British or Irish Diet
Eating habits in the UK have been steadily changing over the last few years, with the introduction of fast food restaurants and other diets. Vegetarian food, pizzas, burgers, Chinese, Indian and other international foods are all now part of the everyday British diet. This means that it is quite difficult to define what ‘British food’ is like!
- Traditional British or Irish dishes normally contain a meat dish with potatoes and other vegetables such as carrots, peas, broccoli and cabbage. The meat dish is often a type of stew which is meat cooked in a sauce, with vegetables, in the oven. Meat may also be fried, grilled, or roasted in the oven. A variety of sweet dishes will normally be served after the main course: dishes such as apple pie (two pastry layers filled with apple), ice-cream or cake. Sometimes an extra course called the ‘starter’ or ‘appetiser’ is served before the main course: you might be served something like soup, pâté or melon.
- Sunday lunch is a great British and Irish tradition, and normally a roast meat dish with vegetables will be served as the main course.
- A traditional ‘English breakfast’ consists of cereal followed by fried egg, bacon, sausage and tomato. There will then be served toast and an orange jam known as marmalade. Tea, coffee and orange juice will also be served. However, most British people will usually have a much simpler breakfast of cereal and/or toast with marmalade or jam, with tea, coffee or orange juice to drink.
- The British and Irish mealtimes have various names. This is often very confusing, even for British people – so do ask if you’re not sure! The first meal of the day is normally ‘breakfast’, but sometimes a late breakfast is called ‘brunch’ (combination of breakfast and lunch). A meal is often eaten in the middle of the day, and is usually called ‘lunch’ – this is often light food, such as sandwiches. The evening meal is often the main meal of the day, and it has various names: ‘dinner’, ‘supper’and ‘tea’ (‘tea’ or ‘high tea’ is more common in northern England and Scotland).
- ‘Afternoon tea’ is different to the main meal called ‘tea’. Afternoon tea is a light snack type meal eaten in the late afternoon. Traditionally toasted teacakes (a sweet bread bun with currants and sultanas) or scones (a form of bread dough) are eaten with jam and cream. Often a variety of cakes is served. However many people understand ‘afternoon tea’ as a cup of tea or coffee together with a cake or biscuit.
- The British or Irish traditional takeaway meal is ‘fish and chips’. A variety of fish is available (normally cod, haddock or plaice) which is coated with batter and fried in vegetable oil. Batter is made from flour, eggs and milk. Chips are chopped, fried potatoes. Many international takeaways are also popular, eg Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai.
Although not every item of your own national food is available in the UK, it is surprising what can be found. First of all try a large supermarket near you. It may well stock some of the more common items. Many large UK cities have specialist food shops.You can find details of the specialist food shops in your area by looking at the ‘Yellow Pages’ telephone directory or the on-line version. You could also ask in your local library, International Student Office at your University or an appropriate student society for names.
If you go to a restaurant, you will usually be taken to a table by a waiter/waitress. If the restaurant is a popular one, it is best to telephone and book in advance to ensure that you get a place. Most restaurants serve vegetarian dishes as well as meat dishes. If you go to a restaurant with a local friend each person usually pays for their own food, unless your friend has specifically said they will pay. It is usual to leave a tip of approx 10% at the end of the meal except where service charge is explicitly mentioned on the bill.
Cafes, tea shops and coffee shops
These are good places to go for a drink (usually non-alcoholic, hot and cold drinks). They always have a range of snack foods. In some cafes etc, a waiter/waitress will serve you; in others, you need to go to a counter to order and collect your drink/food.