One thing that’s often sadly neglected in modern studies of Colonialism is that it’s a two-way street. The influence of the colonizer is, of course, more visible: roads, architecture, clothing, and often even bureaucratic and governmental practices. Nevertheless, the colonized have their own effect on their foreign rulers and nowhere is this more evident than in food. Our own country is a textbook example of this (cornbread stuffing, clambake, or jambalaya, anyone?), as is the long British “relationship” with India.

Imagine a vegetarian shut-in and a carnivore with a gun sharing an apartment that the vegetarian owns, and you’ve got something of an idea of how the British and Indian food cultures intermingled during the Raj. Indian foodways adapted to embrace more meat and foreign ingredients (the chili and tea being the most important), and British foodways developed a certain respect for local spices. Consider the following, from Jennifer Brennan’s  excellent Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and  Cookbook of the British Raj:

Bacon and Coriander Pancakes (From Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and Cookbook of the British Raj)

  • 12 slices bacon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander
  • 4oz mango chutney

Dice bacon finely and set aside. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Stir in eggs and half the milk and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in remaining milk, and stir in chopped coriander.

Fry a heaped tablespoon of bacon in a small pan until crisp. Pour enough batter for one pancake over bacon and fry until underside is light brown. Turn and fry other side, then turn out onto a clean tea towel and fold towel over to keep warm. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked.

Spoon chutney into a small saucepan. Thin with 1 tbs water and heat. Use as sauce for the pancakes. Serve warm.

I wish I could include the vignette that goes with this recipe: it’s priceless. Suffice it to say that if you can find a copy of this book it’s worth picking up even if you never intend to cook anything from it.

To go with the pancakes, I made some straight-up English Oxford Sausages. The skinless, hand-rolled Oxford Sausage dates back to the 18th Century, and it’s unclear wether the name actually refers to Oxfordshire itself or the Tavern at Oxford Gates where the dish may have originated. Either way, it’s traveled around the world wherever British people have gone, including to our own shores: it’s Recipe #25 in Martha Washington’s cookbook (I own the Karen Hess version), and was almost certainly eaten by our first President at his own breakfast:

To Make Oxford Kates Sausages: Take ye leane of porke, or veale, and 4 pound of beef suet, or butter, and shred ym together very fine. Yn season ym with 3 quarter of an ounce of pepper & halfe as much cloves and mace, a good handfull of sage shred small, and what salt fits yr pallate. Mingle these together, yn take 10 eggs, all but 3 whites,  & temper all together with yr  hands.  And  when you use ym,  roule  ym out about ye length and bigness of yr finger. You may roule ym up in flour if you like, but it is better without. When you fry ym, ye butter must boyle in ye pan before you put ym in. When they are pritty brown, take ym up. Their sauce is mustard.

I’ve got several modern recipes for these, all of them good. For the casual enquirer, I’d suggest this one, from a Konemann Step-By-Step cookbook I picked up at Milwaukee’s beloved Half-Price Books in my college days. It has the advantage of not requiring suet, which isn’t always easy to come by in the urban US.

Oxford Sausages (from Step-By-Step English Cooking)

  • 8 slices white bread, in small crumbs
  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal (turkey works, if you have ethical or budgetary issues with veal)
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, kneading with your hands until throughly combined. Divide into 8 portions and roll into sausage shapes. Place sausages on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until browned.

If you’re unconcerned about cholesterol, you can also brown them in butter or some other fat, as per the 18th Century.

Sometimes you find interesting cookbooks in unlikely places. Having been coerced (well, strongly encouraged) by my girlfriend and my friend Scott to attend the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, I was hiding in the Faire’s tiny bookshop from the many, many people dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (this was right after the last Pirates of the Carribean movie was released) and discovered A Taste of England, by Josy Argy and Wendy Riches, sitting on the remainder shelf. It’s essentially a British version of A Taste of Pennsylvania History, but unlike Elliott and Nunley’s later effort, A Taste of England got government support from the English Tourist Board.

There’s an ongoing effort in Britain to rediscover national and local foodways, proud traditions which went into hibernation with the advent of the Empire, the Industrial Revolution and processed foods. This book’s an early (1979) example of the movement, and has a lot of really interesting recipes.

After proudly consuming some very American 4th of July barbecue items on Friday, what’s an Anglophile to do to in repentance but cook something with “Britannia” in its name?

Chicken Britannia (from A Taste of England: Traditional English Food – Where to Find It and How to Cook It)

  • 1 chicken, quartered
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp made English mustard (Colman’s)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix salt, pepper, and cumin and rub into chicken pieces. Spread with mustard and cover with breadcrumbs. Place in baking pan and add stock. Bake for about an hour, until the crumbs and mustard have set into a crunchy coating. Baste and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Serve with savory rice (Near East garlic rice pilaf works well) and pan juices.

This recipe produces a tender, faintly mustardy chicken. The book said it’s also good cold for picnics, and I believe it. It was contributed by the Shant Hotel in Kent, near Maidstone. Apparently the historic building was gutted by a fire in 2002, but it’s still listed as in operation on several current travel websites so perhaps the establishment and the chicken still survive, in name at least. UK readers, please enlighten!