In 1895 the New York Times published a lengthy article of some sophistication and humour, in which it claimed:
…to take a serious view of eating is commonly considered in all Anglo-Saxon communities as the mark of a frivolous, if not depraved, mind.
The article stated that refined eating is a foreign notion in such communities. It claimed they prefer quantity over quality and heterogeneity over harmony, and exhibit vestiges of public easting customs originating in primitive times.
The article contrasted the careful delineation of cuisines in France: bourgeois, peasant, haute, and other refinements that don’t exist in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The American barbeque is offered as an example of lively old English public entertainments. A good observation I think, as the statement that Boston baked beans is a “cisAtlantic” variation of Britain’s pork and pease pudding.
But more than 120 years have passed. Of course our societies have changed, as well, even in Britain. Is the Times’ view, forged in the heyday of the Protestant ethic, still accurate?
Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Graham Kerr, and many more food writers on both sides of the Atlantic have tried to amend the cultural disposition noted. As do countless restaurateurs and chefs. Have they succeeded?
It’s an apt subject for debate, surely.