As promised, the food I’ve encountered thus far is getting the spotlight tonight. England, especially the East End, is a cultural and culinary melting pot. You can get pizza in one restaurant, Chinese one door down and Indian across the street. However, the primary diet has two big issues for little old me:
First of all, food here is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E. The cheapest meals I’ve had so far have been £3, or $4.88 (current market value). Admittedly, that’s especially inexpensive. Even Burger King will run you $5 for a relatively small meal in the States. A burrito and a small soda costs $7.87 in Texas (not that I memorized that or anything). But at the same time, $5 will get you a salad at Wendy’s. Eating cheaply in America will at least give you the option to eat somewhat healthy. My $5 meals here have been:
- Perfect Fried Chicken: Chicken sandwich, two chicken wings, chips (fries), and a canned fizzy drink (soda)
- Random Chips Place Whose Name I Cannot Remember (est. 1969): Fried, battered sausage, a mountain of chips, and a canned fizzy drink
Not exactly something dietitians will tell you to start seeking out.
I’ll get back to health in a bit. Most restaurants I’ve been to have “similar” prices to those in the US: £6-8 for a decent meal. The problem here is the exchange rate. At the time of writing, the rate I’ve seen at banks and Bureau de Changes has been £1.62 = $1. Better that its previous £1 = $2, but still not great. One hamburger I had cost me £7.50. Had I ordered the “American,” it would have been an extra pound. The slice of home was a beef patty, cheddar, bacon (the ham looking kind), “rocket” (a kind of lettuce, unfortunately), and mustard on a ciabatta bun. The build-your-own-burger I ordered was one entire pound less because I didn’t order mustard.
One Indian restaurant appeared to have pretty good prices: a bowl of curry was a mere £5.50. Indian restaurants I’ve been to in America cost somewhere around $12 for curry. Seeing that low low price for the rage of Agni in my mouth was a prospect I could not pass up. We all ordered, and life was looking delicious. Except I had to order rice on the side. And then I had to order the nan bread on the side. Feeding nine people there cost £93 pounds (that’s $153 for you non-mathematicians, and no, I only covered my own meal). The price gouging was possibly unique to this restaurant, but I still felt cheated. Most Italian restaurants hand out garlic bread like there’s a Stephanie Meyer fandemic, but there it felt like… I don’t know, 1/3 of the population has a criminal record. This is exactly why I try to avoid eating out too much.
Grocery shopping here has been exciting. Some things are really expensive (£3 for a box of Frosted Flakes??), while others seem really cheap (60p for a ton of digestives??). Keeping track of prices is actually very simple since most items are one or two quid. Still, occasional items have ridiculous price spikes. Dr. Pepper should not cost £2.50 for a two liter bottle. Especially when………. wait. Ingredients that don’t include high fructose corn syrup? My God, Dr. Pepper here is closer to Dublin Dr. Pepper than most of the DP in the States! God save the queen!!
To be honest, I’m surprised the Queen’s heart hasn’t kicked her in the head yet. They don’t have the food pyramid here, and my guess as to why is because it got lost in the fryer. Just about everything here is fried at some point. My first night here, when I missed the group dinner, I was forced to find cheap food near the hotel. The nearby Boots had long closed (at 9 PM? What the hell, England?), and I had Burger King for lunch, so I was looking for something more foreign. After wandering around for a while in the dark, deserted streets of Central London, two restaurants caught my eye. One was a dimly lit noodle shop where I could see a couple chefs tirelessly twisting their handmade noodles. Their grace, their skill, the noodles, made it hard for me to take my eyes off them.
Then I went to the cheap looking fried monster next door. Essentially, it was the mall food court’s token Chinese restaurant in London’s poshest district. I ordered noodles (fried), salt and pepper chicken (fried), spicy Thai chicken (fried), and a bottle of water (fried), which cost £5, I believe. Sure, it was good, and the noodles even had some onions and broccoli in them, but I knew I was in for a deep fried adventure. My low cholesterol’s only hope was the restaurant selection around campus.
When Butler hauled us from the St. Giles hotel to the Queen Mary campus, we got a quick glimpse of the area. Off the top of the head, allow me to list every restaurant I saw: KFC, SFC, PFC, WFC, FFC, LFC, BFC, HFC, and Chicken Hut. These restaurants all host the exact same menu. Fried chicken, burgers, pizza, halal, and “Indian food.” My favorite sign so far has to be “A’La Pizza,” whose subtext reads “Burgers – Indian Food.” Apparently fried chicken is a huge deal over here. Not only that, they brag about their American recipes. The fact that they serve American fried chicken must be a deal-breaker for people deciding where to buy their fried chicken. Because if there’s one thing the English know about Americans, it’s that we eat fried chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Delicious or not, this is exactly why I’m about to pay £89 for unlimited campus gym access.