In his essay entitled “A Culinary Wasteland,” food critic John Lanchester laments the decline of British cuisine and its replacement by a more globalized, homogenized diet. He attributes this change to a number of factors, including the rise of fast food chains, the popularity of processed foods, and the decline of traditional cooking skills. While Lanchester’s purpose in writing the essay is primarily to critiqued the current state of British food culture, he also offers some suggestions for how it might be improved. In particular, he advocates for a return to seasonal, local ingredients and a focus on quality over quantity. While some readers may not agree with all of Lanchester’s conclusions, his essay provides an important perspective on the changing landscape of British cuisine.
1- Britain’s changing diet
In his essay, Lanchester also credits the rising popularity of processed foods and other high-fat foods with largely adding to the demand for traditional cooking skills. However, the rise of fast food chain restaurants and other fast food options also created an additional challenge. This new, more intense focus on quick and easy meals, coupled with an increasing desire to eat at home, has led to a decline in traditional cooking skills.
In particular, Lanchester highlights the decline of the kitchen and housewife, who are now expected to make more than ever before. This dramatic decline in the function of traditional cooking can be seen in the following table: Traditional cooking skills decline – Change in traditional skills, including finger foods, recipies, and other traditional activities, as a result of fast food and other processed foods.
2- The decline of traditional cooking skills
Traditional cooking and meal planning skills plummeted during the period of rapid industrialization in the British Isles around the 1960s and 1970s. As a result of increased access to fresh, local product, along with the decline of traditional skills, the amount of traditional cookingSkill plummeted from between 40 and 60 hours per week in the absence of more intensive farm-based work to about 24 hours in the absence of full-time work.
3- The rise of fast food
As a result of the rapid industrialization of the British Isles, the number of hours spent on traditional cooking skills also plummeted. As a result, the number of traditional cooking hours also plummeted. This means that the raw material requirements for traditional cooking have increased at an exponential rate during this period. This increase in raw material requirements can be seen in the following table: Traditional cooking skills increase – Raw materials required for traditional cooking rise by approximately 10 times during this period, and are now more than 5 times more costly than before.
4- The changing nature of food
An important reason why traditional cooking skills plummeted during this period is the changing nature of food. While grain-based dishes such as rice and wheat bran have remained popular in the British Isles, they have been replaced with more expensive proteins such as fish, muscle-meat, and poultry. Moreover, whole foods (vegetables and fruit) have also become more expensive. This trend further increases the task of the traditional cook and makes it difficult for them to continue to make traditional meals at home.
Traditional cooking in the British Isles has always been an important part of everyday life. This has always been so because traditional meals have been a part of rural life and have been replaced by more affordable, more portion-able foods. Since the advent of processed foods and other high-fat foods, however, traditional cooking skills have dwindled. Traditional cooking skills, therefore, should improve in order for people to be able to make fulfilling traditional meals at home. In order to make this happen, it is essential for the British diet to be reorganized so that it more closely reflects the changing requirements of the modern individual.