Wait what, soundslides are due tomorrow?

I had quite a late start, to say the least, on my soundslides. Some plans fell through, so I went to the Chelsea Antiques Market, Chapel Market, Petticoat Lane, and finally Portobello Road again because the former three didn't have a ton going on. Not that I expected otherwise for a Wednesday.
A fruit and vegetable stand on Portobello Road.
I've been trying to make a flash player for my soundslide. The content, of course, is also mine but I was trying to make the player itself. I've been fiddling around with Adobe Flash CS3 lately, because Newhouse won't teach me. Though in all fairness, I'm not there this semester.

Food Diary: Day 14 - Last Day

Tuesday 10/14/08

Having arrived back in London at about 7:30 in the morning, I stopped at a café in Euston and grabbed a cup of hot chocolate. The train was absolutely freezing and I really needed some warming up, especially before venturing out again to return to the flat. After getting back and before going to the class I had that day, I stopped again at the Tesco Express by Holborn and bought two blueberry muffins and a water and had those before class began.

I didn’t eat again until much later that evening. This is because I was so tired after the previous night’s sleepless train ride and went to bed soon after getting back from class at 5pm. I woke up later and one of my flatmates made Ramon noodles for himself, me and another. I had water with this. I then went to bed.

Food Diary: Day 13

Monday 10/13/08

Tea with milk and sugar, toast, butter, crunchy peanut butter, porridge and orange juice started off my day. The meals I’ve been having these past few days are absolutely wonderful and I feel great having such variety. I think I am just too lazy to set aside the time at home to actually prepare all these things, and I think I also lack the knowledge to a degree to make some of these meals possible (not necessarily this mornings, but other meals I’ve been having such as last night’s curry and all its side dishes).

In the afternoon I had two tuna fish sandwiches (with mayo and bread) and tea. At this point in the day, I must have had tea at least four times already. It certainly is a drink used I believe for social purposes more than anything else (it isn’t that delicious, but it is good, and it gives you something to hold on to during a conversation which can lessen any awkwardness that may ensue).

That evening I left and was going to take a sleeper train back to London. I bought two energy drinks (called IRN-BRU, I guess? The labeling was unclear) and M&Ms. I would’ve bought more of a meal, but at this point in the day (about 8pm) restaurants were closed at the train station and only a convenient store where I bought both the energy drinks and M&Ms was open. I needed the energy drinks for some homework I needed to get done for classes on the next couple of days, and I wasn’t likely to get much sleep on the train anyway.

My eating experiences with this family made me do some thinking. I really enjoyed almost all the food I ate while here, so why don’t I eat more like this back at home or in the flat? Similarly, if I was with my family, I’d certainly be having quite a variety like I did with this family in Shieldaig. I need to start expanding my diet which probably isn’t too healthy. On the other hand, it’s sometimes difficult to do that when constantly working or doing homework. If meals were prepared for me (like they sometimes are back at home in the U.S., or like they were during my stay in Scotland), then I have no problem with – and in fact enjoy – eating healthier. I need more incentive I suppose, as I really have had virtually no negative side effects of my eating habits ever. At least, none that are apparent to me.

Food Diary: Day 12

Sunday 10/12/08

I was made scrambled eggs, bacon (from a local butcher and it was very good), and was given orange juice, tea (with milk and sugar), toast, butter, and I tried a bit of Marmite (puh!) on my toast.

In the afternoon I had a different type of vegetable soup and several servings of tea throughout the day. Later in the evening I tried some Sherry liquor, red wine, and my HOST family had made chicken curry which I enjoyed with rice, nuts and banana slices. I had water as well. The meal was quite thought-out, and several toppings (such as the nuts and banana slices) were prepared, in addition to several others, to put on the curry. Clearly curry is a meal that even holds some value cultural attachment as far north as Shieldaig. This was followed by locally-produced vanilla ice cream and a hot chocolate sauce made by the family.

Food Diary: Day 11

Saturday 10/11/08

I arrived in Inverness and then to Shieldaig, my ultimate destination in Scotland for my HOST family visit, in the late morning. I was made tea (Unsure what exactly), and then later lunch, which was a vegetable soup (which I’m not too fond of, but the vegetables are quite soft and easy to consume when in soup form), toast and butter.

Later that evening I was taken to a bar/restaurant nearby in Applecross and enjoyed a Guinness and Scottish Chicken (grilled chicken, salad, chips). I also had a local and traditional Scottish dessert called Cranachan, which was absolutely delicious. I wasn’t exactly sure what was in it, but according to Wikipedia, “a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey, and fresh raspberries topped with toasted oatmeal.” It was quite good.

