Thursday, October 18, 2012

Foodie Finds: Toad-in-the-Hole {And Other Novelties}

 This being my second posting on the topic, I feel ought to explain my fascination with food. I realize that I am in no way unique in my love, but nonetheless 'there is no love sincerer than the love of food' {George Bernard Shaw}. I think the unifying effect of food is fantastic- it is where traditions are made and cultures are experienced. That said, it should come as no surprise that the creation and consumption of tasty vittles is an international obsession in which I heartily partake. In fact, there was a time where I considered dedicating my entire life {in addition to many Pinterest boards and bookshelves} to learning how to sautĂ©, flambĂ©, and generally cuisiner {using the correct pronunciation, this continues the rhyming scheme and means 'to cook'}. No longer my sole focus, I would still say that for me, to eat is to live. This brings me round to my main point, in my adventures abroad, eating has become one of my primary hobbies. Especially eating regionally unique foods. I will and have walked miles to try something interesting. Happily, this week required no such effort, as British specialties were practically given to me on a silver platter! That is to say, the refectory {cafeteria} chose to celebrate 'British Food Fortnight,' a glorified meat-and-potatoes week, or so I thought. Yes, they served three variations of Shepherds pie, but, no, it was not all bland and uninteresting. Exhibit A: Toad-in-the-hole. A piece of meat, often sausage, in a crust of yorkshire pudding. Evidently, it surfaced twice a year on the menu of an upper-crust dining society, the Thursday's Club call'd the Royal Philosophersbefore falling from grace. Now a working man's dish, it is affectionately known as 'toad-in-the-hole,' the hole being the stomach and the toad being something to fill it. And filling it was, though the refectory's version was vegetarian, it was still a lunch to ruin my dinner. A little thyme, simple batter {the pudding bit}, and roasty veg, lovely! Exhibit B: the Custard Tart. The English custard tart has long been a local favorite, gracing the tables of countless Royal feasts,  but according to the internet, it pales in comparison to its cousin, the Portuguese custard tart. Thus, this lightly nutmeged tart has gained a reputation more for its political statements than its popularity. I must admit, I think I may have enjoyed today's tart as much on someone's face as in my mouth. Not that it wasn't delicious, just not enough to warrant a cult following like the 'pie-to-the-face' practice. Finding its way into avant-garde theatre, conferencesnewsrooms, and comedies, it is much beloved in British society, if not for reasons completely apart from its culinary value. Really, this is one lovely thing about British food, they don't take it too seriously. Here, there is space for play and gourmet. More to follow.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Month of Sundays

Hitting the Streets. 
The other day, I took a commemorative city walk to celebrate the one-month anniversary of my landing in London. Yes, odd as it is to say, I have been here a month of Sundays, or so it seems. I remember my first walk through these streets, the awe and wonder at this ancient, green giant rising up ahead of me. Each street felt like its own town, I would get off the tube and walk to and fro as if I had been teleported to a parallel universe... Oxford Circus opened up a retail paradise,  Piccadilly Circus revealed Soho, Victoria Station became the 'Kensington portal'. Only recently did this image of a fragmented city of neighborhoods give way to the cohesive, spirited, and utterly walkable city that is London. I feel I have become a student of the city rather than a real student. The groove of classes and papers still doesn't fit, only the groove of ambling streets and twisting river. At the same time, I have become acutely aware that whoever said "to be tired of London is to be tired of life" hit the nail on the head, metaphorically speaking, of course. The more I study the streets and their inhabitants, the more mysterious the city becomes. Though the neighborhoods now connect, woven together in a sort of fabric, they still hold thousands of untold 'London particulars.'
the photographer. 
My first month of Sundays at a close, yet the season of firsts  certainly is not. For each of the firsts in I have had in my time here- there are a hundred more waiting in those endless avenues. Camera in hand, I venture once unto the breach. 



