I Apologise for Our Sandwiches

Worst sandwich sign

British food doesn’t have the best reputation around the world. I can get defensive when people criticise British food (can’t I Mike), but the reputation is certainly partly justified. As I see it, it’s not that British people don’t appreciate good food, or can’t tell the difference between good food and bad food, it’s more the case that historically we’ve probably been more willing to put up with bad food than say the Americans are. Our tolerance levels of what is acceptable are higher. And of course traditional dishes and food of one nation aren’t necessarily to the taste of other nations if they haven’t grown up on it.

Conversely, a lot of Brits who haven’t visited the States have the impression that the majority of Americans live mainly on junk food, again, a reputation that is perhaps partly justified – and again, having previously lived for a few years in the States, I find myself on occasions getting defensive about American food when I come across the “All they eat is junk food and buckets of coke” attitude.

There are many good restaurants in the UK, and we regularly turn out world-class chefs, but I totally get why American visitors over here can get a bad impression of British food, especially while they’re out doing touristy things and grabbing food on the go. Take sandwiches as an example. The Americans really know how to do sandwiches. Mostly, we don’t. Sure, there are places over here where you can get decent sandwiches, but there are still vast amounts of frankly terrible sandwiches being served. I apologise for our sandwiches on behalf of my nation. And let’s not even talk about some of the pathetic excuses for burgers that are served here. The food served inside tourist attractions over here is generally not great.

But let’s redress the balance a little, I’m sure Americans would agree that you can also get plenty of bad food over there. I lived in Vegas for a few years, and some of the cheaper buffets were pretty nasty, one particular casino that shall remain nameless had a buffet with the reputation around town of “All you can keep down for $4.99.”

Over 350lbs sign

photo credit: CIN SITY via photopin (license)

There are some food items that I think we do better over here in the UK, overall. I’m not going to do a long comparative list of which items I think are better here and which there. Well that’s not exactly true, I DID start doing a long list but then decided it was a bit dull, so scrapped it.

I do think things are improving over here, but I don’t think I’m being unfair to say that the average food establishment in the States is still probably much better than the average food establishment over here, and when I say “better” I’m talking about quality, presentation, taste, and value. Having said that, I haven’t actually eaten in the States for several years, but I’m assuming the quality hasn’t suddenly gone downhill, plus I’ve seen many episodes of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, so I know all that is worth knowing about casual dining stateside.

There are plenty of good places here, but you have to know where to go, and a tourist without guidance is very likely to end up at some disappointing food places, thus affirming the impression they already had that British food is not good.

If you have experienced first hand (and by “first hand” I mean actually in the countries themselves) both British and American food, what would you pick out as the highs or lows of either or both?

Advertisements

80 responses to “I Apologise for Our Sandwiches

  1. I haven’t experienced first hand eating across the pond but I have eaten at some British restaurants stateside. How do the proclaimed British restaurants/pubs fare in terms of authenticity?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well it’s hard for me to give a general view of how authentic the British restaurants are stateside because I haven’t experienced many, and clearly they’re going to vary a lot, but in terms of the few I have experienced, I would say they’re not quite authentic, even when owned and run by British people, in the same way as American diners in the UK are generally not really authentic, or not quite right. I’m sure there are exceptions to both, I just haven’t experienced them myself!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Overall, i can’t disagree with your take on American food. As for your side of the pond, I’ve only been in UK airspace, so I don’t know … but I know the reputation … so I have duly noted one “has to know where to go.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My mother and I did a stopover in London on route to German way back when I was 21. I only recall eating the traditional fare of fish and chips while toodling about Picadilly. Far different from American fish and chips. Definitely heavier on the grease, as the paper wrapping became almost translucent in its saturation. And I won’t discuss my thoughts on German fare, except it was an inconvenient time for me to be a vegetarian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We were in London in ’13 and I agree. The breakfasts and lunches were terrible. A slab o ham and grilled cheese on white bread is not worth the money we paid, but dinners were great once we found a restaurant that was open!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love the sign – that gave me my laugh for the day! American food is generally okay as long as you choose your restaurants with a bit of care, but the one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is that they have no concept of whipped cream. I’m a huge ‘dessertophile’, and I loathe that horrid fluffy white petroleum product that masquerades as whipped cream. Americans think that is whipped cream. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked, “Does that come with real whipped cream?” The server looks at me as though I’ve got two heads and says, “Of course.”
    It’s not. It never is. *shudders* (Okay, rant complete.) 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, when I mentioned the list I had started writing comparing what things I think are better here, and what I think are better there, I had desserts and cakes as generally better here – in my experience I was often disappointed with desserts and cakes over there, they often looked great, but then tasted artificial, as you say with fake cream etc. Over here usually if it’s cream, it’s proper cream. I don’t think you can even buy Cool Whip or anything like that over here. The exception to my dessert thing is ice-cream, in general that’s done much better in America. Although that’s definitely improving here!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lately, restaurants in the U.S. are more focused on quantity rather than quality, I would say. Many of my fellow citizens are perfectly OK with this state of affairs. In fact, my friends often recommend eateries because “the portions are HUGE!”

