You’ve enjoyed a traditional British or German dish and found yourself wondering, why is European food so bland? Well, that is…wait for it…a matter of taste. Every culture’s food is born out of the things that were available. That is how the world enjoys such a wide spectrum of dishes, everyone giving their angle on what was available over the centuries.
Asking why is European food so bland is like asking why Indian food is so spicy. It’s not that one is spicy or one is bland, you’re describing your flavor assessment of a dish and comparing it to other things you’ve enjoyed. Let’s go over if European food is, in fact, bland.
Traditional vs. Modern
Traditional dishes are just that, traditional and historically accurate. They haven’t meshed with other cultures and what they bring to the culinary arts. Since Europe doesn’t have the same spices available in Asia or Central or South America. If you’re more familiar with those spices and the influence as well as the confluence of cultures in cuisine, it’s easy to see how you’d think any traditional European food is bland.
On the other hand, if you grew up in Europe you’d find that the flavors and textures in those dishes are phenomenal and wonder why other culture’s dishes are so spicy or light on meat. Think of American cuisine in terms of regions. If you’re the Pacific Northwest or the North East, you’d find a lot of seafood. If you’re in the Southern American states you’d find foods centered on what was farmed rather than what was caught.
So, if you’re wondering why is European food so bland…it isn’t. It’s that your palette is accustomed to a wide variety of influences.
When people began trading across continents and traveling around the globe, food would never be the same again. Think of the spice trade wars from centuries ago. Think about when early Americans began expanding into Mexican territories or when French cuisines began mixing with a Native American influence. This still hasn’t stopped today.
We’re not used to traditional foods, we’re used to the exchange of recipes. We’re very fortunate to know of the many dishes, spices, vegetables, fruits, and meats throughout the world. Creating exciting new dishes for all of us to enjoy. But, when you’re asking for traditional foods you’re cutting out all that influence. That is a big reason as to why is European food not spicy. Until the exchange of foods across cultures and counties, they wouldn’t have had access to those spices.
When people ask why is European food so bland, they usually mean why it isn’t spicy. Well, if it’s traditional food it won’t be spicy. Trying different traditional foods is about trying that culture. Exploring a history pertaining to those people via your taste buds. Asking it to be something it isn’t is not wanting to try traditional foods, you’re asking for a fusion restaurant.
Fusion and the Modern Luxury
One of the greatest things about being around today is the culmination of all the trade the world does. No longer bound by where you are, you can explore all the different ingredients in the world to create completely new interpretations of food. The price of that is an entirely new palette. That has nothing to do with why is European food so bland.
You’re, in a way, time-traveling with your tongue. As noted earlier, you’re tasting the history of a people. What European food brings to the table is a variety of ways to cook meat and an array of textures. It isn’t devoid of flavor, it just isn’t as spicy as other culture’s cuisines. So, you’re being introduced to an entirely new way to cook. It may look familiar, assuming you live in the Western world but, it’s very different than what you’ve grown up with.
When visiting a traditional European restaurant, take a minute to remember that you’re about to eat something different than what you usually eat. You’re about to enjoy cuisine untouched by modern influences. So, kick back and enjoy the history. Enjoy the culture. Remember that next time you ask why is European food so bland.
It isn’t. You’re just used to the fusion of all the world’s cuisines.