This, obviously, is not the journal of a celebrity chef, or a journal driven by celebrity itself. Instead, our interest is in the publication of recipes for the practical application in the United States of the British culinary tradition. We hope that britishfoodinamerica proves useful as well as interesting and provocative to its readers. Unless explicitly noted otherwise, and unlike the purported authors of many celebrity cookbooks, we actually have cooked and eaten the recipes that bfia publishes, so that readers who follow them need not worry about dropping a bomb during a dinner party or other occasion, at least not in terms of the food.
The recipes fall into two categories. Some of them are our versions of dishes from the British canon that have been updated or altered to suit contemporary tastes and conditions. Other recipes are more originally our own and try to take innovative approaches to British techniques and ingredients. All of the recipes take into account the fact that many ingredients, including meat, poultry and produce, differ today from their antecedents of even a few decades ago. Pork can be leaner than in the past; chicken can be fattier, and so forth.
We have made every effort to acknowledge the source of each recipe. Plagiarism may be a robust tradition in the sphere of cookbook writing but we do not want to deny any author credit for his or her work and insight. Unless a recipe or passage is identified as originating elsewhere or appears in quotations, it has been altered to follow our bfia format.
If no author is identified either in the introduction or notes to a particular recipe, then, we believe, it is original to bfia. Different cooks working in the same idiom, however, who are familiar with the same particular technique, whether British, Chinese, French or otherwise, may choose the same solution to a particular challenge no matter how accomplished or creative the individual cook may be. Cooks unfamiliar with one another therefore may create similar or even identical recipes at random. When that happens in connection with any of our unattributed recipes, we would welcome reader comment, whether to credit the other cook or to compare notes.
Because we would like to make British food more accessible by encouraging people to cook it, each bfia recipe, other than some of secondary or historical interest that are included in the notes, follows a uniform and practical format. Each ingredient required for the recipe, and the preparation that the ingredient requires, is listed at the outset in the order of its addition to the dish. The procedure for using a recipe follows the list of prepared ingredients in discrete numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph includes a single operation and is set far enough apart from contiguous paragraphs to give the busy cook easy vision of the operation at hand. It seemed patronizing and appeared visually jarring, however, to highlight each ingredient as it appears in the numbered paragraphs.
We decided not to present each recipe as a unitary essay in the hope that the utility to the cook of our more prosaic approach outweighs the loss of literary appeal to the reader.
A number of creative chefs and thoughtful writers, Nigel Slater among them, have decried the tyranny of the recipe. They fear, we think correctly, that slavish if not mindless devotion to a formula kills creativity and produces mediocre food. Following our recipes, we hope, will not cause those problems, both because we have built flexibility into them and because we repeatedly encourage our readers to improvise.
Please bear with us if at first you do not find something you would like to cook, and return to bfia; we have over 500 of our own kitchen-tested recipes to post and our catalog continues to expand.
Finally, if haute cuisine is formal and codified, please consider this cookery playful and homely. It is not inelegant but does lend itself to variation and innovation. If you would like to make one of John Evelyn’s seventeenth century ‘sallets’ and cannot find elderflowers, substitute nasturtiums, field greens or something else. Make a lighter suet pastry for puddings by reducing the proportion of suet or do the reverse to enrich it; increase or decrease all the proportions for a thicker or thinner crust. If the sight of suet appears appalling, choose one of the available vegetable alternatives. Additional baking powder will make the pastry fluffier; the addition of herbs, mustard, turmeric or other spices as appropriate may make it more interesting. Try our recipes but do not reduce them to rote, and send your comments and criticisms to FeedbaG.