Britain’s best and worst food

Roger Bara

The country of Wales in one of my favourite places within the British Isles. I lived there for a few years in my early career, and indeed my eldest son was born there, and remains very proud of his heritage. It has its own language which is still used extensively, especially in the more rural parts of what is a beautiful country.

It’s also where you will find the very best item to consume that Britain has to offer. So good, they named it after me! Oh yes, I give you Bara Brith.

The literal translation is “speckled bread”, and it’s often regarded as Wales’ national fruitcake. It is traditionally made by soaking dried fruit in strong black tea overnight, and then mixed with flour, brown sugar, eggs, marmalade, cinnamon and mixed spices.

Bara Birth Bread
Bara Birth Bread

You probably won’t find it outside the country, but it is widely available in shops, bakeries and tearooms all over Wales.

My worst food is the Chip Butty. It is literally a sandwich containing only chips (or as my Yankee buddy would say, “fries”), with the bread liberally spread with butter, which is presumably from where the “butty” in the name stems.

It is literally carbohydrate hell. To me, tasteless and rather pointless, but there are masses of folk who would take me to task on that one. If you want to find out just how bad it really is, you can find this vulgarity at most of Britain’s chip shops and casual eateries. Yuk!

America’s best and worst food

Photograph of Dean Lewis

I think just about every country has a dish for which it’s famous. This is the case for good reason: most countries have some excellent food. The stereotype for my country is a big, thick steak. Yeah, I love a good steak but it’s not the popular dish Europeans imagine it to be. A great 16 oz stake will set you back the better part of a hundred dollars in a half-decent restaurant. Despite the stereotype, red meat is not as popular as you may think, because of the price. 

I’m going with a basic cowboy food: Chili. American style Chili doesn’t taste like its UK counterpart, (spelt chilli). In the US Chili powder is not only ground up chili pepper, it’s an entire collection of spices prepackaged in a bottle you can get at the grocery store. You use several heaping tablespoons to get a medium chili. Wanna guess what I did the first time I used European chili powder? Yeah, I really did that.

Chili Powder Bottle

In order to get real chili powder, I had to pack some in a suitcase on a flight back from America. I love it and I’m far from alone. Almost every town in the US has a chili cook-off. Many businesses and organizations will make a big potful and folks will show up and buy a small plastic spoon. You go from stall to stall and get tiny paper bowels full, then vote for the best. I’ll resist the temptation to explain how the votes are tabulated.

Oh hell; now I’m forced to tell you about a food so horrifying that I actually have a gag reflex at the mere smell. Yes, I really do! Boiled Spinach… the horrid dish from hell served on tables across the deep south. 

God, I don’t even want to relive the trauma in order to tell you the story. My Mother, yes, my very own Mom, used to boil the vile leaf especially for me! She would slop it across an innocent dinner plate BECAUSE ITS GOOD FOR YOU! And there it was, steaming, stinkin’, chicken shit green, and I was expected to put it in my mouth. Oh God, and to make matters even more dire, my father was a Master Sargent in the US Army. Yeah, one of those guys. It’s like when Shrimpy asks you for a small favor in an Italian accent. Hard for a fifty-pound kid to say no. Excuse me, Sargent Lewis, Sir, have you considered the possibility we could hold hands and sing? No – that thought never occurred to him.

Now, Roger… yes, the butt-head in the picture above. Roger, tells me, with a smirk, that boiling it removes all the vit-ta-mins (whatever the hell that is) so I didn’t really have to eat it after all. Comedian. I’m really starting to hate that guy.

Russia’s best and worst food

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

Russian cuisine is pretty basic. It is no haute cuisine like French, Chinese, or Japanese. It is also primarily continental, as historically, Russia had no access to seas, so it is always more about food than fish. 

 It resembles German or Czech food: lots of meat, potato, and some vegetables. There are some regional specialities, but it is plain overall. 

The worst thing to me is schi. It is a vegetable soup based on cabbage, some potato (of course!), and meat, usually beef. 

Back in the 80s, when I was at school, schi was the most common meal in my family, and I have hated it ever since. What a dull, non-imaginative story! Now I enjoy the privilege of never eating it because I am literally fed up with it. 

As to the best thing in Russian cuisine, I am in doubt. There’s another soup, bortch, based on beet(root). It is a big difference compared to schi!

Russian Style Pelmeni
Russian Style Pelmeni

Various kinds of pirozhki are probably known in the West as a Russian delicacy. 

Still, the best thing to me is pelmeni or dumplings, known as manty in eastern Russia. Most people believe pelmeni came from Siberia and is considered an authentic Russian meal. I mean, the classic meat dumplings. 

However, Siberia is the marker. Originally, this meal came from China. Bigger dumplings are known as manty. Smaller stuff is pelmeni. 

They have ravioli as a distant relative in Italy, by the way. 

So pelmeni is pretty basic, and you wouldn’t eat it daily. Some men prefer it with vodka. As I wouldn’t say I like vodka, I use soy sauce and butter as a seasoning, and sometimes green onion and sour cream.