I’ve been wondering if there are universal recipient and universal donor cuisines just like there are universal recipient and universal donor blood groups.
Are there national cuisines that everyone likes regardless of where they come from – universal donor cuisines – and national cuisines that only those coming from that country itself like – universal recipient cuisines?
I say this because French food is generally considered to be the best thing since sliced bread – although I wonder if that is a Euro-centric view – whereas British and Dutch food are generally reviled by all those apart from the British and Dutch themselves.
And it’s not even as if we universal recipient cultures stick together either: the British and Dutch like to mock each other’s food like they mock each other’s weather because although we know it’s useless to try and compete with, say, the French in terms of cuisine and the Spanish, say, in terms of weather, we think we might stand a chance of beating each other in terms of slightly less crappy weather and food.
There was an article in the Guardian the other day about British food, which is worth reading more for the comments than for the article itself. The article is a reaction to two studies: one showing that the British eat the fewest vegetables in all of Europe and another showing that over half of the meals eaten out in Britain are fast food. (There’s also a great example of a Dutch person bashing the British in the article.)
The problem I find with the article is that the author and many of the commenters are mixing up diet and cuisine. So the British diet might be bad, probably as a result of the influx of fast-food restaurants and processed food, but this doesn’t mean that British cuisine is bad. It’s more that the Second World War had such an impact due to the scarcity of ingredients and that this was followed by an increasing industrialisation of food and people being sold the idea that instant food would save you time and let you do much more fantastic things instead, an idea that still persists.
I think the Netherlands have a similar history and wonder if one of the reasons why British and Dutch cuisine tend to be reviled is because you often get processed versions of traditional recipes and because a lot of traditional cooking has been forgotten.
This is why it makes me glad to see blogs like The Dutch Table in which Nicole makes traditional Dutch food using proper ingredients. The kids and I recently made roze koeken and the latest post is about eierkoeken, which I’ve never understood and have wanted to make myself because the ones you get from the supermarket just seem dry and tasteless.
I wonder if it isn’t so much that one cuisine is a universal recipient and the other a universal donor but that some cuisines just need a bit of reviving and to be given a chance.