    This is not a good reason to go anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the over-indulgence was something that bothered me in the States, and obviously I saw a lot of that with all the Vegas buffets! Yes, and that thing about a place being judged good based solely on the portion size! Often the portions over here look meagre, but for me at least they’re plenty enough! Quality should always trump quantity.

      Like

  7. I’ve never heard that the food isn’t as good in England. We certainly didn’t experience that during our trip last March. In fact, I fell so much in love with London (and the other areas I saw), they could have served me leather on cardboard and I would’ve smiled. 🙂

    As for that Vegas buffet—ugh. I think you know how I feel about that subject…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad bad food wasn’t an issue for you over here!

      That picture I posted about eat free if you’re over 350lbs is really disturbing! I never saw any signs like that when I was in Vegas myself. There are some really good buffets in Vegas, and some really awful ones!

      I obviously knew people who worked in casinos, and I heard stories of people who ate so much in buffets that they literally couldn’t move and wheelchairs had to be brought in to take them out!

      Like

  8. From England, I just remember the BAP. I was like what’s a BAP. It’s a sandwich on a roll. OK then. BAP my breakfast sandwich.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I was in the States back in the early nineties, I had to try a McDonalds (I’m very adventurous, food-wise!). I ordered a Cheddar Melt (I think it was called) and the first thing that struck me was the size of it… not like our piddly burgers here in the UK.
    I’m a shocking cook, Vanessa, so if anyone tried my food, I’d do wonders for our food’s reputation! Although, I’m rather good at sandwiches.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve never eaten your Brit food (at least knowingly since I’m sure I just didn’t accidentally eat it at a Burger King over here or something), but I’m sure if I visited, I wouldn’t be too picky. I generally am just happy if it is semi-healthy and curbs my hunger pains. I’m never going to be the food critic writing up a scathing review in a paper…because I really like just about everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Taking on a big responsibility apologizing for a country’s culinary sins Vanessa. Is that sign for real? Double gulp!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t been to the UK, but I like to read everyone else’s input about their experiences. 😀 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. W were I London for 3 days, had some sandwiches on the go, and you’re right, they cannot compare with American sandwiches, sad to say. I did like the fish and chips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I don’t think I fully appreciated how uninteresting our sandwiches were here until I lived in the States! Although having said that, when I was a kid there was a sandwich shop near us that used to do these big overstuffed rolls that were really good, with lovely fresh ingredients, and a tangy sauce. We used to sometimes go lunchtimes from school and would share one of them between two of us they were so big!

