I have always joked about my parents, that their idea of enjoying an exotic meal is to open a tin of spaghetti.
Spaghetti, of course, is an Italian pasta dish, but for as long as I can recall and probably longer still a version of the dish has been very much a part of the English staple diet. The version in question involves the product being cooked, chopped up into very small pieces, immersed in a cheap sugary sauce that is sometimes alleged to contain tomato and cheese, put into a tin and, when opened, boiled for three minutes in a saucepan and eaten as a toast topping.
I am not being unfair to my parents. They were brought up in a society in which English people ate English food, and even I as a child lived on a diet of basic meat and vegetables lacking in any kind of spice beyond a sprinkling of white pepper. I distinctly remember the joy I felt when I ate my first curry, which came out of a box that was purchased from the local supermarket which also contained a small bag of plain white rice which had to be boiled in the bag. My parents, bless them, wouldn’t go near it. I got to eat the whole box.
It is hard to credit just how much things have changed in a generation. Go to any big city in the UK, or indeed even to most small country towns, and there will be “ethnic” options aplenty. Indeed it would not be unusual even at the most conspicuously English eatery to find curry, pasta or something involving chilli on the menu.
Alongside the “English” curry, one of the most popular and sought-after dishes is undoubtedly pizza. The delicious soft bread base liberally topped with almost any ingredient one can imagine is a favourite food all over the world. And although it is Italian in origin, it is not unknown to encounter versions with a recognisably Indian, Chinese, South East Asian or Middle Eastern touch.
At Eco Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants near Clapham Common, one can enjoy pizza toppings of smoked salmon, Gloucester ham, mixed seafood and American style pepperoni, as well as fine wines from around the world. Eating out today is a truly cosmopolitan experience.
The “rosbifs” of old could not have begun to imagine what they were missing.