An Italian chef says:
“There have always been beautiful British ingredients but, after the war, the country was hungry and poor so American-style convenience food came in. Meanwhile, in Italy, people were starving and fell back on traditional recipes. In Italy, we pass recipes down from generation to generation and in the UK, that historical chain is broken. So now you have your TV dinners, which are a disaster.”
Quite possibly an entire century out in that. As an economist writes:
Maybe the first question is how English cooking got to be so bad
in the first place. A good guess is that the country’s early
industrialization and urbanization was the culprit. Millions of
people moved rapidly off the land and away from access to traditional
ingredients. Worse, they did so at a time when the technology of
urban food supply was still primitive: Victorian London already had
well over a million people, but most of its food came in by horse-
drawn barge. And so ordinary people, and even the middle classes,
were forced into a cuisine based on canned goods (mushy peas!),
preserved meats (hence those pies), and root vegetables that didn’t
need refrigeration (e.g. potatoes, which explain the chips).
But why did the food stay so bad after refrigerated railroad cars
and ships, frozen foods (better than canned, anyway), and eventually
air-freight deliveries of fresh fish and vegetables had become
available? Now we’re talking about economics–and about the limits
of conventional economic theory. For the answer is surely that by
the time it became possible for urban Britons to eat decently, they
no longer knew the difference.
I’m not insisting that Krugman is wholly and totally correct here but would insist that here’s something to it. British food was famously bad before the war too – G. Orwell talks about that at some length.