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Foodie Finds: Brown Sauce

Pardon me, if I offend, but I was scared of Brown Sauce. To my inner foodie, the allure of what appeared to be preservative-riddled, bottled gravy has always escaped me. I saw it on the shelf at World Market in the States, in the cabinets of countless homes, I even watched Maggie Smith smuggle it on her trip to India in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but nothing could make me the least bit curious. Then, to my shock and horror, I found 'tangy-fruity' HP sauce in someone's kitchen. All hell must have broken loose!  Fruity, tangy gravy?! Please, Brits can't be that mad! So, it was then and there that I determined I must try this... this... whatever it is. Luckily, after days of agony, I finally gave the dreaded sauce a try and found that my mental image could not have been farther from the truth. To my delight, brown sauce is not gravy! Not even the least bit gravy-y! It's really more like a party of malt vinegar, ketchup, and worcestershire sauce with  maybe a little BBQ sauce thrown in for good measure. Now,  I am no convert {I tend to be extremely picky about my condiments} but all in all, it's not too shabby. I also realized, upon further research, that brown sauce isn't even foreign to the American palette, it has been hiding in countless American kitchens under the guise of A1 steak sauce. Evidently, A1 made it across the pond around 1895 and quickly became a steakhouse staple. Meanwhile, HP sauce {the most popular, if not the original brown sauce created in the 1870's}, became   "The Official Sauce of Great Britain," the accompaniment to the famed full English Breakfast and favourite of royalty and common folk alike. Given Great Britain's culinary reputation, comes as no surprise that this tangy, complex, sauce is slathered on just about everything. So, while I have not completely bought in, I am starting to get this brown sauce and who knows maybe by the time I head back to the states I, too, will be a nostalgic brown sauce-lover! 



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curious about London...

the view from my window.
Regents College, London
According to a friend of mine, a criminal offence comparable to Jack the Ripper's murders to keep my dear blogofriends in the dark as to recent happenings. The issue has been not the lack inspiration, as oft is the case, but more an issue of overwhelm. While my summer friends have all returned to their home schools, many of them to Marymount, I find myself nestled on the broad windowsill looking over the rather picturesque gardens of Regents College, London. Bizarre indeed. Yet, eight hours (which translates to sixteen days of jetlag, so I'm told), thousands of miles and worlds away, I feel strangely at home in this city. From what I can tell, Regents is a school of much the same spirit of Marymount, in its  quintessential setting it is daring, pushing you to great heights, yet supportive, giving you all the tools you need to succeed. They have created an ideal environment for exploration of both self and city- creating opportunities to define yourself in relation to an dynamic and eclectic metropolis. For me, an acute case of sticker shock- that is the  condition of perpetual amazement at the price of any given item compared to its price at home- forced me to come to terms with the type of Londoner I am, I realized that there are a lot of things which I just don't care enough about to sacrifice even five pounds while others are worth thirty (trying the best fish and chips? Heck yeah! Tigertiger? not so much...). This is all to say that this first week is eye-opening and adventurous to say the least, but there is much, much more to come. 



Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Day Hobbiest Bakes

Granted, I am a long time baker, shamelessly indulging in pies, cupcakes, crostatas,  and cookies of all sorts since my youth, nonetheless, I feel that baking might just be the perfect day hobby. Imagine starting your day with a cup of coffee and a wild determination to conquer a confection! To truly pursue baking as a day-long hobby, your post-coffee day may include a trip to your local, acclaimed bakery {pilgrimage to Sprinkles, perhaps?}and a post baking soiree to flaunt your new-found skills. But, the glory of baking is that requires little to no mobility, which, for the wheel-lessly impoverished college student is icing on the proverbial cake. Whatever route you choose, baking as a day-hobby is not without challenge. For the impoverished, dorm locked collegiate, it is not easy to pull together a dessert out of the contents already present in your hopelessly small kitchen. For the inspired confection conquerer, while the possibilities are endless, time, skill, and availability are always obstacles. 
{With my own photos woefully lost in
cyber-space, this prime example of your potential
was one of the first images under 'hipster baking'}
Here are a few ideas: 
For the Gun-Ho
The Timely Classic, the Cupcake. 
For their adorableness, enduring popularity, and the simple fact that entire boutiques have been dedicated to their existence, cupcakes are a fabulous place to start in baking. While not bite size, they are certainly not more than any amateur baker can chew, metaphorically speaking. For a little inspiration, check out Cupcake Wars, Sprinkles, and my personal favourite recipe for 'Coco-nilla-licious' cupcakes {having no affiliation with chocolate or Nilla wafers}. 

