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Take the Family › Dea Birkett's Eating with Kids: An English in Eastbourne

Dea Birkett's Eating with Kids: An English in Eastbourne

We all love English cooking. ‘Roast potatoes and gravy,’ is like the first line of a poem for my kids; they always know what’s coming next, crying out for it even before it arrives at the table. ‘Meat!’ ‘Yorkshire pudding!’ ‘Carrots!’

Most countries have a defining dish. Italy has pizza; America has hamburgers; Germany has wurst. But in England, our national taste isn’t expressed in a single edible item, but whole meals. And there are three of them competing for the national culinary crown. The Great English Breakfast, Fish ‘n Chips and Traditional Sunday Lunch.

My kids scoff down all of them – although rarely all three within 24 hours. But that’s exactly what we’ve managed to achieve here in Eastbourne, on the sunny Sussex coast.

We arrived last night and dashed down to Chippy on the Pier, the blue and white painted end-of-pier refreshment hut featured in the film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. There’s nothing that washes grease down better than greasepaint; my teenager seemed starstruck by her haddock, as if that very piece of battered fish had appeared on screen. I realised that if I hired Passage to India, she’d be demanding vindaloo for supper. Local Hero, and she’d even eat porridge.

We’re staying at The Grand, an Edwardian pile on the seafront with an outdoor pool, in which we defied the autumn weather. The Grand excels at what England does best and ignores what England doesn’t do, as if it there were nothing beyond the Channel. It’s polite and padded with soft furnishings. There are plenty of tassels on heavy curtains. Everything is understated and muted; there are no strong colours.

But the food is brashly British, a full assault on the arteries. The Grand proudly serves the Great English Breakfast, including fried bread and slices of black pudding. As patriotic consumers, we followed this feast a few hours later with Sunday lunch, commencing with Pea and Ham soup. For our main course, a ring of waiters stood around our table, one arm at the ready, until the maitre d’ murmured, ‘One, two, three!,’ and they lifted the silver cloches from each of our plates in unison, revealing slabs of bloody roast beef and Yorkshire puds as big as flying saucers. By that stage, it didn’t matter what lay underneath the silver domes. The 7-year-old twins would devour anything presented with such slight of hand, as if the waiters were wizards.

So for my family, movies and a little bit of magic make a meal. Especially when it comes to traditional English fayre.

Next meal: pizza in Venice

Dea Birkett
October 2008

Useful information about Eastbourne:

Dea and family stayed at The Grand in Eastbourne, West Sussex.

Read Take the Family's family guide to Eastbourne

British Food Fortnight runs til October 5th

By Dea Birkett

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