The shite food of Britain

The Shite Food blog reviews some of the remarkable foodstuffs available in Britain: the microwave meals and boil-in-bag dregs of another level in the English-speaking consumerspace.

Shite Food was started as an antidote to the middle class ‘food porn’ programmes on television. Tired of seeing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigella Lawson spunk the average persons food budget for the week on one meal, I thought it was time for a dose of reality. Britain’s cuisine has supposedly improved immeasurably since the 70′s but, lurking behind the ‘Finest’ and ‘Taste the Difference’ ranges in our supermarkets are some true culinary horrors. We want to highlight the supermarkets who market poor quality, nutritionally dubious, crappy food to those on low incomes to make a quick quid.

Shite Food: Britain's Gastronomic Horrors [via Thomas Sturm]


  1. On one side you have insufferable “foodies” who’s interests are often as much about conspicuous consumption as they are about eating something delicious, on the other side you have people who attack any criticism of fast food, or unhealthy frozen foods (like on that blog) as snobbery.

    I predict you will hear from both.

  2. I don’t know if I just got lucky, but I found the food in London much better when I visited a couple months ago than I did 4 years ago. I think they are finally starting to realize that ‘vegetables’ doesn’t just mean peas, carrots and potatoes.

    1. I lived in London for years, and travelled there before then. Even four years ago, your options were great. Like anywhere else, the good food is not in the tourist areas or the transportation hubs. And if you’re buying from Iceland, then you have only yourself to blame.

      (If you’re vegetarian, then Brighton is well worth the visit. You’re absolutely spoiled for choice.)

      1. And if you’re buying from Iceland, then you have only yourself to blame.

        Or you’re just poor (do you have to blame yourself for that too?). Ever been one of the innumerable small English towns that god forgot (London hardly represents England as a whole)? If you are poor and don’t have a car to drive to the giant Tesco 5 miles out of town, about your only options are often 1. Iceland and 2. the Pound store.

        1. Which is exactly the point. The blog sums up your point rather nicely: let’s all laugh at what the poor have to eat.

          It’s like Little Britain without the mega-sophisticated searing social commentary.

          1. I’m not sure that my point was to laugh at the poor, quite the opposite in fact. The first time I travelled around the UK I was quite shocked how much readily visible poverty there is in an ostensibly wealthy country.

            Maybe the blog is just a call to action with the aim to improve the situation of those who don’t quite have the means to drive to Sainsbury’s and buy fresh Kenyan baby spinach?

        2. Yes, thank you: that was precisely the point I was driving at. Being poor is a moral failure, and you should starve if you can’t afford to buy the game hen and roasted beet salad from the hot counter at Waitrose.

          It certainly wasn’t “Ha, that food is gross. Iceland food is terrible. But I’ve had some great food in England, despite the North American stereotype.” I wasn’t able to see much of the blog that wasn’t cached, so kind of missed the whole social justice angle.

          I’m glad we could clear this up.

        1. Actually, it made perfect sense to me when I thought that people were talking about the poor having to eat Hákarl.

    2. I don’t think anything has changed that greatly in four years or ten years. There is and has been a lot of fantastic and varied food in London (and most of the UK in general). It just tends to be on the more expensive side of things, in my experience. The average, cheaper, and every-day though tends to be a bit plainer and bland. But that’s true many places.  

  3. Looks like the anti-foodgawker. I might have to visit them both regularly…

      1. I think I’ll start keeping track of hosts who get Boinged. This is 2012 not 1999 – hosts should be prepared for spikes in traffic.

        In this case the culprit is

        Edit: they fixed it now.

  4. I remember chains like The Golden Egg – egg, chips and lots of oil. Many people are nowadays willing to try “foreign muck”, which can be tasty (and full of fat). Doner Kebabs give you your daily intake of fat and calories in single portion – junk food, but tasty. A lot of people live on microwaved meals.  And yet the UK has heaps of Michelin starred restaurants, if you can afford it.

  5. Managed to see a cached version of the site (it’s still Boinged), and they mention Lidl. Lidl manages to sell really good continental food (German meats and cheeses, Greek olives etc) and really dreadful traditional English food (pork pies, pasties etc). If you stick to the European food, you can eat well for peanuts. Just follow the Poles, Germans and Russians shopping in the store and buy what they buy.

  6. Some of the tastiest food I have ever eaten has been shite” Fried Breakfasts, kebabs, deep fried mars bars, the entire output of the Cadbury company. Delicious if not nutritious.

    Food like that made me what I am today. Overweight and diabetic. I know all about how to eat healthy and know the effects of what all that junk has on my body and I do like to eat a salad as much as anyone. But….

  7. Every hot ingredient at Taco Bell is made either by (not quite) boiling in a bag or adding hot water to a dried version. Taco meat, nacho cheese, chicken, and steak all came in plastic bags and put into a vat of water kept between 190F and 200F. Why I remember that years later, I don’t know.

