Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Become my Dinner!

As the air starts to turn chilly, the cloud cover increases, and a jacket becomes necessary to block the picked-up breeze, we start to realize that fall is fast approaching.  And as with any change of the season, we experience a change in appetite.  Fall brings about cravings for foods that retain the lightness of the fading summer dishes yet bring in some richer ingredients to subside the oncoming chill.  We associate it with cool, crispy fruits, good cheese, and orange vegetables.  We start to take more notice of the oven we neglected all summer and opt for longer, slower cooking than quick grilling.  Heavier meats are reintroduced, as are spices and herbs that bring about earthiness and warmth.  It reminds us of the holiday season not too far off and the comforts of time spent wiling away in the kitchen.   Sorry this sounds like it was written by Martha Stewart but Fall food is my favorite kind of food so I just had to have my moment to express my fondness.  

When I went to the market last week, I knew that if I didn’t make a home-cooked, Fall meal soon, I would start to panic.  Cooking is my passion and I just haven’t had the time to do it yet.  So, with a shopping list at hand, I searched for quality ingredients to make a quintessential Fall dish that also, funnily enough, happened to be a very British dish.  The menu: an English pork chop topped with apples, sage, and bleu cheese (a Jamie Oliver recipe) and served with a side of roasted purple cauliflower.  I bought every single ingredient fresh from the market including my glorious pork chop from a vendor called The Ginger Pig.  I knew I had to have this beauty when I saw it glistening pink in the case and was ecstatic at the fact that is was all-natural, free-range, organic pork, England’s signature meat.

And finally, last night, my first free night since obtaining my ingredients, I made the dish.  I literally made happy moaning noises as I took my first bite, attracting strange stares from my flatmates.  But they could hardly blame me based on the amazing aroma I had created in the room.  The cauliflower was still crisp tender with a few lightly charred edges and it had a really subtle nutty flavor from the roasting.  The pork chop was the most succulent piece of pork I have ever had in my life, a pure sign of good quality meat from happy farm pigs.  It was so juicy and flavorful, and, paired with the sweet caramelized apples, earthy sage, and strong bleu cheese, the dish as a whole was absolutely rounded in flavor.  Everything just worked so well.  It warmed me up on a particularly dreary and rainy night yet was not too heavy, took no time at all to make, and satiated my want for Fall food and desire to cook…for now at least.

Roasted English Purple Cauliflower

½ head purple cauliflower
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (I had to do Celsius though which is 200).  Cut the cauliflower into florets and place them in an even layer in an ovenproof baking dish.  Toss in the minced garlic, squeeze the lemon over top, and drizzle a bit of olive oil over everything until it’s lightly coated.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss everything to combine.  Place uncovered in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the cauliflower reaches your desired doneness (I like it still a bit crunchy so I left it in for a bit less time).  Begin preparing the pork once you place this in the oven.  When done, remove from the oven and serve immediately

English Pork Chops

1 large pork chop, with fairly thick fat cap.
½ crunchy apple (I used a cox variety) cut into about 6 wedges
4-5 sage leaves
bleu cheese (I used Stichelton)
olive oil, butter, salt, pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lay the pork chop on a cutting board and using a very sharp knife, make cuts along the fatty edge of the chop, about every inch, going all the way through.  Our knives here aren’t very sharp so I could quite cut all the way through but I did my best.  Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high and when it’s hot, carefully place the chop into the pan.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until nicely browned and the fat starts to get a bit crispy.  The pork won’t be completely done yet because it will finish cooking in the oven. 

Place the chop into a small ovenproof dish and set aside.  Using the same pan, add a knob of butter to the pork juices and let it melt.  Then, add the apple wedges and sauté for about 2 minutes until soft and browned.  Lay the apples over the pork chop.  Coat the sage in a bit of oil and place then on top too.  Finally crumble as much of the bleu cheese as you desire over everything.  Pop into the oven, next to the cauliflower, for about 4-6 minutes until the pork is cooked through and the cheese is melted.  If everything works out, the pork and cauliflower should be done at the same time.  All that’s left to do is savor every single bite of this beautiful English dish!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Market to Remember

When it comes to food, I always see myself as a bit of a nonconformist.  I am willing to spend money on a few, high-quality items rather than lots of mediocre ones.  I take great awareness of the sources of my food for better taste and more ethical production.  And, I love organic and hate preservative, as you may have guessed.  But I am by no means following a fad.  The way I eat is a way of life reflecting my whole-hearted passion for good food. I thought this way of life was a unique one until last Friday when I had an eye-opening adventure that showed me I’m not as alone as I thought. 

