6.5 Food & Drink

This section of the CVpedia deals with edible and potable civilisation, Britain’s contributions thereto

Sandwich: 1769; named after John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-92); this card player wished to keep his fingers grease-free by having meat flanked by slices of bread; now available globally at a lunch counter near you; much enjoyed on the island itself is the tradition 'cheese sarnie' (i.e. sandwich), also known as a 'cheese wad'

Picnic: another English word that like 'sandwich' has entered the global lexicon, though this one comes from an 18th century French precursor, piquenique, a mot of unknown origin

English cooked breakfast: a gratifying alternative is the Welsh breakfast, comprising all the traditional constituents of the English version – sausage, eggs, bacon, fried bread etc - together with laver bread and cockles

Porridge: a bowl of this Scottish oat staple - with a swirl of golden syrup or a pinch of austere salt - will keep you going longer than almost any other matutinal repast

Toast: the first electric toaster was that of Crompton and Co, 1893; at breakfast buttered toast is often eaten with marmalade, itself invented in Dundee

Tea: arrived in Europe from China via the Arabs and Venetians around 1559; an advertisement in 1658 said ‘That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China drink, called by the Chineans, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alia Tee…’; it is from the Chinese word Tcha that is derived the British expression ‘a cup of char’, i.e. tea; English innovations unknown in China or Japan were the addition of milk and sugar - the latter had arrived in Britain in 1460, though Moroccan sugar is first recorded as being available in Durham as early as 1299 [Source: Robertson/Shell]; the rancid yak butter used by Tibetans was not known and would not have been preferred; in 1717 Thomas Twining converted Tom's Coffee House into the Golden Lyon, the first teashop in London; the company that still bears his name began blending tea for consistency in 1870; tea growing had been introduced by Britain into Assam in India in the 1830s and Darjeeling in India and in Ceylon in the 1850s; the imbiber regarded as the greatest of all tea drinkers is Dr Samuel Johnson, who ‘with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning’; Newton was drinking a cup at Woolsthorpe when gravity brought an apple down beside him, changing everything; afternoon tea as a ceremony involving cucumber sandwiches, cake and pastries was a Victorian invention, by Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), wife of the 7th Duke; it was, she said, " a way to quell the inevitable hunger pangs between lunch and dinner"; the first working automatic tea-making machine was that of Frank Clarke, 1902; iced tea was invented by an Englishman for Americans in 1904

Sunday lunch: Roast Beef of Old England, Yorkshire pudding, horseradish sauce

Fish ‘n’ chips: nourishing and at its best brilliant national dish; fish battered and fried in beef dripping rather than cooking oil, chips with salt & vinegar, the vinegar being best from a bottle of pickled onions; mushy peas are a favoured accompaniment; this dish, featuring as it does a piscine fillet, gets round the principal objection to fish - bones; fried battered fish seems to have started life as a Jewish dish in East London in the 1830s, sold cold as a snack, with baked potatoes also available; fish with chips, i.e. potatoes ‘in the French style’, emerged in the 1860s & 70s in the industrial north of England; the rise of fish and chips was facilitated by the appearance of the first steam trawlers, new refrigeration techniques and the development of the railways; fish and chip shops became exotically tiled high-tech emporia, acheiving full social acceptability as an important source of nourishment in the First World War; the first fish and chip shop in the world is reckoned to have appeared in 1866; this was Dyson's in, Ashton Road, Oldham Lancs [Source: Robertson/Shell; Robertson comments, though, that this 'first' is contested 'all over North of England']

Hard cheeses: Cheddar, 1666; Stilton, early 1700s

Shortcrust pastry pies: savoury (e.g. Cornish pasty and pork pie of Melton Mowbray) and sweet (e.g. apple)

Christmas pudding: unique national dish, satisfyingly incomprehensible to foreigners