    1.  No idea how long ago you worked for them, but when I did, it was all made pretty much from scratch.  There was a lot of cursing when it came time to scrub the fajita grills at the end of the day.

      1. Something like 2000-2001. This was in Canada though so we had a different menu than the US. We didn’t have fajitas or any kind of grill. We did have fries though.

        It wasn’t so much cooking as reheating from frozen. The best instruction I remember is being told that the taco meat had to be stirred at least every few minutes because otherwise the grease would start to separate. And when no one stirred it for a bit, a pool of red grease would start to form on top of it.

    1.  A scottish innovation I believe… first encountered by me in an Edinburgh suburb around 1994, may well have been around longer than that. 

  8. I was reading about the Royal Family’s traditional Christmas breakfast at Sandringham, where they serve kedgaree.  Which appears to be nasty fried leftovers.   And which, apparently, they all look forward to with glee.  Clearly the problem begins at the top.

    1.  Kedgeree is fantastic dish comprising curried rice, smoked fish and hard boiled eggs… as unlikely as it sounds it is quite a delicacy once you get past the unusual looks and smell of it. Basically its a dry fish curry (with eggs), i expect its origins are in the former colonies which might explain the popularity with our aristos.

      1. I’m afraid that my idea of a proper Christmas breakfast is a chocolate orange and a glass of scotch.

        1. Despite my proclivity for eggs-bacon-toast-and-fruit for Christmas breakfast…fuck me, I can’t argue with that.

        2. My idea of a proper Christmas breakfast is half a bottle of chilled champagne, in bed.

        3. I love that the British are completely comfortable with drinking on Christmas Day at around 9 am.  It’s a healthy attitude to have and I’m not joking about that.

        1. You’ve had it then? Strange, ‘cos your first post would imply that you know absolutely nothing about it…

      1. I’ll second that. Kedgeree is a fucking brilliant dish. 
        Proper curry flavours, loads of protein and yet feels really light and easy on your stomach.

  9. I came to appreciate the label “free range chicken” because standard way of raising chicken was to feed it fish meal protein supplements – any chicken you got from a “regular” place had a offputting fishy taste.

    It’s been years since I’ve been to the UK. Does “regular” chicken still taste fishy?

        1. Bollocks have their own particular flavour. Quite…musky. Nothing like chicken. But I’ve never eaten chicken bollocks, they may be interesting.

      1. A lot of natives thought “fishy” was how chicken was supposed to taste and obviously it sold well. One has to resort to anecdotes from outsiders to get perspective:

        At Home with Real Food

        I lived in London in my teens … Much of the food was actually inedible …  chickens that tasted
        of the fish meal they ate,

        Military Bride-In-Training

        As a new Air Force bride in “Jolly Olde England” … I was highly dismayed when I bought my first batch of fresh chicken in England. It tasted funny! Like fish! Then, another wife told me that they feed the chickens fish meal. Ahem. What to do? …  “Rosemary Chicken”

        I have avoided “regular chicken” in the UK since the early 90s.

  10. While there are still exceptions, the standard of regular supermarket food is much higher in the UK than North America. For example, free-range chicken, pork and other meats are stocked as a matter of course, and don’t cost much more than factory-farmed meat. Here in Canada (the collapse of the UK economy forced me to move back here recently after 5 pleasant years in Oxford and London) you just don’t have that option – apparently there is neither the demand or the government impetus for food animals to be raised in a conscientious way.

    1. This is absolutely true. Competition in the UK grocery world is intense, and as a result there is a great range of choice at reasonable prices (relatively.) When I came to the US I was expecting to ascend into lifestyle nirvana – but was disappointed to find that that US grocery stores weren’t a patch on either Tesco, Sainsburys or Waitrose. My closest store in NY is Gristedes. It reminds me of Safeways from the 80s. Thank goodness for Whole Foods. 

      1. Don’t judge US grocery stores by those in NYC – NYC and surrounding areas have the worst grocery stores in the state (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods being the larger-store exceptions if you live near one, and there are some great small and rather expensive shops).

        The rest of the state has Wegmans, which is an excellent chain and similar to those UK chains you list in many ways.

        The rest of the country is typically pretty dismal, however. I didn’t realize how good I had it growing up in Western New York (where Wegmans originated) before I traveled around the US. I was shocked at how awful and overpriced the grocery stores were when I moved to California (though it was there I discovered Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which like in NYC are the only places worth shopping other than ethnic stores – TJ’s and Whole Foods don’t exist in most areas where Wegmans are).

  11. pretty tired stereotype, we’re behind europe food-wise, for sure, but Americans don’t have a chubby leg to stand on.

        1. And you have turkey twizzlers, deep-fried mars bars, etc.  Everyone has their disgusting, shameful food so feel free to get off your high horse.  Just don’t get all Frenchified on us and eat the damn thing.

  12. England got the “bad food” rap, because of frugal measures taken in the nineteen fifties to pay off their debt to us from world war 2. Making pudding from bread crumbs and carrots and such. Their cuisine is actually very good and nicely prepared in general, with appropriate portion size.

