You can’t beat British food, whatever anyone says

PUBLISHED: 12:35 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:35 12 March 2019

Who doesn't love a toad in the hole? Photo: Archant

Who doesn't love a toad in the hole? Photo: Archant


Toad in the hole, Shepherd’s Pie, Cumberland sausage. Why don’t we celebrate our traditional dishes more? asks James Marston

Eric's Fish & Chip's in Thornham. Photo: Root Social.Eric's Fish & Chip's in Thornham. Photo: Root Social.

Despite what you may hear, and indeed, think, newspapers like ours aren’t only interested in bad news or when things go wrong.

Blaming the media – a national pastime if you ask me, usually indulged in when the message isn’t one that someone wants to hear – is usually a bit unfair. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

To prove my point about the media being interested in good news too, I spy that Eric’s Fish and Chip Shop in Thornham has been named as one of the best in the country. Apparently it’s been singled out for its quality and service.

It made me rather fancy some fish and chips to be honest. But I like traditional British dishes like toad in the hole, roast beef, shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, English breakfast, apple crumble, Scotch egg, black pudding, shortbread, bubble and squeak, custard, summer pudding, and all the rest of it.

Maybe I’ve got to that age but I think British food sometimes gets a bit of a bad press. And if you go to a restaurant it’s always “British with a modern twist” or some such jargon, almost as if we are ashamed of our national traditional cuisine.

Yet we shouldn’t be.

A little internet research provided me with some interesting factoids

-Black pudding has been around since ancient times Homer mentions it in The Odyssey.

-Cottage pie dates from 1791, Shepherd’s pie from 1854.

-Cumberland sausage has been around for half a millennium.

-Pasties have been around for around 800 years.

-Steak pies were eaten in medieval England.

-Toad in the hole is around 300 years old, give or take.

It seems to me our cuisine has a rich history, indeed Indian dishes and Chinese dishes too have a long heritage in the UK.

Regional food also intrigues me, I’ve already mentioned the Cumberland sausage, and I like a Devon cream tea, and a bit of Stilton, and the occasional Lancashire hot pot but I wonder if there might be some Norfolk or Suffolk dishes I’ve not heard of.

My mother tells me her grandmother – who was from Rickinghall in Suffolk – made something called rusks – but these are for babies, aren’t they? And not especially Suffolk? I’m not sure. Do let me now.

The other good news story I spotted this week was the latest Good Neighbour Scheme being launched in Acton, near Sudbury in Suffolk.

Apparently there are now 35 such schemes – in which volunteers offer help and social contact to those who might feel isolated – across the county.

It seems that traditional ideas of community might not be such a bad thing after all – and it’s time we recognised that by living together we are inextricably linked. I come from a village in west Suffolk where people still know each other, where a community still retains a community feel, where we celebrate and mourn together when the times come. This community life is something we can easily take for granted, or even sneer at, or ignore and disregard, but it is also something that, especially in our rural areas of Norfolk and Suffolk we can still find and still nurture if we are so inclined.

Like everything in life, it is one of those things we think we won’t miss until it’s gone entirely.

I think this scheme, as well as Eric’s fish and chips, are worth celebrating. The news isn’t always bad.

And at least it makes a change from Brexit and Trump.

Do you like good news? Why does bad news gain more traction? What do you think? Write to James at

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