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Thursday, March 24, 2011

British Food Fails & Wins

I've been meaning to start a list about my culinary realizations here in England. My fellow expats and I have been comparing notes on what they do well and what they do, um, notsowell here. All of these observations come from a severe American bias, but they are the daily frustrations of An American in Oxford.

Here are a few fails and wins for today. Please contribute your joys and frustrations! I hope that, by the end of our time here (who knows when that will be) this list may be the complete reference for those considering life in the UK (what should they stock up on at Costco before coming over? What treasures must not be missed during a stay on this island?).

British Food Fails:

Crackers (aka Savoury Biscuits). Tastelessly prepared and perpetually impractically packaged. Some American and European imports, but still no concept of how to keep them from turning to crumbs or going stale.

Half-and-Half. Well, it just doesn't exist here. We go straight from whole milk to single cream, which is like our heavy cream and goes sour very quickly . . . don't get me started on the 'tops' for dairy products (and then from there to double cream, which gets poured on desserts). It's not that these cream varieties are bad, it's that my coffee is very lonely.

Mayo. I only recently bought mayo here at all following a craving for chicken salad. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just too much of this random buttery flavo(u)r that overtakes anything it coats (One of the favo(u)rites here is a baked potato stuffed with tuna, sweetcorn, and a blop of this mayo). Maybe American mayo is vinegar-ier?

British Food Wins:

Water. Specifically, the boiling of it. I will be bringing an electric kettle back to the US and it will have a permanent place on my countertop.

Tea. Particularly the black varieties. Full of flavo(u)r and still delicious in decaf (a very hard feat).

Candy bars. There may not be a single candy bar I don't like in this country. They do the chewy/crunchy/salty/sweet combination juuuuuust right.

That'll do for today. I have so many more stewing around in my head. What about you?


  1. This is Bess! I agree on all your points! I would add that they don't have good Mexican food available and they also lack a lot of my Asian favorites. They do, however, have a lot more variety of Indian ingredients!

  2. WIN :: Digestive biscuits; also, many of their other sweet biscuits (cookies) approach candy bars with the addition of icing or internal goo; Fish is delish... but mainly in the chip shops.

    FAILS :: Green vegetables (historic method is to boil until they're olive green)

  3. Agree with you WINS.. Candybars and Teas are their specialties.
    But about the FAILS, I'd note out MAYO on the list. I'd like the taste of their MAYO than others.. OK here are some of my British food list:

    The Side dishes; as I have heard you can choose up to 50 options of side dishes to put on a main course..

    FAILS: Marmite! It's a true "hate me or love me" tag line. And I hate it!

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