“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
Alright, kittens! We’ve been well and truly settled for a good three months now, so it’s time to give you some updates about life in London! Expat life is a bit different from my previous international adventures growing up (less built in services and communities than in the government or military), but since both Jeff and I have lived internationally before, I do think the culture shock has been pretty minimal.
However, it has taken a couple of months for everything to settle into a routine. We’re mostly there now, so expect more posts about British living in the future. A friend recently asked me about the things I liked best and least about living in London, and I thought I’d make a regular little series on it here.
So, one of the things that I love. The food. Yes, really.
Britain once had a thriving food culture, which reached its zenith under those hedonists the Edwardians before being effectively nixed in the Great War. Food has almost always had a service component to it, and ideas about services changed and the skills associated with it got a lot rarer after a conflict in which so many workers died. The tight rationing of WWII finished the job and for most of the last century Britain has…well, I’d say enjoyed but the truth is more like dealt with…a pretty low culinary reputation.
Luckily, the times they have a changed! The days of rationing are far behind us and avocados have now been comfortable ensconced in the diet for over a decade. There’s plenty of canned beans and stale bread still lurking in desperate corners but finding good, high quality, delicious food is wonderfully easy and does not require nearly as much effort as it once did. The sheer variety of cuisines available is almost dizzying! Goodness knows bland food still exists in abundance in this country (the medieval rule of boiling everything is still in effect in some places) but in London there is frankly no excuse not to find excellent food!
We’ve eaten several varieties of Indian subcontinent food, Asian authentic, European fusion, and more street food that I care to count and almost all of it has been good. There are markets everywhere with an excellent variety goods. Between them, bodegas, and grocery stores, I’ve found I can have a nicely varied diet for what it cost me to shop and eat in the states. The key is paying attention and shopping smart. Eating out is expensive, but we solve that by limiting ourselves and thinking of it as a treat rather than a regular event.
Food is decently priced in Britain, somethings cost more and some things cost less than what I am used to, though with a couple years of bad harvests prices are expected to rise. Britain also used to grow or produce most of its own food and now imports a significantly higher percentage so the state of agriculture is in flux these days. There’s a strong history of farm production but farmers and growers are still dealing with the repercussions of industrialization, a history of laws that favored the gentry and aristocracy over the working classes, and the same financial problems that farmers stateside deal with.
Any other expats out there with food culture experience they’d like to share? Or indeed anybody who has ever moved at all!
PS – my friend Heidi is in the middle of conquering Denmark and she’s written about food and its attendant ups and downs lately as well.