When in England…

I’ve arrived in London for the first part of a year-long adventure wherein I’m homeless by choice. (I’ve rented out my place in San Francisco for at least a year to both abide by the condo rules and to fund my adventure.)

My current plan is to spend 6 months in England, then a month in South America meeting my cousins for an extravaganza that includes an Amazon cruise, a Galapagos cruise and a trip to Macchu Picchu, along with time in Quito and Lima. (And given the number of world-class restaurants in Lima, I’m really looking forward to that!!)

After that, plans, as they say, are fluid. I’ll probably head back to Europe, with some time in the Dordogne area of France (truffle season, you see) and Paris, then back to London for Christmas and New Year. Then ??? maybe Cornwall for January (yes, I’m looking forward to wind and rain and storms), or a cottage in the Lake District, or ?? In early spring, probably more time in a different region of France (the Camargue?) before ending with an Eastern European river cruise.

People have asked, “Why England?” For one, I can get a tourist visa for a 6-month stay just by showing up, which can’t be said for most other countries. It’s a very comfortable place for me: no language issues, familiar culture, and it’s still a civilized society (unlike, I’m afraid, current American society). I like being somewhere people aren’t angry or impatient all the time. And heck, it’s a welcome change to be somewhere warm in summer!

So I plan to spend the next 6 months writing about English food. And yes, I know how that sounds. A friend explained my plans to someone, who laughed, thinking it was a joke. Which is exactly why I want to write about English food! Our vision of English cooking is stuck in the post-war period when traveling Americans reported over-cooked, under-flavored cuisine, served at ridiculously restricted times and in overly formal settings.

But traditional English food can be lovely — a perfectly done roast beef, with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding cooked in the ‘dripping’. Or fresh salmon from Scotland, or even a hearty shepherd’s pie (more about ‘shepherd’s pie’ versus ‘cottage pie’ in a future post — there’s actually quite the controversy).

And modern English food, especially in London, is anything but simple. Chef Heston Blumenthal is one of the earliest proponents of ‘molecular gastronomy’, although he calls it multi-sensory cooking. I had dinner two years ago at his London restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. It features modern versions of traditional English dishes — and by ‘traditional’, they mean Tudor, medieval, and Victorian. It was not only delicious, it was inventive and playful.

So I have a great adventure ahead of me, and hope you’ll read along!

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