Food Diary: Day 10

Friday 10/10/08

Today was kind of disastrous, both food and otherwise. I left early in the morning without having eaten to catch a bus to Gatwick airport. When I arrived, I was told by EasyJet that arriving one hour before departure time is apparently too late and that the check-in desk was closed, and I was denied entry. I was quite upset, poor and starving and panicking a bit about what to do at this point. EasyJet had just robbed £80 from me which did not put me in a good mood. After a while of trying to figure out what to do, I just sat down at a Burger King in the Gatwick airport and had a sprite and a cheeseburger. Ever so appropriately, President Bush had just appeared on the televisions affixed to the walls and was giving a speech. I felt like I was back home, but not in a good way.

I was going to take a night train to Inverness, and had a few hours to kills. At the Euston station I went into a bar and got a Guinness, and then a pint of Hoegaarden. Afterwards, I couldn’t resist buying three delicious and soft-looking chocolate chip cookies from a stand in the station. I also bought a bottled water. I ate the cookies and drank the water on the train, and then had kind of a miserable and sleepless night on the sleeper train.

Food Diary: Day 9

Thursday 10/9/08

My photo class was canceled today, and it being my only class on Thursdays, I slept in. I got up to go to Faraday at 12pm to pick up some tickets, and on my way back I stopped into a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop by Holborn and bought three delicious donuts to bring back to the flat with me. I had skim milk, not water, this time.

For lunch I stayed in and made a sandwich from Turkey slices, cheese, mustard and olives that I still had. Deli sandwiches are a perfect lunch for me. They’re light, healthy (I think – they at least appear that way), delicious and easy to assemble.

In the evening I didn’t eat anything, as my lunch was late, I wasn’t too hungry, and I didn’t have a ton of food at the flat, and I really didn’t feel like going out. I drank a Relentless energy drink that kept me up for a while in the evening, as I had a lot of preparations for the next day (I was leaving for the Scotland Highlands as part of a HOST program for my photography class) and I was nowhere near ready for that.

Food Diary: Day 8

Wednesday 10/8/08

I bought a blueberry muffin and chocolate chip cookies from Tesco’s as well as a bottled water before heading to my first class today. Another quick and easy breakfast, though not noted for its healthiness. Blueberries are healthy, aren’t they? Of course they are – breakfast choice justified.

In the evening I had ordered a Dominos pepperoni pizza and garlic bread. This is the first time ordering from Dominos since in London. Dominos has always been there for me during late nights back at Syracuse University, being open until 3am, and I guess I had bit of a craving. I bought a 2 liter bottle of water from Tesco’s for only about 40p, which was an amazing deal. Eating as a student here in London so far as really not proven much different than eating as a student in Syracuse, New York. The same time pressures, the same desire to get a fix of food quickly so as to carry on your day without much delay still applies here.

Food Diary: Day 7

Tuesday 10/7/08

In the morning before leaving for the airport to return to London, we ate a small restaurant serving breakfast. I had a croissant, butter, and an apple tarte along with water. This combination was unbelievably expensive, so we didn’t eat more at this place, but waited until we got to the airport. When we were there, I had a quite delicious chicken sub sandwich (grilled chicken slices, tomatoes, lettuce and some good dressing) and a bottled water. This was surprisingly cheap, especially considering the size of the sandwich and amount of meat on it (quite a bit). I bought a cheap 6-pack of Mentos at the airport’s duty-free store. Mentos are supposed to be a sweet breath-freshener, I believe, but I eat them as candy (they’re too difficult to savor for long with chewing).

Later that evening when we got home, I had cheese and crackers that were left over from earlier and water, and some hot chocolate.

Food Diary: Day 6

Monday 10/6/08

I started out the day early to get a chance to explore the Alps a bit. I grabbed an apple tarte from a Pâtisserie and had a bottle of water. Before we left the town a few hours later, we went back to the same Pâtisserie and grabbed two personal pizzas for the three of us to share (the toppings of the pizza were a mystery as they were covered by cheese and only slightly visible, but they were typical vegetables for a pizza – green and red peppers, some meat and the sort).

That evening, lacking money and motivation, and being surrounded by overpriced restaurants in Marseilles, I resorted to McDonalds and had two cheeseburgers and a strawberry milkshake. I’m not proud, but I was a bit hungry. I always have a bit of uneasiness when going into a clearly American restaurant like this. I think it’s because I want to help reevaluate the idea in peoples’ minds that these fast food places are so essential to Americans. I don’t want foreigners to think that I’m traveling all the way to France to go to a McDonalds, but there I was. In other circumstances (having more money) I would have chosen to go somewhere else. But I certainly wasn’t the only one in that position, as many other locals were waiting in line just as I was. They can’t judge me if they’re waiting in line at the same place, right?

