abroad

London’s food culture does not disappoint

As this semester comes to an end, I’ve been evaluating my time here and thinking of the best and worst things about the vibrant city of London.

One of the best things about living in London was the extraordinary food from all cultures — there’s everything from Mexican to Italian to Japanese. Food was the one thing never let me down, but it certainly left my wallet a little lighter.

The food culture in the United Kingdom is distinctive in many ways, and primarily because of the nature of its “hybrid food.” There is this comedic notion that Londoners enjoy eating Indian chicken tikka masala even more than traditional English dishes. Locals transformed cultural dishes by adjusting spiciness levels or the ingredients used. They thus create a “hybrid food” of sorts.

I spoke with students from “Food, Identity & Culture,” an honors course at Syracuse University London that is taught by Adjunct Professor Ivana Bajic-Hajdukovic.

Most students in the course agreed the London food culture is distinctive. One student cited the city’s concept of pre-packaged lunch meals. It isn’t uncommon to see people standing on the streets or in the Tube, the underground subway, eating these lunchable-looking meals.

A student from New York City said she found a much higher prevalence of high-end food and farmer’s markets than she had in the Unites States. Another commented on how they didn’t enjoy consuming fusion food, but embraced it after living in London.

Other students in the course felt American and British food cultures were quite similar, especially in major cities. Junior biochemistry major and New York City native Ibnul Rafi didn’t see as big of a difference in food culture between the two countries.

“Both cultures try to create an environment where people from different cultures can come in and enjoy food based on their preferences,” Rafi said in a class discussion. “For example, people can choose the level of spiciness that they would like in their food. I’ve seen this in both New York City and London.”

Bajic-Hajdukovic said many people mistakenly believe British food is bland and very uninteresting. This is simply not true because the city has so many culinary experiences to offer.

“One of the big surprises that many people who come here come across is it doesn’t necessarily have to be the two,” Bajic-Hajdukovic said. “Over the last 10 to 20 years, there has been a surge of high-end restaurants that have Michelin stars. At the same time, you can still have one of the most boring meals here.”

London stands out because it boasts a variety of food types, combinations and styles. It is a city where you will find food that will satisfy all kinds of cravings — from the desires of the sweet-toothed to those that need to feel their lips on fire.

Bajic-Hajdukovic said London’s incredible food culture all boils down to its cultural diversity.

“London is a city where you have more than 300 languages spoken and 270 nationalities living here. When you have such cultural diversity, there is always food diversity as well, because all these cultures are looking for food that is reminiscent of home,” Bajic-Hajdukovic said.

Saniya More is a sophomore dual major in international relations and broadcast and digital journalism. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at ssmore@syr.edu.

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