    1.  Lemme say ‘ditto’. 

      I was in Scotland twice, for a total of three months (it looks like I just missed the Ice Cream Wars).  On the whole, the food was delish – except for some gawdawful black pudding on one of the small islands.    Bonus: all those excuses to wash the food down with some whisky.

      And I know from what I speak, being a former Montrealer.

      /Mind you, I did come across tinned harburger patties.  Tinned hamburger!

        1.  What we got at school in the sixties. Real Hamburgers didn’t come to our part of Sweden until the seventies. These were called “Pannbiff med Lök”, served with vegs and ‘taters and were actually made in our kitchen with about the same meat content. Better than fish pudding…

  13. Could have picked better examples of blowing ‘the average persons food budget for the week on one meal’.

    Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall isn’t particularly extravagant food-wise. Just looking at the last series of River Cottage, most of the dishes are cheaper to prepare than 90% of what’s on that blog. The reality they’re dosing is weak.

    1. Yeah… that’s what I was thinking, too. I haven’t watched River Cottage for ages, but if I don’t remember totally wrong his food was mostly about foraging, growing it yourself, and buying local produce. And I don’t think Nigella’s show uses anything expensive, either. He/she mentions low income… but if you truly are low income then learning to make food from scratch is definitely worth it to save a lot of money.

  14. Speaking of the expense of food…I have heard tell that food in general is quite expensive in the UK.  Is this true?  Can anyone with experience provide some info?  Like…what, say, does a chicken cost?  Battery hen vs. free-range organic?

    What does a pound of apples cost?  Carrots?  A bottle of milk?   Again, conventional vs. organic – is there much difference?  *How* much difference?

    1. Lots of difference. London makes everywhere else look cheap. Prices fall approximately with distance from London. It depends where you’re going. And where you’re coming from.

    2. Asking the price of a bottle of milk is a classic way to prove a politician is out of touch with the general public. My local corner shop charges 25p/pint (for about 8 pints), organic milk from Asda is currently 37.5p/pint (for 8 pints). Organic milk from Prince Charles’ brand costs about £1 per pint (in Waitrose).

      Why don’t you have a look at the Asda and Waitrose websites to get an idea of prices at the opposite ends of the mainstream supermarkets?

  15. Two examples of really bad English food from, oh my god it’s been 35 years since I lived there (as an Unitedstatesian student):

    – pizza topped with hard boiled eggs
    – “beefburgers” that were deep-fried (!) before being put on the bun.

    That’s not counting “normal” British cooking with boiled-to-death vegetables and chips with everything. Or the time when I thought I’d be clever and buy 3 pounds of bangers cheap and eat them for the rest of the week… Ughhh -can’t bear to smell one of the damn things now (luckily they don’t exist in the US).  Food has gotten a LOT better in England since the 70’s!

    1. pizza topped with hard boiled eggs

      I had a soggy pizza topped with cockles. It was nasty.

    2.  “- “beefburgers” that were deep-fried (!) before being put on the bun.”

      That seems to have thankfully died out now, but I know night clubs of my youth still tended to do it (10-15 years ago now probably).

      I think back then you had to serve hot food for a late license or something, so they stuck a deep fat fryer behind the bar as lip service to a silly law, never expecting anyone to actually consume the vile putrescence it spat out :D

      Buying one was a mistake nobody ever made twice!

      1.  Yes – my mistake was thinking that a roadside fast food place could deliver the hamburger that I missed from the States…

      2. I remember in my youth here in the US that you put a pat of butter on your baked potato and a pat of butter on your green beans and a pat of butter on your steak. It seems quite odd in retrospect, as if you couldn’t bear to taste the actual flavor of anything unless it were ameliorated with butter.

  16. Yeah – I don’t think they “got” pizza back then (neither the American nor the Italian variety). Speaking of cockles, I got homesick for clam chowder and tried making it with cockles once … came out much better than my enchiladas

  17. No mention yet of the post down the page for “Mr. Brain’s Pork Faggots”? (Now with more sauce!”) blechhhh… via wiki: “A faggot is traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat with herbs and sometimes bread crumbs”

    1.  Remove breadcrumbs and herbs, substitute crushed barley and some pork fat, put it in real sausage skins, smoke it and you have “Swedish Isterband”. Fry it up carefully and serve it with pickled beetroot and ‘taters. Delicious!

  18. True fact: “shite” is the Hungarian word for cheese. Well, it’s spelled “sajt,” really, but it’s pronounced “shite.”

  19. Simple rule of thumb regarding food – the less you have to do before eating the worse it is. 

    Cheap can be good and a collection of experiences like the mentioned website can be instructive, educational and very very interesting.
    This information can also help change what is made available to people – no one can eat what is out of reach, and as more and more people have restricted access to good quality food, epidemics of malnourishment will spread like wildfire. 

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