As a denizen of the internet for a quarter of a century, I have seen more than a few memes. Some funny, some less so. Some are highly informative, some are entirely for fun, and far too many are entirely misinformation. Whatever the case, I generally find that memes are not a good way to get information, and that one should at the very least critically review a meme before accepting the claims made within it.
I could pick any number of more or less controversial memes, but have chosen this one for a few reasons. It deals with a common myth about food, is rooted in rank elitism, while still being largely inoffensive. It also contains a very small kernel of truth. I’ve seen this meme – and far more offensive variants of it – floating around the internet for a few years, and I’ve got a thing or two to say about it:
Right off the bat, let me just say that it’s bullshit. Hogwash. Utter twaddle. I could leave it there, but that wouldn’t make anyone any the wiser, now would it?
Let’s start with what’s true about it, as well what it implies which is also true. Tolkien was British, and Hobbits are the Middleearthern race most closely aligned with brits, which is why they generally prefer staying at home with a nice cup of tea or go to the pub to drink beer.
As for what isn’t true; claiming that British food (which I will, for the sake of this post interpret to include both English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish cooking – between which there is more than a little overlap) is bad is an out and out lie. It’s generally not fancy food, that’s fair enough, but a lot of it is very tasty indeed. While some of it is bland, I don’t know any nation’s cooking which doesn’t include the odd bland dish.
The thing about the classic british dishes is that they are comforting and nourishing. We’re talking cottage or shepherd’s pie (depending on the base meat), and we’re talking a sunday roast with all the trimmings. We’re talking fish and chips, and we’re talking steak and kidney pie. Like oh so many dishes from any culture or nation in the world you’d care to mention, it isn’t about being fancy, it’s about being comfort food.
While traditional british dishes generally aren’t fine dining (although there are people who are working very hard to change even that perception), the Francophile, eurocentric view of the only food which can be called good being French Cuisine (and preferably of the fine dining persuasion) is not only wrong, it’s elitist and it is talking down to diners the world around.
Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with fine dining, and will happily partake of it myself. But if I have to choose between fine dining and comfort food, between fancy cuisine and heimischer cookery, well, I know what I’d choose eleven times out of ten.
As an added aside, this argument smacks of the elitist bullshit that touts wine as high culture but dismisses beer as something for the lower classes, when the truth is that both can be either.