Friday, August 7, 2015

Adventures in Food

As referenced by yesterday’s post, I like talking about food. While going to a new country means that you get to see buildings you usually wouldn’t and people you usually wouldn’t and land that you usually wouldn’t, it also means that you get to eat food that you usually wouldn’t.

Food is one of those things that is universal to everybody—we eat special food on special days, we share food with people we care about, we learn to associate parts of our lives with flavors and dishes. Food is huge!

And so I will share a couple stories about food, because in the end, it was the food that made things that much better. They are told in order of importance, not time, so do not get confused.

Real Food Market at the Southbank Centre
Flickr Credit: Michael Hirst

Story #1: The Southbank Centre Market


Tents. Lots of tents with bright tarps to provide shelter from the gloom, bursting with savory smells and bundles to share. Papa and I had roamed the small market before, gleaning fruit-veggie shakes, ice cream, cookies, and—my very favorite—a gluten-free salted caramel brownie. These people knew food.

I’d hoped to visit later and pick up something to bring back to the States, but already the vendors were packing up their wares.

“Excuse me.” I paused at a booth I was interested in. “How long until the market closes?”

“Five-thirty,” the woman replied. “And we leave fast too, like rats from a sewer.”

Well, great. Papa had all the money and wouldn’t be out of his meeting until six—but I really wanted to bring some chutney back for my family to try. I’d just have to handle it myself. Launching myself into a hasty retrieval operation, I conned my way into a restricted event and heckled my grandpa for the cash.

And by that I mean I just asked everybody nicely and quietly so I wouldn’t interrupt anything—but it was still a triumph, okay? It felt like I was pretty badass. And I got the money.

I got chutney. And curds. Some lavender tea for my mom, and a chai tea for myself while I waited for Papa. I went up the stairs with my purchases to wait and write, sipping my tea and thinking. I’ve never been big on buying presents, never liked giving unsolicited objects to those I care about. But it’s one thing to share photos, and another to share flavors. It’s funny… buying experiences in England reminded me of home.

Chino Latino
Flickr Credit: jepellgen

Story #2: Dinner


There’s basically only one thing you need to know about my relationship with the Chinese-Peruvian restaurant in our hotel: they served taquitos, and the only proper word to describe them is GLORIOUS. Glorious, and slightly messy. BUT GLORIOUS.

The taquitos and white miso soup were my dinner our first night in town—practically the only good thing to happen to me all day. I was jet-laggy, grumpy, and frazzled from our visit to the British Museum, but the food was enough to perk me up.

Unfortunately, the soup was making Papa cough, alarming the men sitting next to us. After reassuring them of Papa’s not-about-to-die-ing, we struck up a conversation. Turns out they were police officers from out of town, and for the record, they did make sure that I was Papa’s granddaughter, and not a different kind of consort. My family laughs when I tell that story, but I do appreciate that people would have been concerned in the event that he wasn’t actually my grandfather.

I mean, old man taking young girl to a foreign country and staying at a hotel alone? That could get pretty shady pretty fast.

It’s hard to put into words how much I enjoyed the conversation. Part of that was that they ruled the conversation, not Papa, and that is impressive for any of his acquaintances. But while we discussed several things, they added something I was afraid I wouldn’t get anywhere else: perspective.

London isn’t how most English live, they reminded me. People come to London expecting everything, but as they put it, you wouldn’t visit New York City and expect to see the same in backwoods Alabama.

Day one. I was tired, I was overwhelmed, the attractions looked better online, and I wanted to go home. And then these policemen, strangers, gave me something special: a desire to return someday.

My expectations of London didn’t improve, and the rest of the trip was fine, but nothing that grabbed my heart. Still, I have this reminder. There are other things to see in England, and they deserve a sporting chance.

‘Course, I may have to visit that hotel again because of the glorious taquitos, but that’s another story.

How do you use food to connect with people? What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever eaten away from home?