      Like

  14. I had my very first strawberry frappucino in an England airport. I thought perhaps they invented them! Then I came home and saw that Starbucks had them all over the place. Maybe they hit both places while I was abroad. So, the juries out on that one. Sadly, I don’t recall the food I ate in the airport. But, mmmm, it was a good frap!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for stopping by my blog and pointing me to your fabulous site!
    (As I responded to you there…) I have to admit that when we moved to Glasgow and big-city amenities, both the service and food quality went up exponentially! I could take you to Scottish restaurants that could hold their own on a world stage.
    Until it comes to breakfast, that is. No matter your level of international savoir faire, you still want what Mum served. [Hope you’ll forgive the linking — http://barbtaub.com/2014/03/18/tuesday-updates-you-are-what-you-breakfast/ ]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Where did that first pic come from? It looks like a New York street. I’d recognize that sidewalk steel door anywhere.

    My favorite food joke is from Mike Myers about his native Canada. Nobody ever says, “Let’s eat Canadian tonight!” You can, on the other hand, eat at authentic British pubs here. Bangers and mash anyone?

    The Brits have a greater tolerance for discomfort because they’ve been through the mill more than we ever have. You guys have had bombs rain down on your cities. We have one building knocked down and spend decades wallowing in hurt over it.

    I’m happy to hear that you get Diners, Drive-ins and Dives out there. It’s a real piece of Americana. Lovely post. You should write more frequently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That picture came from me Google image searching for “Bad sandwiches”, (I’ve seen similar signs like that before too), it didn’t say where the sign was photographed, so if you say it’s New York, then I believe you!

      That’s an interesting view on our tolerance for discomfort, I’m going to mull that over more, thank you.

      The Food Network over here seems to show hours of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives every day!

      Like

  17. Very interesting. I have never visited England, but recently I was buying sweet potatoes at the local grocery store. An elderly British woman asked me what they were and after I told her, she launched into this speech about England, how much she missed London, etc. It was a fascinating conversation because most of my relatives are from England and Ireland and I’ve always wanted to visit. Then she suggested I try putting baked beans on a baked potato, “it’s delicious!” So I tried it and….how do I put this…it was bland and blah. Pretty awful, actually. haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great post, Vanessa! And what perfect timing, as I’ll be in England in April! I’m pretty adventurous with food, but personal recommendations are always better than the variety you see on Yelp! Maybe you can share some of your favorites with travelers like me? 😉 (One thing I’m excited to try while I’m there is how the UK does curry!)

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be very curious to see your comparison list, as I do the same sort of thing with Japan and the US (truly ethnic dishes aside, the one thing they do much better in Japan is fried chicken, go figure!). Portions are a big problem here, no doubt. I wish we could get away from the Walmart mentality of bigger is better for everything, and learn to appreciate the subtler nuances involved in culinary affairs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ll definitely give you some dining tips, and I hope we’ll be able to meet up! How funny that Japan does better fried chicken than the US. Yes, curry is pretty much our national dish, I very rarely go out for a curry though, partly because it seems to be difficult to get them to understand that I don’t like cilantro/coriander, but I make them at home. I think TripAdvisor might be your friend here for finding good curry houses in London, I wouldn’t know where to recommend, although I have friends in London I could ask. I’ll start thinking about where to recommend for other eating places though, but do feel free to prompt me if it’s getting closer and you haven’t heard from me!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I was watching a BBC series “Death in Paradise” last night and the British Inspector made his French second a sandwich which turned out to be “cheese and pickle.” Do you really have such a thing and is it popular? She plucked a pickle from it and refused to eat it, which is probably what I would do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheese and pickle is a very traditional British sandwich, not so popular anymore, but used to be. When we say pickle, it’s not pickles as in pickled cucumbers, it’s more of a chutney, various diced vegetables in a dark tangy sauce and Branston is the go-to brand. You can get Branston pickle in the States in some places. Anyway, certainly not everyone over here likes it, it’s an older generation thing really, and quite honestly if it’s not something you’ve grown up eating, you’re probably not going to like it!