Food Diary: Day 5

Sunday 10/5/08

We did a bit more traveling to get us into the French Alps. Before leaving Nice, we found, much to our surprise, an actual supermarket that had quite a variety of food (the first of its kind we found in France). We bought some sliced pepperoni, a couple varieties of cheese, and crackers, which we enjoyed on our train ride north. Cheese and crackers and pepperoni I have always liked as a snack food, and also sometimes as a complete meal (which, this time around, it was). I also bought some Le Petit Ecolier crackers for later (a delicious chocolate and cracker combination that I have enjoyed from time to time back home in the international food section of our local Wegmans grocery store).

Prior to leaving for the supermarket, we ate a complimentary breakfast our cheap hotel provided for its customers, which included a croissant per person, butter and hot chocolate. At this point we had managed to procure jam again so we also had that as an option for spreading on our croissants.

Later that evening, we decided to try an actual French restaurant and, for the first time in France, to eat an actual meal. The three of us shared two bottles of red wine, and I had a generous slice of steak with some unidentifiable (French) dressing coated over it. This came with some green beans wrapped in a strip of bacon, a baked potato with butter, and another side dish that I couldn’t identify (but it had a bready outside and seems to be filled with some cooked vegetables and perhaps some meat, but I really had no idea – it was okay). For dessert I had an overpriced brownie that I thought would be bigger. All in all, dinner was a success, and it was nice to say at that point that we ate at a French restaurant. We certainly felt a bit out of place though. We arrived a bit earlier than most French people go out to dinner (in our defense, we hadn’t eaten well in days) and our French language skills weren’t too great. Undoubtedly we were unaware of some customs that probably go along with eating at a restaurant, although nothing we were aware of – we just felt like we were probably doing something wrong.

Food Diary: Day 4

Saturday 10/4/08

Another day of traveling and not a ton of eating. We left the small French town we were in Séverac le Chateau at 1pm but not before grabbing an apple tarte for myself from a Pâtisserie and a bottled water. We ate outside in the cold as there was no eating room in the shop, and we really didn’t have anywhere else to go. Although not the ideal health option, baked sweets like this apple tarte put me in a good mood, countering the negative mental effects our various travel difficulties were placing on me. All my comfort foods seem to be unhealthy. I do have quite a sweet tooth, so a tarte like that is certainly comforting in that regard, and also I’ve never had any visible negative health effects from eating baked sweets, ever. To go a bit more in depth, I can recall having donuts and bakery items of the sort throughout my life. I enjoyed them more than candy or salty snacks and there was always something home-like about them. My mom had always, from time to time, made cookies and other sweets like apple and pumpkin pies in the oven, so it’s easy to associate baked goods with comfort, without a doubt.

Sadly, that was the last time I ate that day besides some pita bread that we managed to take with us into France from London. Airport security threw out our peanut butter and jam at the airport.

Food Diary: Day 3

Friday 10/3/08

Today I left for southern France with a few friends. We left early to the point where I had no time to grab anything to eat, though I did pour a glass of water for myself. After traveling plans went very awry, the next thing we ate that day was an apple tarte and a small cheese and ham pie/tarte, both of which the three of us shared. This was when we were in France, and between all of us, we only had so many Euros with us, not having found an ATM yet. Water was the beverage of choice, as we already had some on us.

After more traveling incidents, the final thing we ate that day was a pizza we bought in a small French town (cheese, tomatoes, beef and onion). It was that good. The beef sort of ruined it, but due to a language barrier, we felt better selecting that specific pizza than choosing one where we couldn’t properly translate the toppings. Although not too great, pizza was a welcome food as it was very cold outside and we needed something to warm us up. We shared the pizza and a pitcher of water.

Food Diary: Day 2

Thursday 10/2/08

This morning I made scrambled eggs. Although eggs seem to be a bit expensive, it’s notable that they’re all free-range, which undoubtedly are more expensive to produce than what I’m probably buying back at home. There is a sense of comfort in knowing that they were produced from free-range chickens and it justifies the price. I don’t know if the eggs back home were also free-range; it’s not advertised that they are, so I’m doubtful. I haven’t cooked much using our kitchen here in London, but out of anything cooked, I’ve certainly cooked eggs the most. The eggs were accompanied by a few glasses of Somerfield orange juice, and a single glass of hot chocolate (made with a mix by Somerfield and skim milk).

