May's Cookery Book 1685, Mary Evans Picture Library

Key points in English culinary history

Important events include the introduction of beer, the invention of the can opener and the first mention of chips (fries).

Mid-12th century

Spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, first imported into England.

Late Middle Ages

Breakfast becomes firmly established as the first meal of the day

Early 16th century

Beer joins ale as a popular national drink

16th century

Potatoes, tomatoes arrive in England from South America


Dinner for the poor in celebration of the coronation of King Edward VII, London, 1902. Artist: Unknown

The writer Thomas Coryate records eating with a fork while traveling in Italy (up until this time English people used knives and spoons)


First coffee shop in England opens


Ice cream first served in England


The cookery writer Hannah Glasse gives a recipe "To make a currey the Indian way" in her book, "The Art of Cookery"


Thomas Robinson invents a cast-iron kitchen range, with a central grate for the fire and a hinged oven door


The tin opener is invented


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"Chips" (fries) first mentioned, in Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities"


Sale of Food and Drugs Act passed to try to prevent dangerous chemicals, such as copper and red lead, from being added to food to improve its shelf life


King Edward VII's coronation banquet runs to 14 courses


Microwave ovens are in 91 percent of English homes

Source: "A History of English Food," by Clarissa Dickson Wright. Published Feb. 21, 2012.