought next time you’re wondering where your money would be best spent on domestic improvements.