An American in London
If you’ll continue to indulge me here on my whirlwind world tour, ESers, I’m currently on my way back home from Africa and decided to stop over in London for a few days (it’s on the way, right? Well, kind of.) Anyway, it’s a hot thing in the food world right now to talk about how British food isn’t as horrible as it used to be; how Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and the gastropub explosion have finally made England safe for foodies. Of course, personally I was less interested in hearing about what celeb chef does the best high-end pigeon plate, and more into figuring about whether or not this newly foodified country knows how to make a proper sandwich.
First stop: Borough Market, the weekly food fest just south of Tower Bridge, where I spied some lovely slices of halloumi doused in garlic and lemon cooking up on the grill. I’ve mentioned the glories of grilled halloumi on the blog before, but let’s pause for a rant: why is this delicious cheese so sparsely available in the US? Yes, you can find it in high-end stores sometimes, but it usually costs $9 and I almost never see it in restaurants. In Europe, and oddly, also in Africa, you see halloumi all the time on salad and sandwich menus, and it’s not particularly pricey. I know it’s not a U.S. cheese, but really, we have all kinds of Euro cheeses in the states, why are we so low on this one? I’m just saying, it really spruces up a salad or sandwich, and we need to get on that train. </rant>
Moving on — clearly, I wanted the halloumi as soon as I saw it. But then I had a twinge of travel eating doubt. You see, when traveling I always get hyper worried about making the wrong food decisions. I figure I only have a set amount of meals in each location, just get super nervous about blowing one by ordering something less than fantastic. Was halloumi really the right choice on my first day in London, especially when it’s not even a British food? I began to question my decision. The same stand also sold bacon butties, and the pork-y smell filling the air was raising serious doubt. Meat or cheese??? My food-travel anxiety kicked into high gear.
Then of course, I remembered I’m American and that I don’t have to choose.
“Could you make me a sandwich with bacon and grilled halloumi on it?” I tentatively asked the sandwich cook, wondering if he would scoff at my foreign fattiness.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “Would you like the bread toasted?
“Actually, would you just like the bread grilled in bacon fat?”
Oh, man. Now that is my kind of British chef.
I am with you on the hallumi. I had never heard of it growing up in the mid-west- not suprising- and when my Syrian housemate in Bristol grilled it one night it was a revelation. Cheese that grills like meat! Best thing to come out of the middle east since allgebra.
Then I was visitng my aunt in D.C and we went to a fancy sch’mancy health food store in Takoma Park where I was shocked to find that not only did they not have hallumi but when they offered to order it for me that it cost 8 dollars for something like 1/4 pound. My back up plan was to get paneer but they had never even heard of it.
So I might have discovered the one food item that is cheaper in the U.K.