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Travel + Culture

At Last, Patriotic Pride at Table


England used to be the laughing stock of Europe, if not the world, when it came to food. As recently as 2005, Jacques Chirac said Britain was the country with the worst food in Europe, after Finland (a comment that, some say, cost Paris the Olympics). On my own travels in China, I would mumble apologetically when asked to talk about the state of eating habits back at home. Everything has changed, however, in the last few years. Super-celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay have won international acclaim, and it’s widely recognized that London is one of the best places in the world for truly global dining. We all know that. Though, until recently English cooking itself still lagged behind. Now, however, a revival seems to be gaining momentum. Perhaps it began with the gastropubs and their straightforward, seasonal menus, or with Fergus Henderson of St John. But everywhere you look, English food is on the rise. Bookshops are suddenly selling guides to British regional specialties, as well as English cookbooks. Traditional puddings and pies, smoked fish, and roasts are back on the menu. It’s as if, after our long love affair with the honesty and deliciouness of Italian regional cooking, we are realizing that the same principles can be applied to local produce. And this makes me more happy than I can express.