Finding Home and Happiness in Food
It’s not really a surprise, is it? For those of you who have known me for more than, let’s say an hour or so, will know that food is something I consider to be a religious experience. Think of it! Ah, the wonderful smells and sights and lest we forget the tastes. Eating is one of the few truly human, visceral pleasures we can experience. It involves all of our senses (come on, holding a fuzzy soft peach before eating it is as delightful as the first bite). It’s also made infinitely better by sharing it with people.
And my roommates love food as much as I do, if not more. One of ‘em is even a talented chef, with a cookbook to boot. Another is a self-taught master of comfort food and adventurous flavors. And even another who believes freshness is second to godliness. I live in a good house, to say the least.
Saturday afternoon I spent the day perusing my very favorite place in London, Borough Market ,with Andres, Sam and Julia. In the insane hustle and bustle of a Saturday in what is perhaps London’s most popular market, I managed to feel relaxed and comforted by the experience. I insisted we all get the chorizo roll from Brindisa – a sinfully delicious sandwich on rustic, yet soft bread filled with spicy chorizo, olive oil, rocket (or arugala as you yanks back home call it) and the sweetest piquillo peppers you’ve ever tasted. I had it the first time I visited the market back in 2008 and it was better than I remembered.
There’s a new smell or sensation every 2 feet in Borough Market (no kilometer conversion quite just yet, I’m not that advanced, people). One second you’re wafting in the decadent aromas of grilled duck and the next you’re lured in by the delicate scents of fresh herbs and bright strawberries. I’m not even going to mention the pastries. At one point I exclaimed to Andres “ God, I love food.” Without a second’s hesitation, the gentleman next to me shouted “me too!” It’s a beautiful thing, food.
Saturday also meant a lot to me because my friends saw me really REALLY geek out about cheese for the first time. If I were a bee, cheese would be my honey. Real camembert and epoisses! We can’t get those in the states, silly pasteurization laws and such. An aged, grassy sheep’s milk with a hay-like rind. A creamy gorgonzola dolce, barely capable of keeping any sort of shape as it oozes about its container. A classic Gorwydd Caerphilly with just the right crumble in the center. Poetry, pure poetry. And my friends, they all went on the ride with me. Oh vegans of the world, the things you are depriving yourself of! And I don’t even care that I ended that last sentence with a preposition!
So, we came home with bag fulls of fresh produce, hearty bread, mushroom pate and of course plenty of cheese. We indulged in figs stuffed with stilton, drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar with a bit of sea salt. A camembert baked with tiny strawberries. Pears and carrots. And wine, of course there was wine. In the words of my hero Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, “If this isn’t good, I don’t know what is.”
The previous night I went with Sam and Andres to a lesser known part of town to see some live folk music, and wouldn’t you know it…the place was filled with good food (and wine). I firmly believe good company and good food can make for the best experiences…even if the night ends with a stop at a fast food chicken joint on the way home after one too many glasses. More on that later. Maybe.
And in these wonderful little shared experiences (ohmygod I forgot to mention stumbling into the Harrod’s food market and falling in love with grapefruit lemonade. Truffled ham! Dark chocolate with orange and balsamic!) have reminded me why I love London so much. I fell in love with this city for the first time three years ago. And my best memories always came back to the dinner table. The seventeen of us Drexel students cooking a Thanksgiving feast together, as many of us were away from home for the holiday for the first time. Going out for my roommate Marta’s birthday to an Israeli restaurant where we all learned what a real kebab was and why people in London love them so much. It was taking Glynn Christian’s class “Personal Paradigms of Taste and Flavor” and being introduced to amazing things like Pedro Ximinez sherry, a 12 year aged balsamic vinegar, poo eur tea – and our “final” for the course being a tasting at Fortnum and Mason featuring Serrano ham, smoked salmon, foie gras, caviar, champagne and of course chocolate. I also credit that class for my (unhealthy) obsession with cheese. And it all comes back to who I was sharing it with. People say the food in London is terrible. Step away from the fish and chips (though those are good in their own right) and savor what London really has to offer. And if you’re worried about calories, just think of all the walking you have to do. This city is massive. Think of all the places left to explore.