First of all, for a French girl passionate about food who lived in Italy for the last 6 years, going (back) to London is tough, culinarily speaking. Second of all, I’ll keep referring to myself as a girl – as opposed to a woman – at least until I’m forty.
The main problem in London are local ingredients. (Potato?) One of my strongest culinary experience in Italy has been to discover the real taste of a tomato. Yes, a real tomato doesn’t just taste of water. A tomato that grew naturally under the sun (and I mean real sun like in Italy, Liguria for instance, not a spotlight in Iceland), without any treatment, from a garden, or a local market if you’re lucky, is an orgasmic experience: it feels like heaven but it never last long enough. From one hand, because the first time it happened, after every “wow” bite I felt so betrayed by the rest of the world like my whole life had been a complete lie, every tomato I’ve ever had before – and I’ve had many, in many different places! – has been a lie. From the other hand because going back to eating normal tomatoes after that, tastes of harsh reality, leaving you in a space of uncertainty and confusion: now that you know the taste of a real tomato, will you be able to forget it? You probably should, to be able to eat normal tomatoes again without a deep sense of bitterness, but what does that make of you? A liar? An hypocrite? Or will you decide to not forget and always remind everyone around you that tomatoes have a complete different taste making them feel ignorant and leaving you appear as an early senile and annoying person? Ahhh il pomodoro…!
That being said, a tomato in Paris, in Milan or in London tastes pretty much the same.
Cheese. OMG. I love cheese.
French cheeses: raclette, brie, camembert, cantal, tomme de Savoie, roquefort, crottins de chèvre, abondance, reblochon,…
Italian cheeses: mozzarella, burrata, ricotta, scamorza, gorgonzola, parmigiano, pecorino, taleggio, stracchino, tomino,…
British cheeses? cheddar, cheddar or cheddar. If you’re unsure, pick your favourite colour.
When you go to the supermarket in Milan you can choose between a large selection of ham, cured ham and other pancetta, coppa, bresaola, you usually ask someone how many hectograms you want and they cut beautiful thin slices in front of you. You rarely find only vacuum-sealed ham either sweetened with honey or salty with some smoked-flavour.
In London you find great cuisine from all over the world.
It’s true. You find delicious Indian cuisine, Thailandese, Caribbean, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese, but when you have a one-year old child, first of all you don’t go out so often anymore at the restaurant because it’s becoming – let’s talk frankly – a pain in the ass, secondly because I don’t give my child a meal I can’t even make a list of its ingredients. That or raw fish.
When I first lived in London in my twenties (young, single and beautiful *cough*) I used to defend London by arguing that even if you don’t like pub’s food, you find everything you need if you want to cook.
I barely cooked in 3 years.
Then I came back with a child, feeling very conscious about healthy food and diversity. I went to Tesco and to be honest all those colourful packagings hurt my view, all those pre-cooked meals, all those fake-looking fruits and vegetables, all those… cheddars, all those crisps and sodas (talking kilometres of it here)… My gosh, it’s just too much! I don’t want to see them, I don’t want to fall for them, it’s just pure evil! *Breathing*
Sorry, I know it’s about time and adjustment, I will eventually get over it…
Broadway market and mulled cider, though. There. That’s the food and drink that I missed from London.