Probably the number one thing I’ve been looking forward too about travelling is getting to try new food. Despite the fact that in this day in age you can find a Chinese buffet next to an Italian pizzeria across the street from a Mexican restaurant (and so on), more often than not the ethnic food you find in other countries just isn’t the same if you’re not actually in the country where it “belongs.” The Chinese often laugh at our Chinese buffets, and you can’t do real Italian cuisine like they do in Italy, especially because each region of the country can be very different! So while I’m finally able to “drink around the world,” what I really want to do more than anything is eat my way around the world. Call me a fatty. I don’t care. I love food. For this reason, every time I visit another country I’m probably going to dedicate an entire blog post (or at least a large chunk of one) to food. Make sure you eat before reading my blog. If you start craving this stuff, it will be very hard for you to fly over and join me for dinner. (Although you are more than welcome too!)
Obviously the first place to start is England. One thing that I knew about England already is the fact that there’s a large Indian population here, mostly because Great Britain once had colonies in India. But I never realized how much that population affected the cuisine! There’s an entire area of Manchester known simply as “The Curry Mile.” It’s literally like 3 blocks of Indian restaurants (and some shops too). I haven’t tried any of them yet, but despite that fact I’ve still eaten a good deal of curry. The cafeteria here serves it quite frequently. I haven’t eaten a whole lot of curry in my lifetime, and I think it’s probably more of an acquired taste, but it certainly isn’t bad. I think I’ll probably get used to it and like it quite a bit. I’ve eaten more of it this week than I ever have.
But honest-to-goodness English food is very simple. Someone once told me that a good English meal consists of meat and potatoes. I thought that must be an exaggeration, because how can one live on simply meat and potatoes? Yeah, it’s actually possible. Every single meal they serve in the cafeteria (if it’s not curry) is some variation of meat and potatoes. Maybe it’s got a little variety, like cheese or pasta or fish, but the heart of the meal is either meat or potatoes or both. For instance: breakfast this morning was sausage, hash browns, and scrambled eggs. Lunch: fish and chips (no meat, but there’s fish instead). Dinner: well, I haven’t had dinner yet, but last night it was spaghetti with meat sauce, and little boiled potatoes and veggies on the side. Or instead of pasta, you could get sausages.
Lots of the Brits that I’ve talked to have warned me that the food here isn’t good. They say it’s boring and bland, and that Americans don’t usually like it. I would have to disagree, although I guess I see where they’re coming from. I rather like most of the food I’ve had. For lunch I really love getting a bowl of soup, and even the soup here is different. It’s usually thick and (you guessed it) potato based, and on a cold, wet day (*cough* every day) it’s a really great meal. It usually comes with a hunk of bread, which is awesome because I love bread, and I love dipping the bread in the soup and eating them together. Mmmm, so good. 🙂 But so far I haven’t found any “normal” flavors of soup. I’ve had soups like spicy parsnip, and celery lentil, which sound absolutely disgusting but in fact they’re extremely tasty.
Hmm, what else? I’m in LOVE with fish and chips. I always have been, but it’s definitely a dish better served here than in the States. A really good plate of fish and chips has a light and crispy beer battering on a good filet of haddock or cod, and the chips (fries) are usually really big and thick like steak fries. Of course, the fries (like just about everything) can always be improved with a dash of Tony’s.
Speaking of Tony’s, it seems like every restaurant or pub I’ve been into likes to serve something that sounds Southern. Like Southern fried chicken, or Cajun something-or-other. It’s really quite funny actually. Out of curiosity, I ordered a Cajun chicken sandwich thing just to see what it really was, and quite honestly it didn’t taste that Cajun. The chicken was definitely spicy, but it was weird spice that I didn’t recognize. It certainly wasn’t Tony’s. And it had a weird aftertaste. But it’s still probably the closest I’ve had to real southern food (other than my Tony’s seasoned fries). One of my friends also ordered a southern fried chicken sandwich from the same pub, but when they brought it out it was a panini. With lettuce and onion and mayo and sweet chilli sauce…? It didn’t look Southern in the least. The chicken didn’t even look fried. We had a good laugh though, and the food was still good. It just wasn’t exactly home-cooked Southern food.
Probably my favorite part about English cuisine is the fact that tea is always a good idea. Tea goes with any meal of the day, or even simply by itself. And you can usually get it for very cheap, sometimes less than a pound! (As a point of reference, one pound is approximately equal to $1.50)Everywhere you can buy tea they have both white and brown sugar packets, which totally makes my life awesome because I have this strange obsession with brown sugar. Like for real, I usually have a box of it in my dorm room. But I still like my tea sweeter than most Brits, and I will put at least 3 packets of brown sugar in my tea before I drink it. (I also put 4 packets in my coffee because their mocha’s here aren’t sweet at all.) And tea goes perfectly with scones, and you can’t beat British scones. The closest scones I can compare them to are the ones they used to serve at the Tea Room.
The funniest part about England? Subway is everywhere! And Kentucky Fried Chicken is really big too for some reason. I even saw a restaurant called Kansas Fried Chicken, and I had to restrain myself from laughing in the middle of the street when I saw it. Does Kansas even fry chicken…? I’m sure most Brits don’t know the difference between Kansas and Kentucky anyway. But of course, there’s always Dominoes, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and the worldwide sensation: Starbucks. If I’m craving anything inherently American (and by that I mean anything fried, greasy, big, or sugary) I certainly have my options. I doubt I’ll be paying many visits to any of those places, however. I’ll stick to my meat and potatoes for now. And tea. 🙂