Provenance And Other English Phrases Related To British Food Ep 387

Red and ripe British apples on a tree, one of the many foods and drinks made in Britain. Discussed as part of this English food phrases lesson.

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💬 2017 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 11 min

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Everyday English Food & Drink Phrases

Today we talk about provenance, and other food related English phrases. Provenance, which is from the Latin “pro-venire” and later the French “provenir” the phrase is now a well-used part of the English language.

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So provenance is like a place of origin, a birthplace of or the beginning of something. It’s often referred to when talking about antiques, people consider antiques more valuable if it comes with provenance. An old knife and fork is just that, but if you can prove it was the knife and fork used to eat a famous meal by a famous person, you can establish provenance, then this might make these things more valuable.

The same can be true of food and drink, you can buy Whisky from many parts of the world, but Scottish whisky comes from the birthplace of whisky, and you can assume that this makes it better. Every country in the world has a food or drink they created, and it’s probably true that those countries make it best.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

In The UK7
From Different Places2
A Lot Of2
Type Of Food2
Countries Like France2

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The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Provenance And Other English Phrases Related To British Food

Hi there and welcome to this short podcast from Adept English, helping you with your English language learning.

Food and foodies in the UK

One of the things which has changed over the last 40 years, is food in the UK. Food in the UK is high quality. It’s really good. Not all of it, but much of it. There are delicacies, specialities of the region – like in France. Lots of really good quality produce and interesting and particular cuisine. There are a lot of different traditional foods from different places in the UK.

And I’d say that we have become more well-known for our quality foods and prouder of them too in the last few years. Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, it’s true to say that Britain was known, certainly in Europe for not having good food. But if that reputation still persists, if that view of British food continues – well, it’s out of date! It’s not like that any more here. Good food is important to people – and we’re more choosy, more fussy – we care more about the quality of food.

‘Fussy, choosy, picky’ – these are all adjectives to describe someone who is selective, careful – in this context about what they eat. Someone who’s not going to be happy with just any old type of food, someone to whom the choice matters. ‘Discerning’, D-I-S-C-E-R-N-I-N-G, that’s another good descriptive word – meaning that we are mindful of quality. That’s the more formal, ‘discerning’, than ‘choosy, fussy or picky’, but they mean the same.


British food got better

Of course, like in any other country of the world, it’s possible to have a bad meal at a restaurant in the UK. But it’s certainly not the norm and not that common. I think that we’ve become aware of the particular types of food that we do really well in the UK and which are our traditions. That’s always been true of countries like France or Italy.

There’s a lot of tradition around food preparation and cooking in countries like France and Italy – and the focus is on knowing how to make food, on enjoying it. And it’s part of family life, and part of national pride. In the UK, perhaps with the exception of the US, we probably eat a greater variety of food, from different places around the world, different countries, different cuisine than anywhere else. But we’re no longer ashamed of our British food.

British food is now something to be proud of. And there are types of food that we do – really well. ‘Eating British’ is popular. The ‘gastropub’ helped make it popular in the 1990s, reviving British food and making British food more fashionable! A ‘gastropub’, G-A-S-T-R-O-P-U-B – it’s ‘gastronomic’ and ‘pub’ added together, so it’s a pub, where you can enjoy ‘restaurant quality’ food.

Food and its origin

What we really seem to like, is knowing where our food comes from. Which particular location is the type of food, or the recipe from? So we’ll speak of Cheddar cheese. And yes, Cheddar is a place in the county of Somerset. In fact, British cheese is almost always called by the name of the place it comes from. So from Cheddar, to Cheshire cheese, Lancashire cheese, Caerphilly Cheese and even Stilton cheese comes specifically from parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.


A photograph of British cheeses, like many countries Britain makes unique foods.

©️ Adept English 2020

We’ll talk of Cornish pasties – a flat type of pie, which comes from Cornwall. We’ll talk of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies – Melton Mowbray is a little village in Leicestershire. And of course, there are Yorkshire Puddings, from Yorkshire, though actually anyone can make those – you don’t need special ingredients, just know-how!

In a previous podcast, I gave you a foolproof recipe for Yorkshire Puddings – it works every time! And if you think about it, there are just so many regional variations in the British food that we enjoy -we’ve become proud of it. And it extends to alcohol as well – London Gin, Scotch or Irish Whiskey. And have you heard of Stout, S-T-O-U-T or Pimms, P-I-M-M-S? Or even Newcastle Brown Ale? No surprise where that comes from! Very British alcohol.

What do we mean by ‘provenance’?

One of the English words which I’ve heard used much more in recent years is ‘provenance’, P-R-O-V-E-N-A-N-C-E. If shops or companies are trying to sell a type of food or drink to us, they’ll tell us about its ‘provenance’. ‘Provenance’ means where does it come from? What’s its history? What’s its origin? And we like a story rich in history and tradition.

So apples that are called ‘Bramley Apples’, or potatoes which are ‘Jersey Royals’ say something about the origin. These names make them more desirable because they tell you it’s a certain type of apple or a certain type of potato. You know what you’re getting. You have ordinary pasties but then you have Cornish pasties – and you expect Cornish pasties to be prepared in a certain way.

Protected food – in the EU and after Brexit?

And now there’s a legal basis for some of this. Just like the French have their ‘appellation d'origine contrôlée ’ – that’s ‘controlled naming related to origin’ and the Italians have their ‘Denominazione di origine controllata’, (sorry about my pronunciation), we also have this for certain foods in the UK. It means that only certain regions of the country can produce certain foods and use those names. And there are controls over how it’s produced.

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This ensures quality and authenticity – and of course benefits the producers of that particular food. It’s like champagne can only come from the champagne region in France and parma ham or proscuitto can only come from that certain region of Italy.

After the UK leaves the EU, on 1st January 2021, the UK will have its own schemes, called Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).

Those are a mouthful, aren’t they? But these schemes will protect the names of British products after we leave the EU. And of course, if the UK wants new names to be controlled within the EU, they have to apply to the EU again, but the names the EU already protects will continue to enjoy protection.

Go British at Christmas

There are endless varieties of British foods and drinks to try. And as we move from November into December, we start to think about Christmas and our thoughts turn to food. We like good food and lots of it at Christmas. And given the restrictions on social contact that we have this year, which will make it very difficult to see people still, I think that enjoying good food is going to be even more important. So selecting and cooking good food, is going to be even more part of the Christmas period than ever!

And what’s probably also true at Christmas – we do tend to ‘go British’. As I said before, we are very broad in our taste most of the time. The version of Indian curries that’s served in Indian restaurants up and down the UK – that’s many people’s favourite food. But as we move into December and food that’s associated with Christmas, we tend to choose traditional British food. And that’s not just for our Christmas dinner. That’s most of the cooking around that time of year.

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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon.Goodbye.



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