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!

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