For the Aformentioned Student
Easy, Breezy, Summer Fruit Crostata 
The glory of the crostata is its incredible adaptability and versatility. Using this recipe as a guideline, you can create innumerable masterpieces out of flour, butter, and that frozen fruit you have long intended to turn into a smoothy. Literally, you can throw any filling, even chopped candy bars, in this dough and it would taste amazing! Top it with whipped cream, if you have it, and voila!

For the Oven Challenged
Perhaps now is the time to master the no-bake subculture of the baking world. While I have yet to explore it much myself, Epicurious is a fantastic resource for everything in the food genre. 


Thursday, July 5, 2012


{Image of the the original
Star-Spangled Banner
snatched from the Smithsonian}
Curious, isn't it, the traditional American Independence Day? I never stopped to ponder the significance of the fireworks, cook-outs, and apple pies that rule the day until I found myself surrounded a crowd of international students who could really care less about the Declaration of Independence. Sitting with them around a campfire, eating s'mores, and observing as representatives from all the world over sang their national anthems,  I found myself pondering the meaning of being an 'American' relative to being French, German, Spanish, or Russian. There was a certain reverence in the voice of a boy we affectionately call 'Phil'as he sang "Deutschlandlied" {the German National Anthem} solo, hand over heart, eyes to stars, as if he could see the very reflection of his homeland in the sky. This soul element present in almost every anthem was markedly absent from our playful version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Why the lack of reverence for the nation that empowered me to influence its future, encouraged me to use my voice, and   gave me the chance to pursue happiness as I see fit? My question was interrupted by a sudden burst of what has apparently become the theme-song for the summer,Fun.'s 'Some Nights'. The recurring question, 'What do I stand for,' ushered in the realization that perhaps my generation is taking this question outside of its original musical microcosm and asking,
"What do I stand for as an American?" While we could point out a thousand different meanings of 'American' in years past, at the end of the day, "Most Nights, I don't know."


Friday, June 22, 2012

The Day Hobbiest Infiltrates Bicycling Culture

Photo Filched from Urban Outfitters 
Sadly, recent events have kept me from pursuing my true passion, day hobbies. I find it very challenging to carve out time for virtual bird watching, an intriguing suggestion from one of my cousins, or water tasting in the midst of moving and starting a new job. My deepest apologies if, in my absence, you have finished the last season of Mad Men on Netflix and have sunken into a state of depression. While I can't make any promises, I might have a daytime activity to restore the life in your eyes. Picture this- cleverly disguised as a hipster, you infiltrate the bicycling culture for an adventure of potentially epic proportions (or at least you could make it seem that way on Facebook). Infiltrating the secret haunts, tasting the cuisine, and experiencing this unique subgroup of the American public. 

While cyclist culture varies from city to city, keeping in mind a few key points would allow you to experience cycling hipsterdom just as easily in Los Angeles as in New York. To point out the elephant in the room, you must first have a bike- I plan on renting one for the day. After that, try to do something unique and you'll fit right in. This could include riding your bike to a farmers market where you procure the fixings for an artisan picnic then heading off to a small, local bookstore to pick up BikeSnob's latest book, The Enlightened Cyclist for the full immersion experience. 

Here are a few resources to help get you started: 

The Bike Snob NYC blog- while far from strictly cycling, the Bike Snob explores the various elements of cycling culture in New York City. 

Urban Outfitters- they have teamed up with Republic Bikes to create an online venue for designing your own bike.