If there’s one topic guaranteed to get an argument started, it’s food. No matter where you go, you’ll find people convinced that they have the right recipe or way of eating their favourite dish, from roast dinners to burritos. One of the great joys of travelling is extensively taste testing while you pick a side, so here’s a selection of some of the contentious world food and drink debates.
While the cultural stereotype that British people try to avoid arguments tends to hold true, there’s one way to almost guarantee conflict. All you need to do is ask a someone from Cornwall and another from Devon over for tea: put out some plain scones, clotted cream and jam and watch an age-old disagreement unfold. The big question, of course, is whether it’s cream then jam, or jam then cream. To end the argument once and for all, make yours into a sandwich and see them band together against a common enemy.
While any region’s food culture is constantly evolving, that doesn’t mean people let go of their traditions. A case in point is the butter/olive oil divide in Italy: the cattle-rearing regions of the north led to a cuisine where butter is the dominant fat; in certain parts of the south, olive oil has historically been the preference. While it’s not so clear-cut now, you’ll still find it a point of contention among the older generation in Italy, and family recipes will generally favour one over the other.
There’s no arguing with the fact that pizza is a Neapolitan invention, but who says that the original is always the best? The Italian diaspora in America has had a huge influence on American food tastes and led to a lot of new edible creations, one of which is Chicago deep-dish pizza. While it might make a Neapolitan cry (perhaps even more than using pineapple as a topping) many vociferously defend deep-dish pizzas, preferring a thicker crust and more topping (or rather, filling). Thin-crust advocates, though, say the Chicago-style pizza misses out on crunchiness and flavour in favour of excess and frankly terrifying cholesterol levels.
Okonomiyaki is definitely a tale of two cities: Osaka and Hiroshima. It’s Osaka’s version of this savoury, pancake-like dish which has had more success abroad, perhaps because it’s easier to make – all you do is mix the batter and shredded cabbage, add whatever extra ingredients you want, and fry it. Hiroshima’s foodies would say that this is simplistic and messy, and okonomiyaki is best left to the pros: you need a thin layer of batter, then cabbage, extra ingredients (such as pork), noodles and a fried egg, all carefully stacked up into a tower. Again, there's an easy get-out clause here: just tell the feuding foodies you prefer monjayaki (okonomiyaki's gloopier cousin from Tokyo), and they’ll miraculously join forces to change your mind.
Britain and France may do things slightly differently when it come to pancakes, but there’s no debate over the fact that you need a thin layer of batter, which you use to wrap around the filling. In the grand tradition of American cuisine though, their take on the pancake is bigger: much thicker rounds which are usually stacked, served with toppings and sauces. They’re both delicious ways of making this sweet treat, and many people enjoy both – if you feel like bacon and maple syrup, a crêpe really isn’t going to cut it, but then, can anything really beat a classic lemon and sugar?
Falafel is a popular dish around the world, but many who’ve tried tamiya argue passionately that the use of fava beans over chickpeas creates a creamier, more flavourful dish. It’s not certain exactly where the food originated, but Egypt is a likely source, and there they use fava beans instead of the better-known chickpeas. If you want to avoid an argument, some recipes call for a mix of both pulses – how diplomatic!
Historically, England and Scotland have had plenty to argue about, so it’s perhaps a little strange to outsiders that such heated debates can be held on the topic of how hard a particular type of sweet should be. Both fudge and tablet are based on heating sugar and dairy to a soft-ball texture, with fudge then beaten so it gains a soft, creamy texture and tablet left to crystallise. Whether you prefer crunchy or chewy, they’re both delicious – and it’s hardly a chore to taste test yourself!
While England is famed for being a nation of tea lovers, its people are far from unified when it comes to making and serving this iconic drink. And they’re not the only ones – whether you prefer to drink black, green, white or red tea, there are arguments to be had about what constitutes a proper brew. Milk or no milk? Does the milk go in before or after the tea? Do you need to warm the teapot? What’s the correct water temperature? Leaves or bags? Perhaps there are ultimately as many ‘correct’ ways to drink tea as there are tea drinkers in the world – and let’s not even start on coffee...
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