I had finally made it to Borough Market, London’s most famous, iconic, and extensive food and drink market.  Every food guide I read recommended it, so a trip there was a matter of complete importance.   Since the beginning of its existence in the 14th century as a place of trade for grains, meat, and produce, it has grown exponentially.  Now, every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, about 130 faithful traders reappear with their treasures.

Upon entering the market, the atmosphere shifts.  Even on a rainy and chilly day, it brings about a sense of warmth.  This not only comes the wafts of steam, carrying the spicy smells of freshly made curry or hot beef roast.  It also comes from the smiles of the vendors’ faces, eager to help their customers, the array of colors from the mounds of fruits and vegetables and, most importantly, the everlasting sense of community and common purpose that resides there. It is very hard to describe the extensiveness of this market to anyone who has not been there.  Any little farmer’s market in Virginia is literally trampled on by Borough and my memories of it only exist as stream of consciousness. 

I look left to see enormous cases filled with every cut of meat from every animal possible.  A large pig head is nestled in the middle, a proud look on his face from the honor of providing all these people with his organic and local interior.  I know what shop is around the upcoming corner before I even see it.  The scent of the artisanal cheeses permeates so wide a radius, I wonder how anyone could work in such pungent conditions.  That is until I’m offered a sample and the melting goodness in my mouth wordlessly erases this question.  The bigger stalls carry the fruits and vegetables on displays transformed into large rainbowed walls.  A sea of green reveals itself as various lettuces, waving their crinkled leaves in delight. The rich autumnal colors of the carrots, chard, cauliflower, and peppers follow.  The muddy brown display appears less enticing at first, until I discover the luxurious potatoes and beets hiding beneath and an array of berries glisten like precious jewels from the corner.  I tear my eyes away to carry on, only to have them pulled forcefully in another direction.  Off to the olive bars, carrying more varieties than I knew existed.  To the confectioners, sampling their sumptuous fudges, nuts, chocolates and pastries.  To the mounds of baked breads and vats of artisan granola.  To the apothecary-like stalls featuring rows of jars containing every sauce, olive oil, vinegar, jam, preserve, and spice imaginable.  And then, to the long lines of hungry people, waiting at the lunch stalls for the meal they’ve probably been thinking about all week.  And always keeping an eye out for sight of Jamie Oliver…I heard he makes many appearances there.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of this market.  It is such an overload for the senses that I could probably go back every weekend in my remaining time here and always find hundreds of new things.   I couldn’t resist from doing my grocery shopping either, and filled up my market bag with all the local and fresh products of this great country.  It took a firm tug on my arm and my heart to tear me from this market, but the thought of the raw meat in my bag was enough to make me head home for the refrigerator.  I spent the next hour after my return happily washing and trimming vegetables and playing tetris with my refrigerator to make all my bounty fit inside. 

Then, when I sat down with a delicious salad made from my purchases, I had the realization that my mindset about food really isn't so different from that of others.  Every single person at that market was there for the same reason and that was so they could get the food that they know is good for them and to support this amazing group of vendors who selflessly share their products.  Everyone there was willing to withstand the rain, the cold, and the crowds to be a part of this market and indulge in their passion for food, bask in the community atmosphere, fill up their stomachs, and stock up for the week ahead.  To me, Borough Market is at the very heart of London food culture, and even possibly all of England’s food culture.  It upholds the ideals of locality and sustainability and it brings thousands of people from all over to this one place every week.  It represents all of what a food culture should be, because it provides all natural food direct from England and is sustained by people who care.  I will, of course, return every chance I can to take advantage of that I can’t find back at home in the states.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

British Food for the Win

So after that last post, I felt that it was really necessary that I follow up on my hopes of finding a restaurant where grand chefs are turning seasonal food, typical to Britain, into gastronomic wonders and show the first solid proof of the amazing potential for this food.  And, admittedly, I was also in desperate need for some protein after spending the last two hectic weeks living on yoghurt and toast.  So after a bit of research, I picked a destination: a place called Arbutus, owned by Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (not the actor), discretely tucked away on a plain street in Soho.  Although fairly new, this restaurant already has a Michelin star and is renowned for its inventive fusions of British food with French and Spanish flair.  Yet, despite its grandeur, it is well liked for the less formal and stodgy atmosphere and lower, but only slightly, prices.  So I forged ahead, with guilty thoughts of spending money pushed from my head, only to be replaced by my stomach’s cry for real food.

