If you’re British and reading this, you might be surprised to learn that over in Brazil our cuisine is considered….well, a bit of a joke.
I know right, I couldn’t believe it either!
I remember the exact moment I found this out, it was about a year into my stay in São Paulo. One Saturday afternoon my friend Carlos and I went to a local food market, and once there he immediately made a beeline for a stall selling some unusual-looking dishes. As soon as he’d exchanged his money for food typical of the north east of Brazil, he asked me if I’d like to try some. By now I was quite curious about the exotic food he was holding….so I quickly accepted.
“Well…” I began, mid-chew (There’s a sexual image for you all!) “…Not really.”
At that, he raised his eyebrows in mock surprise and delivered a very unexpected put-down. “I imagined you’d say this. It is because you’re British, British people aren’t used to having flavour in their food!”
I looked at him in surprise. I had no idea where this comment had come from. What was he talking about British food like that for? The food I grew up on! Of course we have flavour in our food!
“Andrew” he continued, almost triumphantly, “Everybody knows British people just eat potatoes. Food with a little spice like this must be difficult for you to eat!”
At first I thought he was trying to get a rise out of me, like when he calls Queen Elizabeth, ‘Queen Eliza-bitch’. However since this moment, I’ve been having similar conversations with people on a near monthly basis about how ‘boring’ British food is.
Just a few weeks ago I was in the middle of a class with a student, who came out with this comment: “I went to London once, but I didn’t like the food. I loved the people, the city and it was even sunny when I was there. But I hated the food….there is just no taste to British food, is there!?!”
After biting down on my tongue (HARD!), I smiled politely at this student and added, quite delicately. “Be careful! The way you just said that made it sound like you’ve given me a fact!”
These words lingered in the air for a few seconds longer than was comfortable, where to my horror I was able to read the expression on his face. It was an expression that told me exactly what he was thinking. He really thought this WAS a fact!
So here’s the thing…if you walk past any given bookshop window in São Paulo, the chances are you’re likely to find Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson’s faces smiling back at you from the covers of one of their cook books. This really confused me. If British food is so bad, why are these chefs so popular here? I mean, being told British food is boring by the same people who gush over the latest Nigella Lawson cookbook just doesn’t add up.
So I asked around. According to those I spoke to, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson’s popularity isn’t an extension of how enamored Brazilians are by British food at all. Instead, Nigella and Jamie are simply considered popular TV personalities with interesting recipes.
I’ve been living in Brazil for years now and it has only been recently that I’ve been having conversations about my country’s food with Brazilians. Why? Well it is all thanks to Jamie Oliver.
A few weeks back Jamie appeared on a Brazilian TV show where he was quizzed on what he thought of Brazilian food. He praised some of the food he was offered, yet when asked what he thought about brigadeiro, quindim and beijinho (sweets), he eloquently remarked that he thought they were ‘a load of old shit, fuckin ‘horrible.”
Now, on paper, yes, this comment is pretty harsh. However, after seeing a clip of the show, it is clear he was joking.
But British humour doesn’t always translate well for those unaccustomed to it (actually Jamie’s humour doesn’t always translate well for those who ARE accustomed to it!), and unsurprisingly he found himself at the centre of a media storm. So I used this opportunity to find out what the Brazilians I know REALLY think of our food.
What surprised me most about the conversations I had, was that most of those people I spoke to (including many who immediately sniggered when I mentioned the words ‘British cuisine’) admitted that they had no idea what British food is. Now, I’m not going to suggest to my Brazilian readers that British food is absolutely amazing and simply misunderstood the world over…because in comparison to other countries, our food certainly isn’t all that. However, there are a few dishes I’m SURE a Brazilian would enjoy if they gave them a chance.
So let me give you a rundown of some of my favourites:
Full English Breakfast
If you’ve over indulged on the beer the night before, in my humble opinion there is no better food to sort you out than an English breakfast. Usually you can expect to find the following on your plate: bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast, sausages and baked beans.
That’s right Brazilians, we serve beans for breakfast….and we do it without adding a single grain of rice! CRAZY!
If you’re in Scotland, my Scottish grandmother reliably (and quite forcefully!) informs me this breakfast isn’t called an English breakfast at all, but a ‘Scottish Breakfast’. Over there you will probably find delicious ‘tattie scones’ on your plate, and even a square sausage or two (Otherwise known as a Lorne sausage).
Both are best served with a cup of tea!
Sunday roasts are a huge deal in the UK, with many families and friends coming together to eat this home cooked meal. You’re guaranteed to find that a lot of British pubs are heaving around lunch time too. Why? Because the Sunday roast is something Brits take VERY seriously! So what can you expect to find on your plate? Well, there will be roasted meat, roast or mashed potato and also accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy.
You can eat any kind of meat with a roast dinner, but British people LOVE their beef (Oi! Oi!), so much so that the French have given us the nickname ‘rosbifs’ (roast beefs). For me though, it’ isn’t the beef that is the most enjoyable part of this meal, but the Yorkshire pudding.
I’d actually go as far as to say that the Yorkshire pudding has to be THE greatest culinary treat to have come out of the UK (Yes, perhaps as someone born in the Yorkshire region I am a little biased here!). But let me explain what it is: the Yorkshire pudding isn’t a pudding at all, but a savoury food with a soft texture in the middle and a crispy outer texture. It is made from a batter of eggs, flour, and milk and a WHOLE lot of pride!
In my house, nobody will dare tuck into their Sunday lunch before first commenting on the size of the Yorkshire puddings, and it is custom to follow this up by saying ‘I think these look like the best ones yet’. You see, making the perfect Yorkshire pudding carries a whole lot of clout!
What I’d give right now to be cutting into a crispy golden brown Yorkshire pudding that has been soaked in lashings of gravy! Hmmmmmmm….!
Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips are the Friday night meal of champions! This is because Friday is the day a whole load of hard working Brits decide not to cook and instead head to the nearest ‘Chippy’ (the nickname given to the take away restaurants that specialises in this food). What a Brit is generally looking for from their fish and chips are the following:
- For the fish (usually cod or haddock) to be fresh.
- It needs to be well-cooked.
- It must have a crispy batter.
The fish will then be served alongside a mountain of deep fried potato chips that you can add salt and vinegar to. If you’re lucky enough to have some ‘scraps’ thrown on top (the left-over fried batter), a dollop of mushy peas, some gravy (the gravy is a Northern English thing) and maybe even some tartar sauce…then you’re onto a winner. You might even want some bread to sandwich your chips in (Also known as a “chip butty”).
So there you have it, some of my favourite British foods. I guess these dishes are very easy to dismiss in Brazil because they’re not so well known. But when it comes to British food, well, it isn’t all shit…..honest!
What do you think of British food? Have you been impressed by anything you’ve eaten in the UK? Is its bad reputation justified? What British dishes would you have included in a list of favourites? Where in São Paulo is the best place to find some of these dishes?