Letting your children know about different British eating habits will help them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings. What is the most useful piece of advice I was given before I came to Spain for the first time? That Spaniards put onion and tuna in their salads rather than celery and cucumber? That Spanish kids eat biscuits for breakfast? That in Madrid the post boxes are yellow and that you can flag taxis in the street even though they look like minicabs rather than black cabs? No, the most useful tip I was given about the Spanish way of life was that nobody eats lunch before 2pm – something which took my British constitution a long time to get used to!
Letting your children know about different British eating habits will help them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.
It is not unusual for English children to eat their evening meal as soon as they get home from school (5pm-6pm), meaning that their parents then have their meal at a later time. I would say that snacks play a bigger part in the British diet that in the Spanish diet, with children nibbling on a wide variety of sweet or savoury snacks between meals (raisins, raw vegetables, crisps or chocolate are staple snacks, although I’d love to hear of other snacks your children are exposed to in my homeland this summer!). The idea of having a three course family meal is something reserved to special occasions or weekends. Most meals are served with the meat and vegetables on the same plate.
Brits love their sauces . . .
Ketchup and mayonnaise (or salad cream) are a mainstay, but your children may be offered one – or all – of the following British delicacies: gravy for any roast, mint sauce on lamb, horseradish sauce on beef, piccalilli sauce with bread & cheese, Branston chutney with salad, brown sauce with bacon & sausages and mango chutney with almost every Indian meal. Humus, taramasalata, guacamole and cottage cheese are also common accompaniments to many meals.
Brits also take delight in their spreads and jams.
Many children have toast and jam for breakfast rather than cereals. The braver children will be addicted to Marmite on toast, although peanut butter is also a big hit. Of the cereals that are most commonly consumed in the UK, the most unusual ones for Spanish children may be Weetabix or Ready Brek. “Maria” biscuits are known as Rich Tea biscuits and are never eaten at breakfast. Biscuits, in general, are reserved for mid-morning snacks or afternoon tea (eaten before or sometimes after the evening meal ).Any Spanish child with a sweet tooth will delight in the huge variety of biscuits in the UK supermarkets, not to mention doughnuts, buns, muffins and crumpets.
I cannot go further without mentioning that Brits are very keen on desserts.
Most families will finish their meals with a sweet pudding rather than with fruit. Your children may be offered hot puddings including custard (natilla de vainilla) or heated rice pudding. “Flan” is called crème caramel and cold “natillas” are called blancmange.
Finally, many of you will have been told that the British diet is more varied than the Spanish diet due to our multicultural heritage. Although it is true that your children may be offered Indian food, it is unlikely they will be given anything too spicy or adventurous. Brits like milder, chicken or lamb based Indian meals with thick creamy sauces and delicious aromas. In fact, your children may struggle more with traditional English meals like fish’n’chips (often served with a cup of tea and mushy peas and bread & butter) than with Asian or Oriental dishes which often contain pulses and are mainly served with rice.
The best piece of advice I can give your children before going to the UK?
Take some Spanish vacuum-packed “embutido” in their suitcases as there is nothing that matches your authentic “jamon serrano” or “chorizo” on offer in Sainsburys.
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