Although discreet and dark on the outside, Arbutus had a very welcoming feeling within; its clean and simplistic white walls and overhead track lighting brought a modern touch to the masculine dark wooden tables and black leather seating.  My lovely waitress offered me bread and butter, which I hastily accepted and thoroughly enjoyed.  It was very obviously baked in house, with a thick, slightly charred brown crust encasing a chewy pillow-like interior.  Choosing my meal, however, was a trial and the cheaper, set menu tempted me sorely, but the a la carte was to unique to resist.  I considered more curious options like ox tripe and rabbit kidneys, but settled with a simpler, humbler meal: a beetroot salad starter and aged bavette of Hertfordshire beef for a main. 

The salad could have stood as a light lunch alone and was one of those dishes that tastes so complex in flavor yet is so simple with ingredients I wonder why I don’t make things like this at home.  A rainbow of warm cooked beets in ruby, ochre, and yellow and mounds of creamy goat curd lay scattered about bed of watercress and were accentuated by slivers of marbled pink and white radishes.  All was lightly drizzled with honey and lemon vinaigrette.  The combination of flavors worked perfectly.  The sweet earthiness of the soft beets was offset by the spicy crunch of the cress and radish.  The tangy cheese mixed with the floral dressing, creating a smooth mixture that, as I ate, combined with the red color of the beets, leaving pink swirls on my plate. 

After polishing off every speck of the starter, I received my main.  I immediately picked up my fork and knife, and the second I placed the knife on the glistening brown roast, it sunk in and the meat, so incredibly tender, fell apart into a steaming, succulent pool of threads.  Melted, flavorful fat coated each strand of the beef, providing a silky texture.  Alongside the meat were pieces of roasted butternut squash, sprouting purple broccoli, and shallots, rich in flavor and swimming in the winey, oniony beef broth.  Kent cobnuts added a contrasting crunch and sprigs of thyme brightened the whole dish.  I finished every bite though only now, in embarrassment, can I image the thoughts of the suited businessmen at the next table down as they watched me, this skinny girl, eating alone, inhaling a roast beef.  I was so stuffed I had to forgo dessert, promising the maître-d that I would return for sweets and wine.  I left in a slight meat coma, so happy to start off fall with such a perfectly autumnal dish, and dazedly headed home, properly fed at last.

So if the pictures and descriptions aren’t enough to change your thoughts about British food, I really don’t know what will.  My dish may have been root vegetables and beef, but its just goes to show you that some culinary knowledge can turn a peasant’s meal into a damn good feast.  I look forward to trying a few more places like this, including Arbutus’s sister restaurant, Wild Honey and hey, I may even order the ox tripe next time too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fight for Food: British Cuisine Explained

I’ve never really been one to love the museums.  They’re exciting at first, seeing artifacts and learning new things and whatnot, but I always become bored with them. I can only take viewing numerous clay pots, listening to the tour guide, or walking down cold stark halls for so long.  Well, that all changed yesterday when I found a museum exhibit that not only complied with my food interests but also conveniently provided me with an amazing topic for a blog post.  It was the Ministry of Food exhibit at the Imperial War Museum and I swear it was made just for me.

You see, World War II played an extraordinarily significant role in the shaping of England’s food culture and almost completely set the general image of English Food.  Sadly, that image is a bad one of overcooked vegetables, bland potatoes, canned goods, and the extra parts of animals.  But, as this museum shows, this food culture is misunderstood and actually resulted from amazing intentions and innovations during hard war times.  It came from people doing the best they can to survive healthfully while supporting their country.  The exhibit presented a history that puts meaning to English food and lets us respect it.

During the war, citizens were rationed heavily, limiting the amount of food they could get from a grocer.  Also, to save money, England imported much less foreign food items.  To boost morale and keep people fed, the Ministry of Food was created.  They were a governmental organization that encouraged using the surrounding land and the available resources (the factors that largely determine the food culture for any culture) and a little ingenuity to feed the family.  And in England, where the climate is cool and wet, and covered in green pastures, these resources were homegrown vegetables and fruits, a small amount of wheat, and raised animals, hence the “meat and 2 veg” label that is generally applied to English food. 

