10 Interesting Facts about British Food:
Have you ever wondered how some of your favourite foods came to be discovered or invented?
Here are ten interesting facts (or myths) about British food, some going back to Roman times:
- It was the Romans who made oysters popular in Britain and were responsible for establishing their cultivation . The rich waters of Camulodunum (Colchester today) are ideal for cultivating the delicious Colchester oysters .
- In Spring, you can trace the routes of the Roman Army through the south of England by following the white blossom on tall, wild cherry trees. Roman soldiers brought cherries from Italy and spat the pips out as they marched.
- The world’s most eaten ‘convenience’ food, the humble sandwich was named after an English aristocrat. The Earl of Sandwich had such a passion for gambling, that he didn’t want to have to stop playing – gambling addiction? To ensure his game was not interrupted and to keep his hands clean for the cards, the Earl of Sandwich asked for meat to be put between two slices of bread.
- King James I of England and VI of Scotland imported 10,000 mulberry trees to start a silk industry. Unfortunately, he ordered the wrong variety and the silk worms wouldn’t eat the leaves. The mulberry tree ‘berries,’ however, made excellent jam.
- Crowdie, a soft, fresh milk cheese, also known as ‘gruth’ in Gaelic is the result of traditional methods dating back to Scotland’s Viking occupation. The first farm to flavor it with garlic only did so after their cows had escaped from their field, wandered into woods and ate wild garlic. The flavor that went into the milk was so good that garlic crowdie quickly became a favorite item.
- ‘Bletted’ Medlars were a much loved after dinner treat in Victorian homes in November and December. The fruit was gathered from trees in September, laid in sawdust and kept until the flesh turned dark and soft, as they had to be ‘rotten to be ripe’. I’ll give this one a miss!
- It is not only Stilton cheese that is important to the people of the Heart of England. In 1734, the Mayor of Nottingham was bowled over with a 100 lb. wheel of cheese during a riot after stall-holders at an annual street market had increased cheese prices by more than a third.
- The world’s first chocolate bar was made in Bristol in the late 1720s by Joseph Fry. His company was eventually taken over by Cadbury, another British, family owned firm.
- Mint sauce became the ‘essential’ accompaniment to roast lamb in Britain thanks to Queen Elizabeth I. To stop her subjects eating lamb and mutton (and help the wool industry), she decreed that the meat could only be served with bitter herbs. Enterprising cooks discovered that mint made the meat taste better, not worse.
- Ice cream was so popular in London in the 19th century that massive ‘ice wells’ were dug in the city. Ice was imported from America, and later from Norway to fill them.