This Saturday, 25th April 2015, one of the largest St George’s Day celebrations in the UK will take place in Trafalgar Square. According to the Visit London website, visitors to the Feast of St George Festival can look forward to sampling a range of traditional English fare such as hog roasts and homemade pies.
Is this choice of cuisine truly representative of St George?
Whilst St George is often portrayed as a white, blue eyed warrior these images are probably inaccurate as he was actually born in the 3rd Century to Palestinian Christian parents, in Cappadocia, an area now in Turkey.
In fact his life is celebrated around the world in countries as diverse as Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Russia, Syria, Egypt and Ethiopia?
Therefore, surely it would make sense and add more variety to St George’s Day events to also make some cuisine available from these countries? There may be certain dishes which would traditionally eaten on the St George’s Day, or foods consumed during other festivities at this time of the year in these countries, that could be offered at public events such as the Trafalgar Square festival. Middlesex and London are centres of global cuisine so I doubt that there is any shortage of people who have the knowledge to prepare foods from these countries.
In addition, so many aspects of worldwide cuisines have fused with English food and could be included. Recently Tania Rahman, who runs an Indian street food company called Chit Chaat Chai, was banned from including her Indian food stall at the St George’s Day celebrations in Salisbury because the food was deemed not English enough for the event but the Chicken Tikka Masala dish that she planned to serve was in fact invented by an English man.
Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Salisbury Council were deliberately racist in their actions I would say that they are ill-informed and narrow minded in their outlook.
We need to decide if St George truly is the best person to be Patron Saint of the English. If he is, we need to make our celebrations authentic and representative of the real person or bite the bullet and choose someone else to be Patron Saint who is considered to be more “quintessentially English”.
Who could that be? Winston Churchill, Edmund of Wessex? Is there anyone out there that the majority of English citizens would support as a Patron Saint?
It all boils down to the fact that the English are cynical about most of their leaders of the past and more than ever of the present so it suits us to be wishy-washy and call our Patron Saint “St George”.