The Ministry of Food worked to increase the amount of farming done and used catchy posters and ads to teach people about economical food consumption, gardening, healthy eating, and preservation.  The kitchen and fields were glorified, vegetables were made out to look more appealing than candy, and the Ministry even encouraged the new food regime with the promise that complying would help to save the British economy.  “Dig for Victory”, “Use Spades not Ships”, and, my favorite, “Save Bread and you Save Lives, Serve Potatoes and you Serve the Country” were encouraging slogans.  Cookbooks with recipes using mostly grown and raised food (like rabbit pie and beetroot brownies) were made to help the women add variety to the table. 

Although intentions for the use of food were great, it was the goal of making food serve as many purposes as possible that led to the bad image of English food.  Wild game was reintroduced to the diet, animal hearts, kidneys, and other innards weren’t put to waste, food was canned, jellied, and pickled, and preserved like crazy, and leftover vegetables, recooked until mushy and bland, were always consumed.  But, this museum exhibit tries to glorify and explain British food and the attention that the people were paying to staying healthy and eating all natural goods and spending more time in the kitchen, bonding with the family.  And, the Ministry of Food program probably accounts for the freshness and locality of the meat and produce I’ve seen here. 

Hopefully, with the better cooking methods and gastronomic knowledge we have today, chefs can take this British food, and present it in mouthwatering ways that people can appreciate.  Hopefully we can embrace the economic lessons and love for the kitchen brought about by this period in time.  And most importantly, I hope that knowledge like this can help people to want to carry on the values of the Ministry of Food, instead of succumbing to the growing fast food nation.

I’m sorry for the perhaps dull history lesson, (this will most likely be the only post like this) but I think its essential that both you and I know some history before I go out into the world of English food, whether I’m cooking it or letting someone else do it for me. The war and this time period did not inspire all of English food, of course.  There are dishes from before and after, with their own histories, that are just as significant and I am just as excited about trying those as well.  But now, when I have a delicious English dish, I can appreciate it even more, knowing how it came about and why it is considered to be quintessentially English.  I’ve sufficiently fed my brain, now it’s time for my stomach.

Oh and as a last note, the museum also had a café of wartime food and I happily indulged in a sausage and onion jacket potato (baked potato in America) and green leaf salad.  It was so wonderfully creamy and tender, I pondered, how could people NOT love this?

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Unhealthy Yet Very Healthy Addiction

Yes, I know that I am living in the city and there are more restaurants here than I can even comprehend, but trust me, I am NOT going to be eating out for every meal.  Groceries are a must, even if it just for breakfast staples, but with the way the grocery stores are here, I’d be fine with eating in all the time.  Being an avid cook anyway, I’ve always found the prospect of grocery shopping a bit fun, but with but with a whole now array of English products and grocery brands to explore, it is now quite the adventure.

London’s basic chain grocery stores are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose (the third being a bit more upscale) and although they may look like any old supermarket, they are actually quite different.  I’ve noticed, above all things, how much further ahead London is in the organic, vegan, gluten-free, unprocessed, and preservative-free movement than the U.S.  They don’t even have organic sections at the stores here because most everything is organic anyway.  Free-range eggs are the only variety sold and many of the produce and meat items (at Waitrose at least) have a label telling where they come from.  I can’t buy too much at one time though because the food here contains far fewer preservatives and has a much shorter shelf life. To be fair, however, I did have to chuckle a bit at the extraordinary biscuit (cookie or cracker in America) sections.  I have never seen such an expansive aisle of the most bizarre and fun brands and names that would put Oreo’s and Little Debbie to shame (the dark chocolate Digestives are amazing by the way).  I suppose no matter how healthy people get, they still have a place in their heart for their favorite biscuit.

My favorite grocery store, however, is a lucky little find called Planet Organic.  Unlike the other stores, this place has a less sterile and bland grocery store feel and instead is cozy, with short ceilings and closely packed shelves.  There’s a real homey feel to it with definite earthy vibes.  Large vegan selections, numerous varieties of quinoa and lentils, shelves of fresh bread and herbal teas, exotic ingredients, beautiful and natural packaging, fresh local fruits and veggies, and so much more fill the spaces.  Packs of granola, nuts, and dried fruit replace the candy shelves by the registers and a large takeaway meal bar features couscous salads, fresh veggies, and fair trade coffee for the health conscious on the go. This place is going to take much more money from me but it’s worth it. 

