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.
|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.
|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.