It all started four years ago when Mr. L and I sat down to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. We were hungry, so it only seemed appropriate that we had Chinese food for dinner. The fact that we didn't want to miss a minute of the festivities led to us ordering enough Chinese food for at least ten people and feasting on it for days. It occurred to me that with all the Chinese cookbooks I had, I should have been cooking from them during those Olympics. I vowed that the next Olympics, I would use my vast collection of cookbooks to find recipes representing the country the games were held in.
Which led me to the Vancouver Winter Olympics two years ago. Only I didn't own any Canadian cookbooks so I had to go out and buy one. Yes, an excuse to go buy another cookbook. But I managed to find several wonderful recipes during those Olympics: Butter Tarts in Phyllo Dough and Tourtiere Turnovers which came from the A Taste of Canada cookbook.
Which leads us to these summer Olympic Games in London. Now I have never been to London so I don't have any personal recollections of foods like I did from Canada. I've been to British Pubs. Many actually. And I'm quite fond of Black and Tans though I don't like beer (go figure). And there was all that hoopla last year when there was this wedding in London and I went all out with all things British. But I've never stepped foot on British soil. Mr. L has visited. Even my mother has been there. She lived there for several years. Graduated from high school from there actually. She was even there 60 years ago when Queen Elizabeth was crowned! It was fun listening to her stories about that event during the recent Jubilee. And I still have the tea towel my Grandma W gave me from her trip to London the week after Charles wed Diana (I also still have the vinyl recording of the event she bought me at some shop in London).
But when it comes to British food, the only things that really came to mind were...well...bland food. That and Indian Food (not so bland). Cucumber sandwiches. Pease Pudding and Porridge Pie. Scones. No matter, I had plenty of cookbooks from British authors that I could cook from. Nigella Lawson. Jamie Oliver. But when I started looking through those cookbooks, I began to wonder. Is this really British food? Or were these recipes "dumbed down" a bit for Americans? Should I be cooking "authentic" food from the British Isles? And then do I include foods from Ireland? Scotland? Knowing how popular Indian food is in England, do I include that too?
Obviously I didn't know much about so called British food, so off I went in search of some answers. Just what is considered British food? How authentic are recipes? Would I ever have enough guts to try Black Pudding? (ahem, that's probably a no on that one). And then I realized I was spending far more time researching about England and food and far less time actually cooking said food. So I decided that during these 2012 London Olympics, I'm going to be cooking from cookbooks by British authors and cookbooks about British food (no matter how Americanized they might be). I'll probably leave out foods of Ireland and Scotland (though I'm tempted to make Scotch Eggs again) but I won't rule out a run to the nearest Indian restaurant to try out a version of Tika Masala.
I did find a very interesting book called Eating For Britain (A Journey into the Heart and Belly of a Nation). Alas I wish I was able to get a copy of it sooner as it's an interesting look at exactly what constitutes British Food. I've started reading it but I have a feeling lots of tv watching of the games will curtail me finishing it anytime soon.
I was completely bummed to find out that the local British store here has closed. As you can see by the photo, when I went there a year ago to stock up for the Royal Wedding, I found quite a few wonderful British items to try. I have a friend scoping out the local Aussie store to see if they carry any interesting British foods I might want to try. I also found quite a few items at my local Cost Plus (World Market) store which we'll be trying over the course of the next couple of weeks
Yes, I did buy a couple of new British food cookbooks to go with the cookbooks I already have. One which has become a favorite...so many things to try...and one which I probably will never cook from as the recipes were from professional chefs in London and a bit more complicated than normal.
Using Eat Your Books, I was able to find British recipes included in many of the non-British cookbooks I own (16 recipes for Yorkshire pudding, one even from my Colorado regional cookbook). Except for a few exceptions, I'm trying to make the recipes that come from British authors and cookbooks and not use recipes from other sources. The big task has been to actually narrow the number of recipes down to a manageable quantity. Who knew I'd find so many interesting British recipes to try!?
Hopefully, you too, have caught Olympic fever. And hopefully, maybe sometime during the next few weeks, you'll find yourself having some British food, even if it's just a spot of tea. Feel free to leave links to any posts you have if you've made some British dish for these games.
All I know, is that in two years the Winter Olympics will be held in Russia and two years after that the Summer Olympics will be held in Brazil. I think I need to start planning food festivities now!