Common Myths About British Food

4 Myths Debunked

Plate, knife and fork on Union Jack

Adrian Burke / Getty Images

British cuisine has long been categorized as "bad" for its supposed poor food, lack of imagination, stodgy puddings, and weak tea. With a history of wartime rationing, industrialization, and now the domination of giant supermarkets, it is no surprise that this false impression has developed.

But like anywhere else in the world, there is both good and bad food throughout England. The supposition that the country's food is bad comes from the misconception of what people imagine British food to be, not what it actually is. You may discover that many of England's current dishes are actually modern, well-prepared, and quite delicious. So let's tear down some of those British bad food myths.

There Are Limited Choices

According to the myth, Brits only eat fish and chips and roast beef, and the Scots just consume porridge and haggis. The Irish live on potatoes and the Welsh, leeks.

Yes, the British do eat some of this, but they also eat many other foods, including classic foods that come with a long history. There are meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread, fresh fish, and seafood on British menus. The repertoire of British food includes great puddings, pies, pastries, bread, soups, and stews. And who was it that invented the sandwich? The Brits of course.

All of this culminates in a cuisine steeped in history. But with that history also comes diversity. It has encompassed and absorbed the food of many other cultures—the Indian dish chicken tikka masala is considered the third national dish of England. The explosion of cooking programs on TV, cookbooks, cooking apps, and celebrity chefs have also raised the profile of British food and cooking.

There Are Only Four Vegetables

As both Great Britain and Ireland are mainly agricultural countries, they do produce more than just the above—in fact, the variety of vegetables is too long to list here.

As for the cooking method, it was jokingly said that before the Sunday roast was placed in the oven, the vegetables would be put on to boil. Thankfully those days have gone, and you will find in British food that most vegetables are now steamed, or are prepared primarily to retain their freshness and nutritional value. Thank goodness for education.

There Is No Decent Place to Dine

It may have been true 30 years ago—British restaurants mainly consisted of steakhouses offering the ubiquitous steak-chips-onion rings combination—but these days, things have changed. And it’s not just in London. Throughout the British Isles and Ireland great places to eat are found everywhere. Just make sure you look at reviews before you choose where to dine.

They may not have completely vanished, but the great British pub is sadly in decline. Most pub owners find that sales from drinks alone no longer pay the bills. Many have turned into "gastro-pubs" where British food is the emphasis, and the community spirit which held a pub together has moved away, making room for more tables. But through the UK and Ireland, decent proper pubs can be found and again, if you don’t know a good local use one of the good pub guides to find one.

There Are No Normal Meal Times

Mealtime terms can get confusing, as it depends on where in the U.K. you are. In the north, for example, "dinner" refers to lunch, but that's not the case in the southern part of the country, where "dinner" more resembles the American dinner meal. "Supper" is an evening meal and a snack before bedtime, so an invitation to supper would mean the arrangement is more casual than an invitation to "dinner" (not lunch!), which is usually more formal. To further add to the confusion, the vocabulary varies across the British Isles—the word choice is often considered an indicator of social class in Britain. But one thing remains constant: Breakfast, also called brekkie, is the first meal of the day.