Continental Europe might lengthy have seemed, askance and appalled, at Britons’ potential to hit the sauce on an empty abdomen, after which to maintain on hitting it. Before hitting it some extra.
But, equally baffling to overseas eyes, noses and stomachs is the UK’s consumption of a wealthy and unusual array of precise sauces.
Handily for Spaniards, one of many nation’s eminent cultural diplomats and famous gourmands has simply produced a information to what to anticipate – and what to reject – when confronted with the conundrum of the UK’s many condiments.
Ignacio Peyró, a journalist and creator who can also be the director of the Instituto Cervantes in London, begins his 1,000-word piece for Spanish Esquire with a wily disclaimer: “Railing against British food is a passion capable of bringing together not just visitors to these isles but also the locals themselves … Whether justified or not, the bad reputation of English food remains one of the most dependable things in this world.”
From there on, issues are appropriately bittersweet. English mustard – “the most patriotic” of all British sauces – harbours “such a devastating strength that it scorches the unsuspecting palate as thoroughly as the most spiteful chilli”. Ditto horseradish sauce.
Peyró has the grace to acknowledge that Marmite isn’t actually a sauce earlier than dismissing it as “filth”, and transferring on to mint sauce. Perhaps, he suggests, the natural accompaniment is used to disguise the superior age at which individuals within the UK wish to eat their lamb. In Spain, he provides, they have an inclination “more towards infanticide when it comes to matters ovine”.
Branston pickle is “a classic snack for drunk people”, whereas HP sauce is “a sickly-sweet, unsophisticated” barbecue-sauce-style affair consumed in “its hectolitres” with Sunday morning English breakfasts throughout the land.
There are, nevertheless, exceptions. Piccalilli – aka “mustard with other stuff”, aka “that noble Anglo-Indian spiritual creation” – is nice with ham, he conceeds. Bread sauce, in the meantime, is a “splendid and vital accompaniment to a good Scottish partridge”, and Peyró can’t for the lifetime of him fathom why “it’s had less success abroad than Ringo Starr’s solo career”.
And then there’s the brown alchemy contained in a bottle of Lea and Perrins, which calls for to be unleashed and utilized liberally to a chunk of Welsh rarebit – “as it is by all good Britons”.
For all his ribbing, Peyró, who has lived within the UK for two-and-a half years, is enthusiastic and educated on the subject of UK produce and cooking. He is a fan of its kippers, soups, recent raspberries, oysters, fennel, “really, really good eggs”, and what he calls its “extraordinary range” of beers – even when many wouldn’t swimsuit a Spanish summer season afternoon’s consuming.
“I always defend British food and I think it’s not as well known as it should be,” he informed the Guardian.
“You’ve got wonderful things, such as pies – chicken and leek pie, for instance, is a marvellous thing – which are lovely because they’re sort of ancient foods; a bit like Henry VIII’s tupperware. And besides, a pie is always something special. Then you have the roasts. You just can’t argue with roast beef.”
But, as along with his heretical stance on Marmite, there are some issues he fears he won’t ever get his head or mouth round.
“To be honest, I don’t think anyone from the continent ever gets used to rhubarb,” he admits.
“People say, ‘Oh, but it’s such a beautiful colour!’ But no. You do what you can, but it’s impossible.”