Not to get too serious and sentimental here, but these stores really astound me and highly please me as someone who really cares about the quality of the food I put in my body.  These grocery store visits have proven false the conceived notion that English food is starchy, unhealthy, and heavy.  They have informed me of a food culture that is very old-fashioned and inspired by people long to get food that is as pure and as close to the source as possible.  People don’t care if the food has dirt on it, in fact, the more the better.  Freshness as essential and it’s imperative that none of the food is messed around with.  The people here know how it’s done, now let’s just hope that America can catch up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Savior in the Little Triangle Box

When a group of 28 students is herded around streets of London for tour after tour after tour, there will of course come a time where they begin to feel hungry.  However, herding 28 people into a restaurant is quite difficult.  So for the first three extraordinarily exhausting days of this trip, we have been living on takeaway sandwiches, therefore, they will be the first honorable food guests on this blog.

The sandwich.  It’s quick, easy to hold, cheap, and let me tell you, very plentiful in this city.  Literally every three shops along the street there's a sandwich cafe of one sort or another.  But it makes sense in this city.  Not only does it provide something fast and nutritious for the working people, but the sandwich also has it rumored roots in England.  Apparently, in the 1700s, John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was entirely too occupied with his gambling and card playing, so, instead of taking a break, he asked that his roast beef be brought to him between two slices of bread.  From that point on, one of the most widely eaten foods was born, and then sustained for this portability factor.

But, if you've never had a sandwich in London, don’t start thinking that a sandwich is a sandwich and that it doesn’t really count a defining part of this food culture.  Although they are ever-present and the subject of many chain cafés, the sandwiches are unlike and exceedingly better than any I’ve had in the U.S.  Living at JMU, I dreaded every night that I trudged up to Market One for a boring turkey and provolone on a sub, but here in London, I wouldn’t mind living on Pret a Manger (Pret for short) or Eat. for my whole life.  Let’s just say, that compared to the American sandwich, and English sandwich, coincidentally like the people of England, can be defined as subtle with refined minimalism.  They are not in the least bit similar to the “Italian Sub” or B.M.T. monstrosities of the U.S. but generally limited to two or three fillings and tucked inside amazingly moist and tender bread.  My first meal here, from Pret a Manger, was a chicken, avocado, and basil mayonnaise sandwich followed by and grape and Brie concoction from Tea and Tattle.  And then, to mix it up a little, I feasted on a veggie stuffed crepe from a street vendor.  And I can’t wait to try some other varieties I saw on display: crayfish, arugula, and lemon mayo, apple, pork, and sage, and above all, English cheddar and chutney.

And the best part is, the freshness of all the ingredients so apparent.  Every sandwich shop I’ve seen, both chain and not, boasts sandwiches that are preservative-free, made with all-natural ingredients, prepared fresh every day, and many times, organic as well.  They are proudly displayed, facing cut side up in little packages so that we may see the beauty within, not hiding in embarrassment of icky, preservative-filled ingredients.

So whether it’s the originality and newness of the flavor combinations, the minimalist quality that, in turn, further highlights each amazing component, or the quality of ingredients, the sandwich has quickly stood out as distinct in this city, something true to England.  It is sure to be my go-to meal in a time crunch, and a way to efficiently save money, and I thank these lovely sandwiches, or as the English say, “sarnies” for successfully getting me through the three most hectic days of my life. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Delirious Food Thoughts from the Window Seat

Counting down the hours until my arrival in London…5…4..3…2…1…  Looking out the window of the plane as dawn breaks, trying to calm myself down.  Overwhelmed, nervous, but above all excited.  According to the little flight map on the TV screen in front of me, I should be over the English countryside and, typically, I can’t help but thinking of food.  I imagine the grass and soil and the rolling hills and think about all of the food history that land holds.  I think about how many vegetables must have been growing in that very dirt for the past thousands of years.  I can almost see the hardworking men below, tending to their crops, plowing the land, caring for the animals. Their wife waits at the home, working on turning that very crop into the evening’s meal. Is that the bah-ing of a sheep I just heard?  No, just the squalling child who's been rudely interrupting my sleep this entire flight.  Then I take my imagination even further back, imagining a lavish medieval feast with great kings in their looming halls, the servants presenting them with roasted meats and loaves of bread.  I can literally hear the teeth of these men, brutishly ripping the meat from the bone and noisily wiping the gravy dripping from their chin. 

