From Mother’s Shame to Mother’s Pride: the evolving UK lunch
A long long time ago, in the early Nineties, I took part in a school exchange with a Gymnasium in Munich. We were first to host and welcomed them into our homes for a fortnight of cross-cultural learning and understanding.
On the many Day Trips out and about around the beautiful if dreich Scottish countryside we would stop off for lunch and every time our German exchange partners would shriek in horror and disgust as they opened their packed lunches. Sandwiches made with the softest and whitest bread, containing a smattering of margarine, a rubbery cheese slice and – if the host family had ideas above its station – perhaps a slice of tomato. The Germans were appalled. ‘Eugh, this bread is ekelhaft (disgusting), it’s soooo soft, so white. What on earth do you do to make it this bad?’
Admittedly they were right. At that time our bread was pretty basic and our mild shame was only heightened when we visited our exchange partners the next year where we would feast on seeded breads and rolls filled with sexy salamis, cheeses and – a personal favourite – deep-fried chicken breast all bought fresh from the Bäckerei each morning. Yum. Or ‘Lecker!’ as a German might exclaim.
On a recent work trip to Germany I headed out for lunch and couldn’t help noticing that the ubiquitous bakers haven’t changed their offering that much over the last two to three decades. You still see the same old salami and cheese filled rolls but not much else. They look a little tired.
Now I’m the sniffy one. Where can I find a multi-grain seeded wrap, a spelt flatbread filled with falafel, Vietnamese banh mi or gluten free chicken salad roll? Not in Germany. In the UK, however, the product innovations and introductions mean we are now spoilt for choice, and the pappy sandwiches of our youth are a distant memory.