Cookbook:Cornish Cuisine

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Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Cuisines | UK Cuisine

General Introduction[edit]

The cuisine of the far south-west peninsula of the United Kingdom was traditionally based upon both the constraints and abundance dictated by its geography and later by its industrial heritage. Abundant but rough seas, edged by precipitous coastline, provided both cheap protein for the locals and an export trade in salted fish when shoals swarmed close in but desperation when they failed; scattered fishing villages starved when unable to put to stormy seas in the relentless south-westerlies.

Tin-miners, originally working proud under their unique system of tribute, slowly lost political and monetary ground after the Enclosures Act and Industrial Revolution together put power solidly back into the hands of the wealthy - and largely absent -landowners. Importation of grain, whether from across the Tamar or shipped in, was ever needed due to the lack of suitable land for crop cultivation without the peaty moorlands, saltings and stream-tumbled valleys. What pasture could be found was thin and difficult: goats and sheep invariably provided what little meat the tinner, labourer or fisherman might see on a rare holiday. Farming was largely subsistence: wool was the usual product and comparatively few holdings outside of the landed estates were able to raise pigs or poultry beyond the family's own needs. Fortunately, the mild, wet climate meant that what crops and livestock (other than those exposed on the moors) that were raised - whether on the isolated farms or grown in the small gardens of the cob cottages - were rarely threatened by frosts. Both geography and climate continued to be the critical economic and social factor in the homogenisation of regional cultures precipitated by the advent of the railways, as Cornwall became the popular holiday destination it remains.

The end of the 20th century saw the last of tin-mining and the struggles of a remnant fishing industry at the same time as a new awareness and appreciation of local history and cultural heritage sought to preserve and celebrate what remained. As tourism thrives in new directions in the county, these forces together have been the major factor in the late 20th century renaissance in the production, distribution and appreciation of locally -grown and reared food. This led to a renewed interest in traditional cuisine and methods and this has in turn provided the tourist trade with a new and stimulating venture in attracting visitors keen to sample local flavours. Independent shops, farms and markets have also thrived from the demand for their produce and even the major supermarket branches have responded to pressure to reduce food miles and improve diversity by offering both staples and specialities that are locally sourced.