New research for supermarket giant Aldi reveals almost half of millennials don’t know what bangers and mash is, a fifth have never tried a Scotch egg and 41 per cent think that toad-in-the-hole is a fictitious dish. To make matters worse, 16 per cent assumed the dish included an actual toad.
With all those TikTok videos to watch and avocados to eat, it’s hardly surprising millennials don’t have time for the dishes their parents once loved. However, they’ve also identified an uncomfortable truth. Lots of things we used to eat in the past really belong there.
Take toad-in-the-hole. It’s a dish that manages to take sausages and Yorkshire pudding and ruin them both in a soggy, claggy mess. We all know it but no one says it because dishes from the past have an untouchable air.
And let’s talk tripe. Growing up, I’d know it was on the menu by the smell emanating from the kitchen which even the most ardent tripe lover would describe as “pungent”. According to them, the odour would vary according to the cow’s diet, which is hardly reassuring. Cooked with onions in a white sauce with lots of black pepper, on a good day it was almost edible. Occasionally I feel a twinge of nostalgia for the dish then I remember that smell and, like a millennial, I’m instantly triggered.
A quick flick through F Marian McNeill’s classic 1929 cookbook The Scots Kitchen shows that tastes really do change and move on. From Carrageen mould to potted hough and lamb’s blood pudding, some once-classic dishes now deserve to be a footnote in history and no more than that.
So much of our diet in the past was dictated by limited ingredients and scarce knowledge and experience of food from beyond our borders. That has now changed.
In a supermarket you can now eat the world and from Jamie’s Italy to Rick Stein’s Mexico, overseas cuisine has been demystified and served up in our living rooms. Who needs clootie dumpling when you can have tiramisu, gulab jamun or pecan pie?
The answer is, we do. Some of our traditional dishes date from the days when the kitchen cupboard contained only oatmeal, earwigs and hail. We’re all happy to see the back of them but we must not cast away the good with the bad.
From stovies to shortbread, our food is the story of our history, our land and our people. It may not be as fashionable as quinoa or microherbs but it mustn’t all be lost to the past just because of a cultural cringe about anything that has been around for a while.
To answer the original question, I really hope we aren’t losing our love of traditional British dishes. It can only be a good thing that we have widened our tastes to embrace the flavours and dishes from around the world but not at the cost of what has sustained us down the years.
In many ways, this is a golden time for eating. Alongside classic Scottish dishes we’ve ditched some of the less appetising options and replaced them with the best from the rest of the world and that must be good for everyone.