A large part of cuisine in England comes from the immigrants from the Indian Sub-continent. We have discussed and read about their influence in our Food and Culture class, and we finally had the opportunity to take a trip to an area of London where the Indian influence is the majority.
We went to a neighborhood in Northern London called Southall. The population is almost entirely Indians from the northern region of Punjabi. There are both Sikh and Hindu temples, along with sweet shops, grocery stores, and sari shops.
We learned that India is essentially only united by geographical borders and their time zone, and essentially all Indians are different from each other based on region, and the language and foods native to those regions. For example, the food in the south is much spicier because the spice in the food is utilized to cool down the body in the extreme heat.
We visited a grocery store where we saw many unique Indian vegetables, spices, beverages, and desserts. At the end of our visit we stopped at Poornima restaurant where I tried a mango Lassi, vegetable samosas, and butter chicken. Although butter chicken isn’t the most traditional dish I could have tried, this was definitely some of the best Indian food I have ever tried, not really to my surprise.
The trip was interesting in the context of an article we read for class that focused on Chicken Tikka Masala and claimed it as a British rendition of what they perceived to be Indian Curry. So for all you Chicken Tikka Masala fans out there, this dish isn’t Indian at all!
As an extra learning experience for Dance Aesthetics and Criticism, we took a short field trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Dance and Theatre exhibition. Here we were able to see old promotional posters from the Ballet Russe, which told us so much about the history of what styles of ballets were popular in England throughout history.
The most exciting artifact was Maria Taglioni’s ballet shoe. This shoe was the first form of the primitive pointe shoe, which was created for Taglioni so that she could float above the stage and create the ethereal aesthetic of ballet. Seeing this in real life was fascinating because modern pointe shoes are reinforced to offer support for the foot, which this primitive shoe lacks almost entirely. This shoe is also an important piece of dance history because Taglioni’s fans honored her so greatly, they would drink champagne from her shoes and even boil them so they could eat them.
This week also included going to Afternoon Tea with our Food class. We learned about the form, meaning, and distribution of tea in society, and were introduced to its Upper Class history.
We went for tea at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. We were served Earl Grey and English Breakfast teas alongside various finger sandwiches (which we had to cut with knife and fork and eat in the proper British fashion.) The sandwiches were followed by a variety of sweets and of course, scones with clotted cream and jam.
I drank my tea in the traditional British way, with milk, although I usually prefer my black tea, black.
This is definitely a must-do British experience!