I’ve been asked to compare a lot of very basic aspects between the US and the UK since I’ve moved to London. Some of the questions are quite difficult to answer. Like what’s my favorite thing about living here? That will be easier to answer when I find something that I don’t like about living here. Some, like “how are you liking it so far?” are easy to answer. This question is always asked with extreme trepidation. I’m not sure if it is because they think America is so wonderful, or if they think that London is crap or if they’re just not sure how a southern girl is adjusting to the big city.
Nonetheless, I’ll be addressing these questions in my next few blog posts. Today, a favorite topic of mine: FOOD!!
I was quite nervous about the food moving to London because the last time that I visited, food was not the high point of our trip. However, it’s been quite good! Well, to be fair, the only real British food I’ve experienced was when I stayed in Southampton with Lou’s grandmother. Let me preface this by saying that she spent years as a caterer. She is a very good cook. We had rack of lamb, steak, shrimp (prawns), fish pie, shepherd’s pie, etc. All so good that we were obviously disappointed by anything we concocted after.
No, I still have not had fish and chips. Just like in America, I am avoiding anything fried like the plague. At least until I spend enough time in a pub to lower my dietary inhibitions. Which leads me to my next point, what do we eat for “drunk food” here? In America, the traditional drunk meals include Taco Bell or Waffle House. For some people it’s McDonalds, but even at my lowest inhibitions, I won’t eat McDonalds. I prefer to go for an arguably even lower quality of meat that is Taco Bell. I make excuses for WaHo because at least you see the “chefs” prepare the food, but you still never feel like it was a good life decision when you leave. In London, the best kind of food to get after the bars close is kebabs!
My boyfriend had told me about kebabs, and I pictured meat on a stick, which is not what kebabs are. They are more like gyros. And they are delicious (what isn’t after five pints though?). I also love that the ingredients are in front of you. They shave the meat (chicken, steak, or lamb) off of a giant slab in front of you. I have no idea about the quality of the meat, but at least I can see that it wasn’t taken from a vacuum-sealed bag and microwaved. Lou won’t let me try them sober. So there may never be an unbiased opinion on these.
Since we’ve been living in our place, we’ve gone back to maintained a budget of about £5 a meal. It hasn’t been too bad (thanks to Pinterest!). We’ve been using a lot of recipes we cooked at home and have kind of repeated the ones that combine easy, cheap and yummy; our favorite courses tend to be very spicy (what can I say? We’re from Texas). Stuffed peppers, fajitas, curry (of which we have tried 4 different sauces and cannot get it spicy enough!!) and jambalya (ingredients for which are extremely difficult to find here) . Thank goodness for Tabasco sauce. We put it on everything.
Speaking of sauces, I have found some condiments unique to the UK that I could put on everything: Marmite and HP Sauce. I can’t really explain the taste of Marmite. There’s nothing that compares to it in the States (people have told me it’s “yeasty”, which doesn’t sound appetizing to me and, let me assure you, it is). We put it on toast in the morning. HP Sauce is comparable to A1 Steak Sauce, except that it is much better. I have yet to find something that HP Sauce doesn’t make better.
There are some condiments missing here, though. Most notably, ranch dressing. I never ate it with a lot, typically just with pizza. But it is definitely an American thing. Now if you’re looking for mayo, you have plenty of options. There is an entire aisle at the grocery store dedicated to mayo. Apparently the Brits love the stuff. Personally, it makes me a little gaggy.
We started looking online for an American food store. There are British Emporiums in the States and so there has to be a place here. Indeed there is. And if I ever get to craving Froot Loops badly enough to pay £8, I will make a trip there. The only things we would really get there are peanut butter (preferably Jiff because, choosy expats choose Jiff), ranch dressing (for the aforementioned pizza) and Gatorade, which I was surprised is not sold here. But then! Like a little mirage in our own Tesco, we stumbled across an American end cap. And then another! Quite funny what American foods made the cut. You can see the little Jiff up there! Along with Twinkies, Crisco, a multitude of maple syrups, any flavor of jell-o you can think of, 4 shelves of candy, Pop Tarts, and old school Pepsi. Americans are a people of varied sugary obsessions, or so it would seem.
Neither of us ate very many processed foods before and we’ve continued that here. Which is why I love the markets here! I never really experienced a market in the states. There are farmers’ markets, but it’s really just a re-purposed parking lot for 3 hours once a week. These markets are open on various days, most are Thursday-Sunday, but some are everyday, usually from 10-2. And they have EVERYTHING! It is my heaven. There are stands that have food from everywhere: Kenya, Korea, Japan, Greece, Armenia, it is beautiful. And fits within my £5 budget usually! There are also stands of people who bring in handmade chocolate and pastries, tons of different honey and coffee, and organic fruits and veggies of every kind. Oh, and of course there’s free samples everywhere you turn. It’s fantastic.
I first visited Borough Market (pictures below), which is celebrating its’ 1000th anniversary this year. Yes, that’s right. One thousand years. As long as my schedule allows, going to the market will be a weekly thing for me, which will be beneficial because my goal for October is to cook meals using vegetables that are in season. If you have any yummy recipes using squash, leeks, potatoes, cabbage or Brussels sprouts, please leave a comment!!
And now I’m hungry. Tonight’s dinner is good old-fashioned meat loaf!
And tomorrow is my first day of classes (finally!). Let the hard work begin!