After going to and returning from class, a few friends and I stopped into a bar to get a couple of drinks. I had a Stella Artois and a Guinness. No food. It was relaxing to just chill out and sit down after class (our photo class can be quite stressful and sometimes depressing!) and talk about issues with friends. Alcohol, as always, eases conversation and we made it a relaxing time.

I still find it fascinatingly absurd that it would be illegal in the United States to do what we had just done. I’m 20 years old, so drinking in the U.S. would have been much more secretive lest I get arrested for participating in such a horrible offense. So, it’s a refreshing experience to buy a pint and realize that not everyone in the world is backwards about its laws and regulations.

In the evening I ate a frozen pepperoni pizza from Tesco’s and drank water with it. Prior to that, I had eaten some nice-looking green grapes from the same store. Grapes are not a food I often buy, but when I do I never regret it. I feel good about myself when I eat them because I associate them with eating healthy. And perhaps in hindsight, I sort of looked at eating them as a way to cancel out the pizza I was about to eat. Frozen pizzas from Tesco’s are cheap and filling and I buy them every so often. It’s nice to eat something warm as well. Despite health concerns that people would certainly bring up, pizza is a bit of a comfort food for me. It is familiar and inexpensive and almost always delicious. If I’ve had particularly bad luck with trying new foods on a given day, something like pizza would be an appropriate way to finish the day off.

Food Diary: Day 1

Wednesday 10/1/08

I have a feeling that my food choices will reflect my schedule more than anything else. I woke up too late to cook anything at home and left directly for my 10:40 class. I left a bit early to leave some time to grab food from a store along the way though. I went to Sainsbury’s and bought bottled water and a hot breakfast sandwich (with eggs, sausage and bacon, as well as some sort of seasoning perhaps). I took these items with me and ate them in Faraday before class began. It’s the first time I bought this sandwich, so I was trying something new, though I always tend to buy bottled water more than any other drink. It’s always the cheapest for the amount I’m getting, and it goes well with anything.

After class and before the following one, I went with a friend to Humus Bros., a restaurant near Faraday, and ordered a small dish of chicken curry and pitas. I had enough water left over from my earlier purchase so I did not buy a new drink. We took the food to go and ate it during the beginning of our next class. Although a bit more expensive than I would like for a small mid-day meal, it was certainly good. I don’t know if I’ll make the purchase again though, as buying a sandwich from Pret A Manger is cheaper and fills me up just as well. Also, the aroma from the hot curry I felt was perhaps distracting the class a bit.

On my way home I went to Somerfield to purchase some turkey from the deli, bread, mustard, cheese and olives. This is the first time I’ve bought turkey since in London, and it certainly won’t be the last. Turkey is one of the things I miss the most, and I have yet to find it in any pre-made sandwiches in any store. It is apparently rare, and buying pre-packaged turkey on the shelves (which is also a bit rare) is quite expensive and most definitely not worth it in my opinion. Buying cut turkey from the deli was priced reasonably I thought. To me, turkey is a staple deli food. It seems to be replaced by chicken here, which isn’t too common a deli meat back at home. The reasons for the lack of turkey are obvious (although something else may be at play as well): turkey isn’t a native English bird.

I put together a sandwich later that evening with these supplies. It was a sandwich that I was completely satisfied with, and I suppose I felt some comfort in eating something that I so commonly do back home.

Food shopping here has so far been similar to how it works at home. At home, however, I have access to a store with much greater variety than the supermarkets I’ve been to here do. There are much more smaller and food-specific shops around there that I haven’t gone to. It’s simply more convenient and less time-consuming to shop for all your groceries in one place.

Food Diary: Introduction

When I was studying abroad in London in the fall of 2008, I took a class with some friends called Food, Culture and Identity, course ANT 400. The class examines the role of food in the construction of identity. The food we consume provides the essential energy we need to live, but does it also provide us the way we perceive ourselves to be, and does it allow others to perceive who we are? Incorporation is a basis of identity. In other words, what we incorporate in our eating habits is significant to how we establish and maintain or alter our identities. This may also explain why we tend to avoid foods that are unknown or unfamiliar to us. People hesitate to consume foods that can not be clearly identified because we do not know what effects that would have on our own identities.

The class took us around London in field trips to help situate our theoretical understanding of food in relation to London's many foodscapes. One assignment is what was called our "Food Diary," where we would record our food eating tendencies for two weeks and turn in the results. I thought this record-keeping was also a good representation of my experiences abroad, albeit with a focus on food consumption.

The following post series is a fortnight record of these experiences.