My second day in London, after a really good night’s sleep, I worked most of the day from my hotel room. Still trying to preserve some healthy eating whilst abroad, I walked the four or five blocks down to Trafalgar Square at lunchtime and stopped at what I thought would be a terrible pizza place, Pizza Express. I love it when I’m wrong in the best possible way! I ordered a thin crust pizza with the middle of the pie cut out and filled with spinach salad – what they call Leggera Pizza. My prosciutto, pepper and shroom pie was filled with spinach and tomato salad in a slightly sweet vinaigrette. I heaped the salad on top of each half slice (because the middle was cut out, each slice of pie was sort of missing the end) and enjoyed the whole thing immensely.
I’d like some pizza with my salad, and some salad with my pizza
I also tasted the best damn prosciutto I have ever had, from an Italian purveyor at the market. The prosciutto and mortadella I sampled at that booth tasted like sunshine…like a sunny barnyard full of clean hay and happy animals. OK, maybe you don’t think a barnyard could taste all that great, but I’m telling you, it was like the taste of these meats transported me entirely. Simply amazing. Another don’t miss is Neal’s Yard Dairy, off on one of the little side streets, where they let you sample real English cheddar for free. Aged, dry, salty and delicious, I say.
Next day, my friends Traci and Vinnie, who have been ex-pats in Havant, UK for about three years now, took me on the most fun adventure of my trip, to see Stonehenge, Winchester Castle and Cathedral, and their favorite tea shop near Havant.
I was awestruck here:
Foolish grin owes to actually being somewhere I’ve imagined for so many years
I was just about as happy to finally get the coveted fish and chips and mushy peas in a proper pub in the countryside. The fish and chips were excellent – mostly owing to the extraordinarily flavored fish that was beer battered and scrumptious. I’m not sure I’ve ever had simple fried fish this good in the states. The mushy peas, which I had anticipated greatly, were lovely – somehow more than the sum of its parts, yet still just plain peas, mushed up. I was happier than a kid on Christmas morning with this meal. The cream tea, which is your own pot of tea with a scone, clotted cream and jam, was also more than the sum of its parts. The scone, cream and jam are a harmonious trio that far exceed what this would taste like if the cream were substituted with butter. I tasted clotted cream on my previous visit to London and didn’t care for it, but I don’t think I was pairing it with a scone. It’s a full mouth feel that we don’t often allow ourselves in the states – a decadent treat that you shouldn’t pass up.
Gorgeous, traditional foodstuffs
Some other time, I’ll tell you about the two dinners enjoyed on the second leg of my trip, up in Birmingham. They were good. But this post is getting kind of long, and I don’t want to abuse your good humor with my endless ramblings. In summation, I will underscore the notion that travel expands your culinary horizons – it really does! I wanted to go to London and try all the traditional tastes of that place. I did that, and more. I grooved on the tiny little sautéed mushrooms at breakfast, the arugula or “rocket” salad with shaved parm and a drizzle of balsamic, the afternoon ritual of hot tea, and dashing into M&S for a snack. And this is what travel does – it gives you a glimpse into other lives and other worlds, without having to change your life in any permanent ways. But beware, it does change you. Just look to the box of tea now in my desk drawer, the bag of lentils in my pantry and the arugula in my crisper, and Bob’s Your Uncle, you know I’ve changed. My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!