For the past 4 months I’ve spent my time immersing myself in everything London has to offer. While the English have a bad rap for food, I’m here to tell you that whoever made up that rumor lied. What they may have meant is that the British have some pretty weird food habits. Here are some of em’.
1. They don’t refrigerate their eggs
The first time I went grocery shopping in Sainsbury’s I was completely overwhelmed. You have to think; British grocery stores can’t be that different from the ones in the States, can they? Well, they are. It’s fucking impossible to find eggs. Why is it impossible to find eggs? Because they don’t refrigerate them. Why don’t they refrigerate them?
From what I’ve gathered, eggs are farmed and processed differently in the UK than they are in the US. In the UK, eggs aren’t washed before they hit the shelves. When eggs are washed, it makes it easier for bacteria such as salmonella to seep in, which is why cool refrigerator temperatures are necessary for US eggs.
2. French fries are called chips, and chips are called crisps
When most people think of English food they think of fish and chips (Poppies has the best, just sayin’). Here’s the twist: what the English refer to as chips, we refer to as French fries (which I learned actually originated in Belgium). If you want American chips, you’ve gotta ask for crisps, which brings me to my next point…
3. PRAWN CRISPS
Apparently, this is a thing. There are prawns everywhere in England and there are crisps everywhere in England so the only logical thing to do is to combine the two. It’s a great idea, except for the fact that they’re kind of weird and maybe a little gross. Imagine cocktail-sauce flavored kettle chips and there you have it — prawn crisps.
4. Vinegar and mayonnaise as condiments
Okay, so I’m biased here. I hate vinegar. Like truly, whole-heartedly hate vinegar. Salt and vinegar crisps (chips) send chills down my spine, but the English LOVE vinegar! They put it on their chips (fries)! Why would you do that to fried starchy goodness!
On the other hand, I came into this experience as a mayo hater, but discovered that the British have a point. Chips dipped in mayonnaise are fucking amazing and I don’t care what you say about it (Don’t worry though — if you’re not on board with vinegar or mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup is pretty much universal).
5. Tea is a science
One thing I picked up on while working in London is that the day revolves around tea. At work, it’s very common for someone to offer to make tea for the entire office every time they get up to make themselves a cup. We’re not talking any old green tea, though. English tea is most commonly breakfast tea with milk and sometimes sugar (depending on the person). Here are some tea rules:
1. Don’t leave the tea bag in after the tea has brewed (you savage).
2. Put milk in the cup AFTER the tea has brewed.
3. Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a digestive biscuit (milk chocolate flavored McVities, obviously).
6. Keurigs aren’t a thing
One of the things I found most shocking upon arrival at my flat was the alarming lack of any way to make coffee. Instead, I found a large electric kettle. Apparently, the majority of Europe doesn’t really do filter coffee. Luckily, you’ve got a few options:
1. Get a French Press — They’re easy to use and cheap, and it’ll probably be the most similar to the coffee you’d drink at home.
2. Instant Coffee — Instant coffee is a sin again coffee snobs everywhere, but after a month or so you can trick yourself into thinking it’s just as good as your regular ol’ k-cup.
3. Americano — An Americano is essentially espresso mixed with water, and when ordering coffee out, it’s probably the closest you’ll get to filter coffee. Don’t just ask for a coffee, the barista will stare at you and ask “What kind?”
If you’re looking for comfort food that’ll remind you of home, toasties are the way to go, and they’re everywhere. Essentially, “toastie” is a posh word for grilled cheese, but something about calling it a toastie makes it taste so much better. The best toasties I’ve ever had in London were from Toastits in Camden Lock Market. Make sure you get there before 4pm because they usually sell out.
8. Last but not least, the sweets
The English have us completely schooled when it comes to chocolate. Cadbury, Galaxy, Mars Bars, Maltesers… I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it (luckily I shipped a massive space bag filled with chocolate back home with me). British sweets taste richer and smoother than your typical American Hershey’s bar. This is largely contributed to by different regulations regarding chocolate in each country.
The main difference is that British chocolates tend to be higher in fat and cocoa content, while US candies are higher in sugar, so don’t be fooled: Cadbury produced in the US doesn’t come close to the sweets you’ll get right in England.