Britain and Ireland are steeped in traditional and easily recognizable foods, many of which have made their way into other food cultures worldwide. There are, however, foods and drinks now raised to near iconic status and considered typical of all things British.
One of the great British discussions - after the weather - is do you love it, or hate it? British favorite Marmite is a rich, dark-brown, yeasty spread for hot toast, spread on wafer biscuits, as a hot drink or a sandwich filling. Marmite lovers will tell you it is good on or in almost anything! The spread has a dense, salty flavor and must be used sparingly. Marmite is made from yeast extract (a by-product of the brewing industry) and is a rich source of vitamin B complex. Statistics say that 25% of Britons take Marmite with them when travelling.
Robinsons Lemon Barley Water is as much a part of a British summer as strawberries and cream being the drink of choice for players at the Wimbledon Tennis tournament. The drink was launched in 1823 as a powder to mix with water and didnt make an appearance in its current bottled form until 1935. The refreshing drink was designed to be taken to combat fever and kidney complaints and thus began its long association with health and fitness which still exists today.
No self-respecting full English breakfast is seen without it and a humble bacon sandwich raised to gourmet status with a dash of the 'brown stuff'. HP Sauce has graced British tables since the late 19th century with the slim bottle and distinctive label featuring the Houses of Parliament now a British icon. HP sauce contains malt vinegar, spices and tomato with the recipe a well-kept secret. It resembles an American barbecue sauce though not used in the same way. Like mustard or ketchup HP is blobbed on the side of the plate for dipping; drizzling over food considered a little vulgar except in a sandwich.
It may now be brewed all over the world, but Guinness is still synonymous with its birthplace in Ireland in 1799. True devotees of the “black stuff” will vow that true Guinness is only found in Dublin pubs, where the pouring to create a large creamy head is considered an art form. The brewery at St James’s Gate is now one of the largest breweries in the world producing about 70 million gallons every year.
Colmans Mustard is considered one of the oldest (and most recognised) brands across the UK. The distinctive, bright yellow mustard has been made in Norwich, in England since 1814. The bull's head logo first appeared in 1855 and remains a symbol of both tradition and quality. No British or irish sausage is complete without a blob of the pungent condiment.
Birds Custard Powder
Throughout Great Britain and Ireland mention custard, and the first thought will be of Birds Custard. The sauce is made from a corn flour based powder and bears little resemblance to the thick egg based sauce of 'real' custard (the French Creme Anglaise). It's distinctive taste is the perfect partner to rich English puddings and the base of a traditional Trifle. Bird's Custard was invented by Alfred Bird in 1837 and remains today much as it has always been. No British store cupboard is complete without a tin lurking somewhere at the back.
The best-selling lemonade was first produced in 1845 by Robert and Mary White. They set up business selling home-made brews from a barrow in Camberwell, London. By 1896 the fame of the company had spread including abroad to among others the Emperor Napoleon of France. Its claim to fame not only a high-quality soft drink and made with real lemons but the quirky advertising theme introduced in the 1970's of the Secret Lemonade Drinker. The man in his early 30s, with dark hair and wearing heavy rimmed glasses sleeps in striped pyjamas and lives in a semi in the suburbs. He has an obsession with R Whites Lemonade and feeds his addiction secretly at night.
No self-respecting chef will give kitchen space to an Oxo cube. But, the foil wrapped cubes of beef stock in their distinctive red and white box are an iconic British brand and over two million are still sold every day in the UK. Their popularity came from post-war years of rationing when meat was still in short supply and the tiny cube gave a kick start to many meat dishes and produced a half-decent gravy.