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.”
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?