29 | Mar | 17

Hugh Thomas

Eat The World

This week, as we’re all too aware, Britain enters a new chapter. Now that the Brexit trigger has been pulled, there ain’t no going back. It’s one of the reasons we’re launching the European Street Food Awards this summer – when it comes to street food, Europe’s a force in its own right. Enough, you might say, to rival Asia or the Americas. Why break it up?

Nobody really knows how things will unfurl for street food from here on in. Traders have already told us they’re worried about the cost of ingredients inflating – likely the first thing customers will notice. Anxiety surrounding an uncertain future is a big thing for low-margin traders too.

But maybe we’ve missed something that transcends all that. Something that’s buried deep within the within the bedrock of British culture. There’s little doubt the UK has one of the most diverse set of traditions and beliefs seen anywhere on the planet (cultural appropriation notwithstanding). With those cultures comes their respective cuisines. Here, in Britain, you can eat the world. Jamaican jerk chicken; flame-crusted, and fiery. Italian pizza – the delicacy among Neapolitan peasants of yore. German Bratwurst, with its moist snap between the teeth, and sauerkraut umami. Soft, pillowy, Taiwanese bao. Mexican tacos – arguably the best flavour delivery system known to man. Bubbly, buttery, sauce-mopping Sri Lankan roti. Southern fried chicken, tea-brined and double battered – just how they like it in the US. Japanese gyoza; slippery-slick and sauce-anointed.

Alright, you get it – almost every cuisine is represented in some form or another in the UK. Problem is, after a referendum result dominated by the rejection of the current immigration policy, could Britain’s melting pot of world cuisine be under threat? The movement of people – just like the invading Romans, who bought leeks, garlic, cabbages, apples, and cherries to Britain, not to mention innumerable dishes we still consume today – is what accounts for the introduction of new, authentic foods. The British palate simply wouldn’t be what it is without it.

Then we have to worry about Scotland. Their possible exit from the UK means Britain could have a lot to lose. Food-wise, especially – indigenous foods like salmon, scotch, and haggis (among the UK’s biggest exports, incidentally) possess a sense of provenance English food severely lacks. We can only hope that we keep getting invited along to the Scottish Street Food Awards. But with some big decisions coming up in the near future, who really knows what ‘British’ food, and British street food, will look like in five years’ time?