Traditional British food is evolving, not dying

British food is not dying out and is, in fact, evolving and driving tourists to rural areas to source the best ingredients.

A recent report by Deliveroo found that 91 per cent of those it surveyed prefer 'world food' to traditional British dishes.

But in restaurants across the country, British food is changing and as more people start to reconnect with it, buying habits are changing too.

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Pickled mackerel

- The Miller of Mansfield

"After the Second World War people ate what was cheap and affordable. They cooked with what they could get rather than what they wanted," explains Nick Galer, Head Chef at The Miller of Mansfield in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

"Between then and now the world, and our eating habits, have changed but there are still stacks of people in this country who are producing the same food they always have done."

Rachel Muse, a private chef and founder of Talk Eat Laugh agrees. "Brewers, butchers and cheese makers are still using the same methods and are also reviving and experimenting with old recipes," she said.

So, while former staples such as deviled kidneys and faggots might be off the menu in many households and establishments, the same raw ingredients are still there.

Nick added: "Liver and bacon might not be as popular now but we still use liver in parfaits. It's still on our menu.

"We don't serve ham, egg and chips but we do a slow cooked pork shoulder with a crispy poached egg and triple cooked chips. It's the same ingredients, just with a different cut."

And in some areas, British food is part of the landscape so much so that products are given a protection status. Melton Mowbray pork pies, Cumberland sausages and Stilton cheese are among the products that can only be produced in regional areas under EU law and tourists will travel to the source to buy the best produce.

Rachel added: "I'm a huge fan of going into a butcher's and buying their own sausages. It'll be their own recipe and it's how small businesses survive -  by being different."

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Balbirnie House

- The Rural Travel Guide

Executive Chef at Balbirnie House in Fife, Chris Hazelton added: "Traditional British food with a modern twist is what my style is all about.

"We're very lucky to be living and working in the world's finest larder of Scotland, and combining tradition with contemporary techniques is certainly here to stay."

And while trends might be swaying towards 'world food', the line between what's classed as British and what's not is also very blurred.

Rachel explains: "We are spoiled for the variety of foods that are now available, but even they have been adapted to suit British lifestyles.

"Italians spend three days making a lasagna but we whip them up in 40 minutes. And the majority of Indian dishes we eat were developed in Britain. They're not Indian at all.

"That's the beauty of being British and is something we should celebrate."

Deliveroo's research shows that the top 15 British dishes that could soon be resigned into the history books are:
1. Devilled kidneys (70 per cent of Brits have never tried it)
2. Kedgeree (65 per cent)
3. Potted shrimps (59 per cent)
4. Suet pudding (55 per cent)
5. Liver and bacon (54 per cent)
6. Faggots (53 per cent)
7. Steak and kidney pudding (36 per cent)
8. Lancashire hot pot (34 per cent)
9. Bubble and Squeak (34 per cent)
10. Gammon and pineapple (29 per cent)
11. Fish pie (24 per cent)
12. Toad in the Hole (23 per cent)
13. Ham, egg and chips (21 per cent)
14. Mince and potatoes (19 per cent)
15. Shepherd’s Pie (15 per cent)

A similar survey by GourmetMeatClub.co.uk, an online provider of 100 per cent grass fed British meat, revealed that half of 2,000 Brits surveyed admit to never eating Cumberland pie, with more than a third confessing they never enjoy a steak and kidney pie – both once firm British favourites.

Traditional dishes do however remain more popular with the older generation, with almost a third of over 55s enjoying shepherd’s pie at least once a fortnight as opposed to a fifth of 18-24 year olds who never eat it.

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British lamb

- The Miller of Mansfield

Talking about the findings, one of GourmetMeatClub.co.uk’s professional butchers, Gary England, said: “As lifestyle trends change and the nation experiences an increase in flavours from abroad, it seems the menu classics are being forgotten about.

 “Dishes such as shepherd’s pie and hot pot were previously popular as a way to prevent kitchen waste, by using up the last of the meat but with modern day kitchens, this is no longer a requirement."

So while as a nation we're not following in the footsteps of our grandparents, is traditional British food now a thing of the past?

Gary added: “At Gourmet Meat Club we’re encouraging people not to forget the British classics and instead of opting for something new, consider reinventing some of the old favourites.”

Jon Sutcliffe, Head Chef at The Riverbarn Restaurant in Wiltshire said: "Over the past five years as head chef at The Riverbarn we've seen our customers becoming more conscious about what it is they are eating and are looking to taste dishes that reflect both the seasons and the specialities of the local area.

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The Riverbarn Restaurant

- The Rural Travel Guide

"Long gone are the days when eating British meant meat and two vegetables. The growing demand for 'British dishes' meant that our monthly seven course tasting menu in September was centred around Great British dishes.

"The event sold out weeks in advance. At the Riverbarn we've proved modern British cuisine is something customers want and we will continue to champion the best of British."

Nick added: "We are detached from what we eat and how we eat it. But people who are willing to open their minds will revert back.

"We're an 18th Century coaching inn and our menu reflects that. We buy game from the local gamekeeper and serve partridge at the moment which we buy 'long legged'. It comes plucked but still with its head, wings etc and we serve it with its legs to show that it is a bird."

Here at The Rural Travel Guide we love trying regional British produce when we travel - it's part of the experience of visiting somewhere new. And while we agree that dishes such as liver and bacon will continue to decline, a new wave of British produce continues to rise and we shouldn't be consigned to the history books just yet.

Here's what some of our followers on Twitter had to say on the subject:

@ParisHouseChef : I'd say it's far from being a thing of the past, just gets tweaked and changed with different influences but the classics will never die!

@Zeppelin162 : Traditional doesn't mean old fashioned! We endured far too many years of self depreciation and polite acceptance of how bad our food was perceived by those in other countries! GB has world class food producers and a healthy crop of talented chefs re working traditional classics!

@KKVA_ : Hi Megan, I cofounded @TastingBritain and i don't think traditional Brit food is dying!

 

 

Megan is the owner of Rural Roots PR & Journalism, specialising in rural tourism, where her passion for travel, heritage and a great visitor experience inspired her to start 'The Rural Travel Guide'.

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.