      Like

  20. Curry, curry, curry. Some of the best curry I’ve ever had I ate in London. I do think that every single noncurried vegetable I ate was extremely overcooked. Al dente should apply to veggies as well as to pasta. As for American food, I live in San Francisco, and we tend not to return to a restaurant if we aren’t completely pleased with what we’re served. So many restaurants, so little time, so we’re pretty picky. That said, we eat Thai, Vietnamese, Persian, Mexican, Spanish, Central American, Peruvian, Japanese, Afghani, Burmese, Italian, Greek, French, etc etc etc, along with some of the best hamburgers (organic, grass fed) around. And sandwiches! You can get just about any vegetable+sauce+sandwich meat stacked on a huge variety of breads, including gluten free bread. Then there are the Whole Foods Market hot and cold serve yourself food bars. They are also called “Whole Paycheck Market” for a reason, but the quality is higher than many other “take out salad bar” establishments. More than you wanted to know? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Since I’m vegan, I’m hesitant to travel. I know the great places to get wonderful, fresh, plant-based food in Portland. Are there places I could eat something healthy in England (other than lettuce)?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. There’s both good and bad in both countries.

    I find the bad worst in the US. Finding real ingredients like whipped cream (as mentioned above) is also more of challenge there. In the UK, the trickiest part is avoiding the faux artisanal like in chain pubs.

    The US has done a good job with their high-end popular foods like burgers and the UK with some of their pubs.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. My uncles and cousins live in England, so I went over there about 6 years ago to visit. I don’t recall having a terrible experience with food. Now, mind you, I’m not very picky, and I am a huge fan of “comfort food.” So, I often ordered fried fish or pies of some sort. I loved the beer, and over there, your beer is a meal in itself! 🙂 Maybe that’s why I had a wonderful dining experience!

    There are plenty of places in the US that don’t do food well, but they don’t stay in business long for that reason. I think in the US, we are very entertainment-focused. As a society, we do a lot of going out and eating. It’s really a big deal to go out and have a nice meal at least once a week. I don’t know how people can afford it, but I find that to be generally true.

    There are restaurants of all kinds practically anywhere you go. Lots of fast food establishments, smoothie bars, pizza joints, Chinese/Japanese, Mexican … the list goes on. Even in small towns, it’s fairly easy to find some kind of restaurant or diner. I feel like because of the way our society is, high quality of food is expected, and because there is so much competition, if you don’t do food well, your doors won’t stay open.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kate, glad you enjoyed the beer here too, there are indeed some wonderful ones!

      Yes, when I lived in Vegas we ate out about 5 times a week I think! There used to be a lot of 2 for 1 coupons for locals to encourage them into the local casinos to eat where less of the tourists went.

      The competition is why I’m surprised so many bad places still survive, certainly in London and other big cities where there is no shortage of competition. I guess like I said, we’re just used to putting up with lower quality as a nation!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I’ve lived in England and the USA. Ignoring “fast food”, both countries have their good and bad offerings. Generally speaking though (from where I’m standing), I find the average English meal not as good as the American one. In the States the schools I went to had home economics and cooking was a main part of the syllabus, whereas in England people are not taught to cook as much (except may in the North).

    The mixture of root nationalities in the USA contribute to the food more than England but that is changing, especially in London, over the last 10-15 years.

    I may be wrong, but most peole want to eat a meal, not some so called “Art Food” which has three pieces of stuff on with a drip of sauce and are charged hundreds of UKP per plate. Other restaurants produce meals in England which are okay.

    Tha main difference may not be the food – but the people who eat it. I think most Americans will get up and walk out if the food sucks. An English person will tend to, “Stiff upper lip it” and eat the rubbish. So there is probably a cultural thing happening as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree with most of what you’re saying here.

      All kids here do learn to cooking and nutrition at school, it’s part of the national curriculum, but maybe they do a lot less of it than in the states, I don’t know. What I’m more surprised about is when my kids tell me that for some of the kids in their classes, the cooking they do at school is the only cooking they have ever done! Isn’t a basic skill that people teach their kids at home? (Not that I’m judging, I’m just surprised!).

      I think the art food experience you describe can be nice as an occasional thing, as long as there is enough to actually make you feel you’ve eaten something, and maybe that’s through having several different courses.