10 comments :

  1. Dang it, Heather, this post made me hungry.
    But really, I've enjoyed reading about your London trip, though you don't seem as thrilled with it as one might hope when going to London. But a lot of places are like that, and I've felt that way recently (*glances at recent missions trip*) so I can't really talk. xD It sounds like you had a neat experience anyway, especially with the food. Food is important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *blinks* Well I cannot solve all your problems for you! :)

      Yeah... I mean, I don't think it disappointed me, but it certainly didn't rise above and beyond my expectations. Ah, well. Food is totally important, though, so I'm glad I talked about that.

      Delete
  2. Cool post! Food certainly is universal, and you seemed to have some pretty interesting adventures with it, lol. I especially liked that first one. Conned your way in, hehe, that's awesome. :D

    And yeah, it's funny how a lot of people think of London as like the perfect example of English culture, when really, there's so much more out there, just like New York is completely different from Alabama.

    I'm really enjoying reading about your London trip. Your unique perspective is just fascinating, and it makes me want to take a trip there and experience it all for myself even more. :D


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was not as mysterious and cunning as I felt at the time. Alas, alas. Still, it was a good experience.

      But, yes, London is definitely not all there is, so we always have to keep that in mind—not just with London, but perhaps in other big cities we visit everywhere, too!

      Thanks for reading and enjoying, Alexa! I hope you get to have an enjoyable trip someday, too. :)

      Delete
  3. Food is something that is very important in all cultures :)

    When my family went to Australia, we tried their ice cream which isn't as nice as NZ's because we have strict laws about what ice cream is (fat and milk content etc). But it was certainly an experience :)

    London sounds like it must have been an adventure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any cultures it wasn't important to have clearly died.

      o.O I do not know much about ice cream laws, but I didn't see any big differences between England and America's ice creams, that much... But what do I know?

      It was! :D Thanks for reading, Opal!

      Delete
  4. I was extremely confused when I saw you mention miso soup in conjunction with China, because I'd always thought that miso soup was Japanese. Then I Googled it and realised for some reason that's what soya bean milk is called, and I congratulate you because soya bean milk is a glorious thing.

    On a slightly less nitpicky note, the police officers sound great and I realise I don't think I've ever talked to a police officer, unless you count those stupid seminars where I wanted to throttle them. It's really good, though, that they are tempting you back to England with the promise of non-London-y things and taquitos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *shrugs* The restaurant was called Chino Latino so I just took their word that they got their cultures right. But yes, if miso soup is soya bean milk in disguise, then I enjoyed it very much! It was the right kind of warm and vegetables, and I liked that.

      I know a few police officers from church (I think?) but yeah, usually you don't get lots of discussions with them. Still, I appreciated their insight! I would definitely go back for not-London and taquitos, though. Especially taquitos.

      Delete
  5. Yes, food is the universal language. When people ask me what living in Africa is like, the first thing I can think to talk about is the food. And I get grumpy when grocery stores sell African-ish food that isn't nearly as good. Don't even get me started on pineapples, mangos, or papayas.

    Also, I loved reading about your experience with the police officers. It's funny--I'm a suspicious person by nature, but I don't think I would have even considered how shady it might be for an elderly man to be traveling with a much younger woman in a foreign country. I'd be too busy studying the menu.

    Anyway, I'm sorry you didn't have as great a time in London--I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it much either. But I bet some of the less crowded areas are much better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's cool! I'd love to hear you talk more about your African experiences sometime, although I don't know if that is safe on your blog. You'll have to tell me about our unsatisfactory pineapples, mangos, and papayas.

      I agree! Hopefully less crowded places in England are in my eventual future!

      Delete

Check it out, comments and stuff. I love to hear from readers, and I always respond to commenters! Here's the fun part—if you leave a link to your blog I'll show up and comment back. I have just one rule down here: Don't Be a Problem. This spans the entire umbrella of rudeness and crudeness, so I reiterate: Don't Be a Problem. Thanks for stopping by!