I just came back from a brief stay in London, where I enjoyed a winning combo of productive work and fun play with old friends. I’ve also managed to fulfill my three food rituals, a must for every visit I make to the UK. The strange thing is, when I spent four years living in England back in the mid-1990s, I never cared much for these foods. Then I left and, years later, started having specific cravings as soon as I step my foot on the UK ground.
And here’s what I crave:
• Indian food, which here in New York, even in the Indian enclave of Jackson Heights in Queens, doesn’t compare to the real-deal stuff in London
• full English breakfasts – the whole shebang with baked beans, eggs, Cumberland sausages, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, hash brown, and toast;
• afternoon tea, complete with scones, clotted cream and jam, and washed down with many cups of tea.
By now, as soon as I arrive to London, my friends already know I’ll be demanding my food fixes, above. On this last visit, I had Indian takeaway two nights in a row, and could have had it the third night were I not spending it on the airplane crossing the Atlantic en route back to New York. On the sunny Saturday last weekend, I had afternoon tea with friends at the much-loved Tea Rooms (155 Church Street) in the the delightful neighborhood of Stoke Newington, where I normally stay with my best friend. I loved the old-fashioned vibe of this petite spot, as well as the freshly baked scones and homemade jam. On the day of my flight, I had a full-on fry-up at a local café in Stoke Newington, which was a great finale to my quick sojourn in London.
That got me thinking… what is it that makes me so attached to these foods that I don’t ever remember or crave anywhere else in the world?