Snapshots from the UK: How the English Eat


My father, a bonafide anglophile, warned me: "When you move to England, watch how they eat!"

"What do you mean, dad?" I laughed at him. "Don't they eat like everyone else?"

"No—you'll see. They pile everything up on their fork as if they were stacking up a Leaning Tower of Peas at the end of their tines."

Sure enough, as is usual, my father was completely right. There's a lot of chat about which way of eating is correct: the European method, where the fork remains in the left hand, and the knife in the right, or the American method, where the fork rests in the left hand while the food is being cut, and then moved to the right in order to eat.

But what about the English method?

The English method a painstaking process. It begins with the European method, but while we Americans will look at a plate of meat-potatoes-'n'-veg and prong one bite of steak and munch away before sticking a portion of peas, the English insist on having a little bit of each plated element on their fork at any given time. Thus, watching an Englishman eat is watching an orchestration of planning and restraint. Without fail, they come to the end of their dinner with exactly one tiny bit of each meal component remaining, so that no bite ever must be taken without the crowning pea, or last flourish of gravy. Like the European fork and knife method, it is a skill to be learned, and to be watched with awe and aspiration.

Check out the photos above of real live Englishmen eating plates of bangers and mash. Notice how each forkful includes sausage, potatoes, cabbage, peas, and gravy. Amazing!

I know it all ends up mashed together in the same place, but I so prefer to taste each element of my food separately—but then again, I'm American and can't help my culinary predispositions. How do you do it?