Immigration is a hot topic at the moment following the EU Referendum. Beyond the current political situation, it reminded me of how important immigration was to the development of the Britain’s food culture and what a dull, gastronomic desert we would be living in without it!
Migrants from Italy, China and the Indian sub continents in the 1960s enabled the British dining public to develop a taste for eating out and, in the process, created meals that we have come to call our own.
Since time immemorial the British have beg, stealed, borrowed and adapted foods from all over the world. So when these immigrants, started to open restaurant, the British embraced it.
Immigrants setting up restaurants brought with them new ways of dining, with their restaurants helping to democratise the dining out experience by making it accessible, inexpensive and a touch exotic. They built on the British culinary tradition of fusing tastes from elsewhere to spice up the often dull, traditional cuisine. Eating out became a joyful experience!
So it was that in 1965 almost a third of the British population had eaten in a Chinese restaurant, whilst only 5% had dined on French cuisine. With Chinese food, there was the sense of going into a foreign country – there was chopstick to master and the Lazy Susan! The foreign dining experience felt both exciting and daunting.