Behold the humble potato - Britain’s sole food group and its economic backbone, according to a parody of the hit Chinese documentary series A Bite of China.
The spoof, made by a British comedy duo, has set tongues wagging for its mockery of Britain’s culinary culture and the exaggerated, almost mystical tone and imagery of the Chinese hit series.
The spoof, dubbed A Taste of Britain, comes after state broadcaster CCTV launched the second season of the hugely popular A Bite of China.
Creators Stuart Wiggin and Wu Tong, the host and the producer of China Radio International’s C4 comedy show, said while they wanted to gently mock the food tastes of the UK, they were also satirising China’s ignorance about British food, and about the dearth of available information about the cuisine.
A Taste of Britain begins: “Just like China, meats and fish are popular in Britain. But in order to make [these] taste extra special, it has to be complemented by other ingredients. Britain only has one such ingredient: the potato.”
The rest of the parody, which has been widely shared on social media, describes the intricate process of preparing a potato – first boiling it and then sprinkling salt on it. As an actor takes a bite of a whole salted potato, the narrator says in stilted monotone how the root vegetable gives Britons energy “all day long”.
“The Chinese tend to think that Britain has no unique dish,” Oxford-educated Wiggin, who has been living in China since 2007, told the South China Morning Post. “We’re making fun of how bad a job Britain is doing in advertising its food.”
C4 airs weekly on the CRI website and is shared on Youku, China’s equivalent of YouTube. The A Taste of Britain clip has been viewed more than 663,000 times as of this morning – the programme’s most-watched episode – since being uploaded on Tuesday.
However, some mainland netizens took the piece at face value, launching a tirade against the UK's supposedly limited diet.
A reporter surnamed Lin in Fujian province told the Post about her “potato nightmare” in 2007, when she was staying in Salisbury, about an hour’s drive from London.
“I had so much [potato] that month that I tried to keep away from all dishes with potatoes in them when I got back home,” Lin said.
For her farewell, she said her host family took her to the best restaurant in town for an expensive dinner. “[We had] saltless steamed pork and beans,” she said. “And I could not wait any longer to fly back home.”
Meanwhile, on Sina Weibo, a photo of fish ‘n’ chips captioned “A Bite of Britain. End.” went viral, drawing 6,000 comments and 30,000 reposts within days. It was posted by a sport commentator on the talkSPORT radio channel.
“In China, it’s hard to do satire,” said Wiggins. “[The show] is as satirical as it can be on Chinese state media. We do manage to say quite a lot.”
Other netizens revisited an old gallery from popular TV and books platform Douban.com titled “We British Can Cook”, which included recipes from award-winning British food blog MsMarmiteLover.com, bombarding them with comments on what they deemed the worst entries.
Commenters singled out the “Stargazy pie”, made with herring, as the worst.
“It’s like burying herrings in a tome of flour,” a female commentator wrote. Others frowned upon the pie, saying, “Herrings also have dignity.”