What, another food blog? Yes, I already have one, though I haven’t kept it up for years. And I’m sure there are a limited number of pairs of eyeballs interested enough in food porn to support all the rest. But here I am living in England, in a whole new world of food, into which I descended amidst warnings of overboiled gray vegetables and fish and chips cooked in rancid fat. I knew my obsession with the Cadbury machines on every tube platform wouldn’t last – in fact, they no longer exist – but I arrived ready to seek out the good stuff I knew was here. And so it is. And, sure, bad stuff as well – pub food is still, often, just pub food, despite some poncifying here and there and attempts to make money. There are some curious national food traditions that will never go away, like all the Christmas sweets based on booze-macerated dried fruit and animal fat; I know supermarket mince pies are now vegetarian, but only under pressure from the PC police, and hence not the real deal. But you can get really good, cheap, healthy, pre-made, reasonably sized sandwiches in most train stations. There’s lots of competition among supermarkets for the yuppie/organic/green/locavore market, and happy eggs and chickens can be found in even the worst-performing stores. And as much as I look forward to finding the perfect little Indian grocery where I can befriend the proprietors and get lots of cooking tips while breathing in the smell of spice, I don’t really have to; most of that stuff is around the corner at Tesco.
And restaurants. Yes, there are very good restaurants in England, of all different kinds. It’s not just the highly competitive Indian and Chinese takeaway market – we get menus shoved through the mail slot daily. Some of those aforementioned pubs are now transformed into rustic showcases for lovingly raised or gathered and prepared local meats and seasonal produce. OK, most of this I’ve only seen on TV, for example the slightly nerdy Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall paddling out in the English Channel in an innertube to check his cuttlefish traps. But there are, increasingly, Michelin stars and forks out there, and not just one at a time, and not just at once-in-a-decade-treat prices either.
I do hope to raise my own chickens someday. But for right now, while my partner and I are trying to find the right moment to move out of the London suburbs, and I have lots of free time to shop and surf for recipes and make food for two people who like to eat, this blog is a good way to release some of the foody thoughts and observations circling in my brain. I will still, at least in the near term, eat for comfort, and probably get a little fat – sorry. But while this is therapeutic for me, maybe it’ll be helpful or interesting for others at the same time, and any hints you can offer toward my wild bagel chases are most welcome.
I should note that I am grateful for the chance to live in England, at the pleasure of Her Majesty’s government, and I will try to be accurate, and any observations here that might be naive or even wrong are my own. I’m really not trying to be controversial, start any fights or comment wars, or (worse) get my visa yanked. So while I will strive for British politeness, readers might offer the same.