      And yes, the British will often tolerate rather than complain! (Well we complain quietly to each other, but not so much to the people who we should be complaining to!).

      Like

  25. Good fish & chips or a carvery take some beating for me. I have had the pleasure of food stateside and with one exception (an italian restaurant by the side of lake tahoe) everything was good. Sandwiches over there were like a full meal in between some bread!

    We don’t complain as much and I think that causes a lack in standards sometimes. Totally agree that any sandwiches near tourist venues are beyond bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. That’s an awesome sign. I’d totally try the meatballs just for that… then post the results on Yelp.

    Like

  27. I don’t want those meatballs.
    Living in Germany, I meet a lot of people who believe the British are terrible cooks. Before my German husband met me, he was led to believe that British sausages contained sawdust!?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, a lot of other European countries think that about the British, as I said, partly justified, but not completely! Sawdust! I’ve never heard that one – it was probably a terrible rumour that started after the war or something! Wait, I’m going to look it up…oh look, there is a basis for his belief! This is a quote from wikipedia “Cellulose, fibre starch that is indigestible to humans, and a filler in some low calorie foods, can be and is made from sawdust, as well as from other plant sources.[3] While there is no documentation[4] for the persistent rumor, based upon Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, that sawdust was used as a filler in sausage, cellulose derived from sawdust was and is used for sausage casings.” Who knew! (Well, apart from your husband).

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I fell in love with sticky toffee pudding in England. 🙂 And yes, your traditional ales and stouts are really good, too. But I couldn’t bring myself to eat blood sausage. 😉

    You can certainly find some awful food here in the States as well, even when it’s not of the “junk” variety. There’s good and bad everywhere, and so much also depends on personal taste.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I remember you saying about liking our desserts, we certainly can do some good desserts. And as you say, the ales and stouts! I’m with you on the blood sausage. I’ve eaten it a few times, not by choice, but if it’s part of a cooked breakfast in a hotel or something, but I can’t get past the thought of what it is. I would try it again though if someone cooked it in a fancy way and wanted me to try it (I’ve seen it used on Masterchef in ways that looked good!).

      Yes definitely good and bad everywhere, but I do think the balance of good to bad is a lot better in the states overall, even taking account of personal taste.

      Like

  29. We spent almost 2 weeks in London/area a few years ago – and were prepared for bad food experiences – especially as we were on a tight budget. But have to say we never had a bad meal. We ate in little places and often stopped ordinary people and asked what was a good place to eat close by. (People were so kind and helpful!) As far as we’re concerned, it was great.
    Here in the states, we usually avoid the big chains. Small local and out of the way places tend to be best. Takes a bit of asking around and price isn’t always a good way to judge. Some of the pricy tourist area places near us are pretty bad. Pretty scenery maybe, but best just get a drink and appetizers then move on for the meal

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you didn’t have a bad food experience over here! Like you say it’s about finding those nice little places. Often the obvious place right in front of you isn’t the best! I know what you mean about the big chains, but the advantage with them, wherever you are, is that at least you know what you’re going to get (assuming it’s a chain you’re familiar with), they’re generally fairly consistent from branch to branch aren’t they, so if you’re rushing and just want to grab something quick, they can be a safer bet if you don’t have time to browse or ask. Although having said that, if I’m travelling, whether in England, or abroad, I’m always keen to try different local foods, so I would avoid a familiar chain then.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I love your English breakfasts. Eggs, blood sausage, beans, grilled tomato. Truly one of my favorites. Your fish and chips is delicious too. London’s Chinatown has some great Chinese too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You like the blood sausage do you! It’s very polarising. I’m not too keen on that myself, I wouldn’t choose to order it, but if someone served it to me somewhere, I’d eat it, I’m not a picky eater (except when it comes to cilantro). Yes, I had a Chinese in London’s Chinatown just a few weeks ago and it was indeed yummy!

      Like

Anything you'd like to say? Now's your chance...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s