Pub: the phrase 'a pint of beer at the local', i.e. at a pub, evokes rolling hills and village cricket; Britain is one of the few places where ales, beers brewed by warm fermentation, rather than lagers, have mostly retained the allegiance of mature imbibers; cask conditioned beer, rather than bottled beer, is still the benchmark, with the beer finishing its maturation in casks in the pub cellar rather than at the brewery; the invention of bottled beer itself is credited to a Dean of St Pauls Cathedral in London, Alexander Norwell (1507-1602); the Dean filled a bottle with ale and corked it to go fishing; he left the unopened bottle in the grass; returning some years later he found that the cork came away with an explosion, but that the taste and quality of the ale was still good; Britain and the world’s first trade mark was the red triangle of the Bass brewery, founded in 1777 at Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire; the trade mark is visible on bottles of Bass in Edouard Monet's 1882 painting 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergčre'; Bass Pale Ale has been sold worldwide and is still available; its name was registered as a trade mark in 1876; Bass Pale Ale is regarded as the world's first global brand; Shepherd Neame is Britain’s oldest brewery, however, dating from 1698; beer pump handles were patented by Joseph Bramah in 1785 [Source: Robertson/Shell]; on the subject of pubs, Dr Samuel Johnson said that ‘a tavern chair is the seat of human felicity’

Cider: this beverage is first recorded in the world in Norfolk in 1205 [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Whisky: may have been invented by Scots when they were in Ireland, in the sense that the distillation process was applied there for the first time to mashed cereals rather than from (unavailable) grapes; legend has it that Saint Patrick may have taught the art of distillation to the people of Ireland; however that might be, Scotch whisky seems to have been distilled in Scotland itself from before 1500, probably long before; the first record of whisky is in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls of 1493, wherein is noted provision of 'eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aquavitae' [Source: Robertson/Shell]; Drambuie, the whisky liqueur was first produced commercially in 1906 by Malcolm Mackinnon from a recipe given to an ancestor for aiding the escape of Charles Edward Stewart [Source: Robertson/Shell]; Robert Burns reckoned that ‘Freedom and whisky gang thegither’; mock proverbially, in the words of the founding compiler of The National CVpedia of Britain, ‘A Scotch in time saves wine’

Pimm's No 1: this is a gin-based summer libation, a blend of liqueurs, herbs and spices; it is traditionally topped up with lemonade and garnished with borrage, sliced fresh fruit, strawberries and the like - and served with ice and abundant summery good humour; Pimm’s No 1 was first sold at the London oyster bar of James Pimm in 1840, with the bottled drink introduced in 1859 [Source: Robertson/Shell]; gin in less exotic form has itself of course has made a significant contribution to British social history; for example, Queen Anne, who reigned 1702-14, was 'known for clandestine consumption of gin from a silver teapot.' [Source: Robertson]O:P>

Wine: Bordeaux was spurred to greatness as a wine region over three centuries as part of an English empire in France in the Middle Ages; champagne was invented by scientist and physician Christopher Merret in 1662, when he added sugar to finished wine to make it sparkle, thereby achieving a secondary fermentation; Merret’s was the first intentionally produced sparkling wine (Dom Perignon's activities in this line in France date to 1688 at the earliest); the cult of fine wine started in Britain after 1660, when the monarchy, in the person of Charles II, was restored [see also below, Ice cream]; wine connoisseurship has gone on to flourish globally; Britain's domestic wine production is being helped by climate change

Cocktail party & bottle party:

'The invention of the cocktail party is claimed by Alex Waugh [1924/5]...Barely a year later brother and sister Gaspard and Loelia Ponsonby...invented the bottle party on an evening in November 1926...the girls were to provide food and the boys were to bring a bottle.' [Source: Robertson]


'The first club on record for social intercourse was a London dining society called La Court de Bone Compagnie, which is known to have been in existence in 1413.' [Source: Robertson]

Milk chocolate: this was invented in Jamaica in the late 1600s by Hans Sloane (1660-1753), to make cocoa potable, by adding milk and sugar; milk chocolate was commercialised in both liquid and solid form by Cadbury, a company founded by high-minded Quakers; what some reckon to be the first modern chocolate bar was produced by Joseph Fry & Son in 1847, yet there is evidence that chocolate for eating was being manufactured in England as early as 1840 and possibly earlier and on the Continent earlier still [Source: Robertson/Shell; other milestones relevant to this notice are:

1861 – Boxes of chocolate; Cadbury

1929 – Crunchie bar introduced by Fry’s of BST1:CITY w:st="on">ristol

1932 – Mars Bar launched by Forrest Mars of Slough, Berkshire

1935 – Kit Kat launched as Chocolate Crisp by Rowntrees of York, before a renaming in 1937

1936 – Maltesers introduced by Mars of Slough, Berkshire

1937 – Smarties introduced by Rowntrees of York; Rolo manufactured by John Mackintosh & Sons, Norwich

1976 – Yorkie bar introduced by Rowntrees of York

[Source: Robertson/Shell]

Ice cream:

'The available evidence points towards Britain as the birthplace of dairy ice cream...The earliest documented reference to ice cream is contained in Elias Ashmole's The Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (London, 1671).' [Source: Robertson]

Dairy ice cream will most likely have developed into its modern form in Restoration England in the 1660s, when Charles II retook the throne for the Stuarts after the death of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell; apart from ice cream and a reignited enthusiasm for dallience between the sexes, the reign of the 'Merry Monarch' saw the invention in Britain of sparkling wine and the birth of wine connoiseurship [see above, Wine]; the ice cream cone was invented in Manchester in 1905; soft ice cream was developed in Britain in the 1970s, by a team of chemists which included future prime minister Margaret Thatcher [see Margaret Thatcher]; a soft texture was achieved by increasing the amount of air in the product

Crisps: first described in a book published in London in 1813; its title was The French Chef and its author was Louis Eustache, chef to Louis XVI [Source: Robertson]


'Scottish national dish consisting of minced offal of sheep or calf, mixed with oatmeal, suet and seasoning, cooked and served in the skin of the animal's stomach; dish of honour at Burns Night celebrations.' (Bamber Gascoigne, Encyclopedia of Britain, 1993)

Given the foregoing, haggis is a surprisingly enjoyable dish

Curry powder: made first in Britain; chicken tikka masala – unknown to the Indians of the Subcontinent – is said to be the most popular curried dish in Britain; British curries are richer than those served in India itself; Sake Dean Mohamet (1759-1851) opened Britain’s first curry house in 1810, in London, though it did not endure; two other pioneering Indian restaurants were also established in the capital, in 1911 [Source: Robertson/Shell

Canned food: Peter Durand filed the world’s first patent for tinned food, in 1810, acting as agent for Frenchman Philippe de Girard; this is the first documented evidence of food being heated and sterilised within a sealed tin container; the method involved placing the food in the tin can, sealing it and then placing the can in cold water; the water was gradually brought to the boil; the lid of the can was then opened slightly, to release pressurised steam, before the can was resealed; important work had been done previously on food preservation by Nicolas Appert, also of France, using glass containers; in the matter of food preservation in containers, then, priority must rest with the two Frenchmen, Appert & de Girard, yet in terms of reduction to commercial practice, Bryan Donkin is the Father of Canned Food; he licensed the Durand patent and set up the world’s first canning factory in Bermondsey in London; this went into commercial production in 1813, providing preserved food to the Admiralty; establishing a scaled-up practical production process had taken two years and Donkin was to pay elaborate attention to quality assurance; canned food took a taste of home across Britain’s global empire; there is a cove in Chile known as Caleta ('cove') Donkin, said to be so called because a visiting naval crew under Captain Robert Fitzroy were so delighted with their canned food, a relief from salt beef [Source: BBC News, April 2013]; Sir Joseph Banks described Donkin’s work as “one of the most important discoveries of the age we live in” [see Joseph Banks]; the can opener was invented by Robert Yeates in 1855, after an awkward interim when bayonets, knives and chisels were used instead; canned salmon was first produced by John Moir of Aberdeen in 1825 [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Proper puddings: e.g. treacle suet pudding, spotted dick and the justly legendary Sussex Pond