I busy myself with these thoughts, but the scene changes and I am flying over the city.  My food ideas transform.  I can hardly imagine the countless number of restaurants, cafes, and pubs that must be under me this very second.  A top chef prepares his kitchen for the evening’s illustrious dinner, a young couple sits at a little outdoor table, and their hands mindlessly bring espresso and toast to their lips.  And the hundreds and hundreds of people walk through the streets and in and out of the tube station, a quick breakfast to go at hand.  And it’s the variety that astounds me.  In a city this large and diverse, very corner seems to hold some sort of Asian, Indian, Italian, or countless other cuisines.

And it is at this very point that I realize the true scope of this independent study.  This “English” food culture extends from a very distant past to a very lively present with changes and innovations emerging every step of the way.  It will not only be an adventure to a multitude of eating locations but a trip throughout history, extending back to the days I can scarcely imagine.  Though I’m sure that my schedule for the next few days will put my eating in the category of “shove food in my mouth as fast as I can so I can move on to the next thing on my itinerary,” hopefully I can really get to work, and best of all, get eating once I get acclimated.  But now the flight attendant is bringing me a pitiful packaged muffin and weak coffee, so I must go, and I’ll be back with you once I’m FINALLY on land.  So from this moment forth, let the feasting begin, but maybe a nap first!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Taste of What's to Come

Your friend says to you, “Hey, let’s go out for dinner! What are you in the mood for?”  Your mind flits around the options of nearby cuisine.  There’s that new Italian place that just opened up and you instantly put naughty thoughts of fettuccini alfredo in your head.  Or you can stick to your tried and true Mexican food joint for some cheap tacos and all-you can-eat nachos.  Chinese is out of the question though.  You still have three take-out boxes of fried rice in your fridge as it is.  But if it just so happens that your friend suggests, “well, how about some lovely English grub?” why is it that a quintessential dish does not pop into your mind quite as easily as it does for other international food? And if you do think of something, why is it nothing more appetizing-sounding than steak and kidney pie?  And then, you really start to wonder, does England even has a food culture?

Well, that’s the topic I will be pondering and writing about as I spend the next 14 weeks studying abroad in London.  I want to know if I can discover a specific way to define English food, and if so, how it came to be that way.   I want to break the notion that it, like American food, is such a chaotic jumble of borrowed styles that it can’t really take on classification.  I also want to tear down any bad reputation it may have and glorify the cuisine.

I will go about fulfilling the goals of this study in many ways, but primarily through experimentation.  Along with my eager taste buds, I’ll eat my way to discovery, documenting every bite that I savor and all that I see, smell, touch, and even hear.  If it’s considered British, be sure to see it on my plate.  But, as a foreigner and novice to the subject of English food, I must also put in my research to back up the eating part of my homework.  Therefore, I must hit the books (my own self-assigned textbooks include Nigel Slater’s Eating for England and a Jamie Oliver Cookbook), search the web, or talk to local foodies for my own history lessons.  That way I’ll know what qualifies as English food and how England’s history has shaped the food culture.  And there will be plenty more about my other experiences with food: personal anecdotes about my own kitchen experiments to stories of my restaurant visits, and in-depth accounts of my grocery store meanderings to praises for my favorite British chefs.   Oh, and there will be LOTS of pictures.

I believe we can tell a lot about a culture by its food and the people’s relationship with that food, and with some cultures, that’s easy to do.  But with others, it takes a bit more delving, Hopefully, by discovering the ways of the seemingly elusive and directionless British food culture, this study will help me to better understand English culture in general.  It’s a daunting task to take on as a self guided, non-English person with a 3-month time limit, but somebody’s gotta do it.

One week til departure and I am extraordinarily thrilled about the prospects of this independent study and the chance to share my passion for food.  So, I invite you and your friends to follow this blog and let me do the tasting for you as I discover the culinary delights of England.  Now please, make a nice cup of tea, sit down at your computer, visit my blog, and, well, tuck in!