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British meals
Food roadsign (c) R.T.Allen
  British meals
  Common ideas
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This page introduces British meals.

Great British Food
Author: Heather Hay Ffrench
Publisher: Quiller Press Ltd
Date: March 2000
0563534745 Rick Stein's Food Heroes
Author: Rick Stein
Publisher: BBC Consumer Publishing (Books)
Date: September 2002

"Time Out" London Eating and Drinking Guide 2005
Editor: Cathy Phillips
Publisher: Time Out Magazine
Date: September 2004

Vegetarian Britain and Ireland
Editors: Alex Bourke, Katrina Holland
Publisher: Vegetarian Guides Ltd
Date: April 2002

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The first meal of the day in the morning is breakfast (usually eaten between about 7:30 and 9:00). Many British people eat toast with butter or margarine and jam (often strawberry, raspberry, apricot or blackcurrant jam), marmalade (a type of jam made from oranges) or Marmite (a dark brown spread made from yeast). Melon, grapefruit or fruit cocktail are popular. Others eat a bowl of cereal; for example, cornflakes or muesli with milk, or porridge (a mixture of oats, hot milk and sugar). A traditional English breakfast (also known as a cooked breakfast or a fry-up) is a cooked meal which may contain food such as sausages, bacon, kippers (herring - a type of fish - which has been covered in salt and smoked), black pudding, scrambled or fried or poached egg (for details about how to cook a poached egg, see:, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, baked beans, hash browns and toast. People sometimes eat a boiled egg, dipping (dunking) strips of toast (soldiers) into the egg yolk. A continental breakfast is a small meal and is not cooked; for example, a bread roll or croissant with cheese or ham and a cup of coffee. The most common drinks at this time of day are orange juice or a cup of breakfast tea.

Many people have a tea-break at about 11:00 in the morning (elevenses). If a meal is eaten in the late morning instead of both breakfast and lunch, it is called brunch.

Lunch (sometimes called more formally luncheon) is the meal eaten in the middle of the day (usually between about 12:30 and 2:00). Many people eat a sandwich (also known as a butty or sarnie in some parts of the UK). Some people have a simple meal such as cheese and biscuits or soup and bread. A ploughman's lunch is a traditional lunch for farmers: a bread roll, Cheddar cheese, Branston pickle and salad, perhaps with a pork pie. It is also traditional for people to go to a pub with some friends for a pub lunch and a drink.

A Sunday roast is a traditional meal eaten by a family at Sunday lunchtime; for example, roast beef with roast potatoes, parsnips, peas, Brussels sprouts, green beans, Yorkshire pudding, bread sauce and gravy. Mint sauce or redcurrant jelly is often eaten with lamb, apple sauce with pork, and horseradish sauce (a type of mustard) with beef, cranberry sauce with turkey. Stuffing may be eaten with chicken or turkey.

Shepherd's pie,
peas and tomatoes
Bangers (sausages)
and mash
A Christmas lunch: turkey, sausage,
bacon, bread sauce, sprouts, potatoes

Ploughman's Lunch (c) South West Tourism
roast beef sunday lunch
Roast beef, roast potatoes,
green beans and gravy
and chips

Tea-time is a small meal eaten in the late afternoon (usually between about 3:30 and 5:00). People may drink tea, and often eat biscuits (American English: cookies), cakes or savoury foods such as sandwiches, crumpets or tea-cakes. Occasionally people may have a full afternoon tea or a cream tea: this includes a scone with jam and cream (usually either whipped cream or thick clotted cream) as well as a selection of sandwiches and cakes. For an example of a traditional afternoon tea menu, see the Ritz Hotel's site:

High tea is a light meal eaten in the early evening (for example, 6 o'clock) served with a pot of tea; this is popular in north England and Scotland. Supper is the most common name for the meal eaten in the evening (usually between 7:00 and 8:30). Dinner is another common name for supper, but sometimes it is also used to refer to lunch, especially when this is the main meal of the day. A dinner party is a formal evening meal to which guests have been invited. A common type of cooked meal in Britain is meat and two veg. This is a meat dish served together on the same plate with two types of vegetable, one of which is often a type of potato. It is common to eat a dessert (also known as a pudding, or informally as afters) after the main dish. You can see an example of a traditional English restaurant menu from the website of Rules, the oldest restaurant in London:

Rice pudding
Fruit crumble and custard

It is increasingly popular for British people get a takeaway or go to a restaurant instead of cooking at home, and often this is used as a chance to try different types of food. Most towns have an Indian restaurant, serving foods such as curry and chicken tikka masala. Chinese restaurants are also very common; popular dishes include sweet and sour pork and aromatic duck. Many people like Italian pizza and pasta dishes. Fast food restaurants often serve beefburgers or fried chicken. Fish and chip shops are still popular, especially in towns by the coast. There is an old tradition of eating fish on Friday.

British people enjoy eating snacks between meals. These include sweets (American English: candy) and crisps (American English: chips).

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Many visitors to Britain do not have a clear idea about British food. Below are responses to some comments made by international students after being asked the question, "What do you think about British food?"

"What is it?"
Many visitors do not know what British food is, maybe because there are not many British restaurants in other parts of the world. If so, you can learn about some types of traditional British food by exploring all of the pages in the Britain/Food section.

"It's greasy"
You may think that British people eat greasy food (like fish and chips or a fried breakfast) every day. You may be offered a cooked breakfast every day if you stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast, but this is not normal life. Most British people only eat these foods occasionally (perhaps once a week, or less often). Britain is a dairy country, however - so milk, butter, cheese and cream are used more than in some countries.

"It's boring"
Perhaps you have already stayed in the UK and found the food boring or not tasty. This could be because you haven't tasted good home cooking or the food in high quality restaurants. There is actually a very wide variety of food. As well as the traditional British food shown here, there are also Chinese dishes, Indian curry, Spanish tapas, Italian pizza or pasta, Turkish kebabs, Japanese sushi and so on. Ingredients are available from many parts of the world, both in specialist shops and in ordinary supermarkets.

"It's dangerous"
British farmers have had some problems in recent years due to the spread of BSE (mad cow disease) within cattle in the 1990s, and then foot-and-mouth disease within sheep in 2001. These diseases caused many animals to be killed, and led to the introduction of new controls. Scientists believe that BSE can be passed to humans as a disease known as variant CJD, but cases are rare and seem to be linked to times before the new controls were put in place. Foot-and-mouth in sheep is not passed on to humans by eating lamb, and since 2001 there have only been a few cases of the disease in sheep. So is it safe to eat British meat? Probably - most British people continue to eat it, and the controls in the UK are now some of the tightest in the world. There are many shops or restaurants selling vegetarian and organic food if you prefer to eat this.

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Cooking a traditional British Sunday roast lunch: Britain/Food/Cooking/Roast
British etiquette: Personal/Manners
Shopping: Life/Shopping

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