English Mustard: the one and only British spice

Sauces: Worcestershire Sauce (pronounced ‘Wusta Sauce’) was first made in 1837 by John Lea & William Perrins, Worcester, to a recipe of Marcus Sandys; HP Sauce was first manufactured in 1894 by the Midland Vinegar Co., to a recipe of Frederick Garton [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Cookery advice:

'The first cookbook in English was A noble bok of festes ryalle and cokery, author unknown, which was published in London by Richard Pynson in 1500.' [Source: Robertson]

In more modern times a revolution was wrought by two Englishwomen; the first was Isabella Beeton; although not the first cookery writer she is nonetheless regarded as the mother of cookery writing in English, via her authorship of The Book of Household Management, 1861, popularly known as 'Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook'; the second influential islander in this area was Elizabeth David, whose Mediterranean Food appeared in 1950; Hesten Blementhal is the most creative chef of the current age, an alchemical genius of 'molecular cuisine'

Carbonated drinks: the first soda pop to be produced commercially was that of Thomas Henry in 1767; German-born Jacob Schweppe m0ved to London in 1792 and industrialised the production of fizzy mineral water; he is regarded as the founder of the soft drinks industry [Source: Robertson]; other firsts relevant to this notice are:

1741 – Mineral water (artificial); prepared by William Brownrigg with carbonic acid gas, Whitehaven, Cumberland

1767 – Soda water; prepared by Richard Bewley, Great Massingham, Norfolk

1785 – Soda water (manufactured); H D Rawlings, London

1813 – Soda siphon; Regency Portable Fountain invented by Charles Plinth, London

1858 – Tonic water patented by Erasmus Bond of London

[Source: Robertson/Shell]

Cuban cigar eponyms: only two of the 15 main cigar sizes are named after individuals, Lonsdale and Churchill, and both are British; a Lonsdale is a 6˝ inch Cuban corona cigar, named after Hugh Cecil Lowther (1857-1944), the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, of boxing belt fame; the even mightier 7 inch cigar, a Churchill, celebrates Winston Churchill (1874-1965); the first islander known to have smoked a cigar was John Cockburn in 1731, while marooned on Honduras [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Chewing gum: the first non-stick variety of this dubious American contribution to edible civilisation  was invented by Terence Cosgrove in 2007 [Source: Robertson]

Chronology of additional food & drink firsts & milestones: [Source: Robertson/Shell]

1696 – Public drinking fountain; erected Hammersmith, London, by Samuel Morland

1738 – Scotch egg invented by the London store Fortnum & Mason

1760 – Liquorice (confectionary); marketed by George Dunhill, Pontefract, Yorkshire

1845 – Self-raising flour marketed by Henry Jones of Bristol

1864 – Jelly babies manufactured by Herr Steinbeck (Austrian), Nelson, Lancashire

1870s – Bovril, a beef extract, developed by John Lawson Johnston; manufactured in Burton upon Trent

1886 – Maltbread patented by John Montgomerie of Partick, Lanarkshire

1890 – Drinks vending machines installed in several Birmingham factories by Health Corporation Ltd of London; they were ˝ d slot machines serving tea, coffee, iced water and fruit drinks

1892 – Digestive biscuits developed by Alexander Grant as an aid to dyspepsia; manufactured by McVitie & Price, Edinburgh

1899 – Liquorice All-sorts; George Bassett & Co., Sheffield

1902 – Marmite, a yeast extract, manufactured in Burton upon Trent

1910 – Cona coffee-maker invented by Alfred Cohn, London

1929 – Crunchie bar introduced by Fry’s of Bristol; also Twiglets, a wheaty twig-shaped snack covered in yeast extract (which is not, however, Marmite; see entry for 1902)

1932 – Mars Bar launched by Forrest Mars, Slough, Berkshire

1935 – Kit Kat launched as Chocolate Crisp by Rowntrees of York; renamed 1937

1937 – Smarties introduced by Rowntrees of York

1937 – Rolo manufactured by John Mackintosh & Sons, Norwich

1937 – Ribena developed by Frank Armstong of HW Carter

1948 – Polo mints introduced by Rowntrees of York

1976 – Yorkie bar introducted by Rowntrees of York


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