Do you ever arrive in a new city and find yourself thinking about how much it reminds you of your hometown? I wonder if it’s an expat/immigrant/nomad thing because I’ve noticed recently that we do it a lot. I can’t imagine myself living back in Wellington just yet but I do miss little things about it… the breezy waterfront, the compact city centre, and our famous steep streets. So I guess when we find somewhere that has some of those things, we almost instantly feel a little more relaxed and at home.
When we arrived in Bristol, we had a good feeling that we would like it… by the time we left, we were certain of it. We found a harbourside area where you can get a whiff of the sea, a compact city you can easily walk around in, and hills to give your calves a work out. Tick, tick, tick; no wonder we felt so at home there… throw in the friendly local vibe and the vibrant dining scene and we were sold! Ours was a very snappy visit, but we’d be more than happy to drop by again…
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am one of those cheery people who truly believes that food brings people together. People like to eat together, some people like to cook together, and heck, I know lots of people who like to talk about food together. That might not be the same in your circles, but it’s most definitely an occupational hazard of moonlighting as a food lover/writer/photo-documenter. When people discover my alter ego as ‘Connie Consumes, International Consumer of Food’, many ditch whatever line of conversation we were running and skip to the food talk. Not that I mind at all because I’ve generally got food on the brain.
Once we get the ‘what is this blog thing’ out of the way and steer away from restaurant recommendations, we get down to business with the bit I really love… just nattering on about anything and everything people love to eat or cook, the weirdest things they’ve eaten on their travels, friends and family who are exceptional cooks, signature dishes… I’m inherently nosey, you might have realised this if you’ve met me so I could keep chatting about this stuff for hours on end. Test me if you dare.
For ever so long, you were the city of my dreams. Thousands of miles away, in a beautiful faraway land at the bottom of the world, I would imagine myself getting lost in your immense grid of streets. I would be sashaying across Manhattan with the same carefree attitude as the Blair Waldorfs and Carrie Bradshaws of the world, having leisurely lunches at upscale restaurants, grabbing snacks at cute corner bakeries, and indulging in gigantic slices of pizza at the end of a long night out. That New York life was for me, I thought.
When we finally met, it was love at first sight. I might as well have bought the t-shirt and been the walking ‘I Heart NY’ cliche, because I did. I thought you were the one and I was ready to ditch my outbound flight, but I must confess, I’m glad I didn’t. My next stop was London, the city which has truly captured my heart. So New York, while you never failed to excite me in our short time together, I realised that what we had was a lusty holiday romance… what I have with London is for the long haul. It is here where my hungry heart and belly has been sated and feels most at home.
I usually cringe a little when people ask if I am a food critic or restaurant reviewer because, honestly, I believe I am neither. I write a food blog, I tell tales, I share my experiences… I ramble on about what we ate and whether or not I liked it perhaps, but that’s all part of the story of the meal. I don’t claim to be the fountain of any knowledge. I am just a greedy girl who’s always hungry and likes to talk; and because it’s impolite to talk with your mouth full, this is the perfect place for me to do that talking.
There are plenty of other people out there who either are, or claim to be, food critics or restaurant reviewers, so there’s no need for me to join that ever-so-crowded bandwagon. I read a lot of what those people have to say; many because I respect their opinions, some purely because curiosity has got the better of me. However, one thing remains the same regardless of which category they fall into – I always take these reviews with a grain of salt because at the end of the day, it’s just their opinion. And my view is that no one’s word is gospel in this industry, no matter how well regarded they are.
The other day, a friend and I were talking about London pubs. There’s no shortage of them and getting a decent drink is hardly ever an issue, but if you’re after some decent pub grub, there are pubs and then there are pubs. When it comes to the food they serve, not all are created equal and the difference between great, pretty good, and god-awful is very noticeable.
The god-awful ones will usually have signs out the front claiming to serve the best ever burger or Sunday roast and proudly display photoshopped, too good to be true pictures of said burger or roast. The great ones are equally easy to find, they’ll be the ones geo-tagged on Instagram of where the best burgers or Sunday roasts actually are. So what about the pretty good ones?
At least once a week you’ll catch me dishing out my best John McEnroe outburst of ‘you cannot be serious’ alongside a sassy stare. A certain someone knows this combo all too well because he’s usually at the receiving end. That’s what he gets for not listening. I have no doubt he hears me; apparently I’ve really perfected the art of projection, my speech and drama teacher would be so proud, but whether or not he comprehends these sounds is a source of great debate at times.
What makes me wonder that? Oh just all those times he’s asked me about something… that I’ve just told him, or told me something that… yep, you guessed it, I’ve just told him. You get why my inner McEnroe escapes? But there are times when the sound bites surprisingly manage to align and it’s a win for me. Actually, a win for both of us because I can stop going on and on about it whatever is flavour of that month.