Friday, January 14, 2011

Adventures in Eating

This morning when my alarm went off at 8:30, despite having gotten nearly eight hours of sleep that night and twelve the night before, I reached out to turn it off with the approximate energy and enthusiasm of a recently exhumed corpse. Now, I'm normally a pretty good morning person, and a lie-in until 8:30 with a good bank of sleep behind me usually means (as corny as it sounds) that I'm leaping out of bed to greet the day, or at the very least sitting up alertly in bed for a nice round of internet surfing before heading out (ok, that's probably more accurate). So, when I still felt pretty near death even after three rounds of the snooze, I knew something was up. While I was foggily trying to think out what could be going on, I happened to try to dry-swallow my morning medication (something I do every day), only to discover that my mouth was completely dry. Not only that, I suddenly realized that the inside of my mouth, instead of tasting like nothing or like the fresh mintiness of toothpaste that I had gone to bed with, tasted like... salt. Suddenly, everything became clear.

I'd been salt bombed.

Let me explain further. In these few first weeks of term before Oxford term has really started (we just got our tour of our colleges yesterday - very exciting, but also goes to show how long we've been here before our official college affiliation began!), we've had to deal with our own food, meaning either eating out or cooking for ourselves. While I've gone out t eat a few times, and have actually enjoyed every meal out I've had so far (actually shocking, as my expectations of British food were way low), I've opted to cook the vast majority of my meals myself both because I enjoy cooking and because it's more economical.

(One of my surprisingly good outside dining experiences... nommm)

Now, I think in general that I'm a pretty good cook. I'm not like my brother's girlfriend, who went to culinary school, and I won't be appearing on the next season of Top Chef, but armed with a good recipe or the wish to make one of the very narrow range of pasta sauces that I've learned by heart, and I can usually whip up something pretty good. My one weakness has always been salt: I like salty food a lot, and so my tasting radar for oversalting is, at times, faulty.

Last night, this seriously came back to haunt me. Trying to make teriyaki fried rice, I used teriyaki marinade instead of teriyaki sauce, creating a situation that was not only liquidy and very much NOT sticky and crispy like I was envisioning, but also involved a quickly reducing and increasingly toxic-level salty sauce. I tried tried to eat it, but... wow. It was my biggest failure in years of cooking. Later that night I could literally feel the insides of my cheeks puckering as the salt leeched the moisture out of them. I've literally spent the past day in recovery, drinking as much water as possible and trying to avoid anything with salt in it whatsoever.

But really, other than that one semi-apocalyptic experience, food has actually been one of my favorite things about Oxford so far, which I can honestly say is something that I never in a million years imagined saying. I love having my own kitchen (and since currently I'm the only person in the house that uses my particular kitchen, it really does feel like my own) and actually having time to use it, and when I do eat out the food has been invariably good. I even went to a bangers and mash place that had multiple vegetarian sausage options in addition to their more carnivorous fare, and got to enjoy bright pink rose-infused mashed potatoes that were some of the best I've had in a long while (not to mention portion sizes that kept me full for a day and a half!!).

(For portion reference, when I took this picture, I was half way done. Also, check out the pinkness of those potatoes!!)

I've also had some very nice (if very mild by "authentic" standards) thai food, and more yummy sweets than I can count. If the British can really do one thing well, it's sweet things. If I ate every candy that I thought looked good (and this is from someone who doesn't have a huge natural sweet tooth), I'd have to up my workout regimen just to make sure I could still fit through the door at the end of the quarter!!

(Unrelated awesome photo: seriously badass street entertainer on Cornmarket)

I'm going out to dinner now at a pub for a new angle of classic British fare: pub food. We shall see. . .


  1. I got my MA in England and one of the things I miss most is the food (I'm veggie also). I miss pies and pasties and the strawberries and tomatoes. There are tons of veggie options. Try Quorn if you haven't already. Have fun eating!

  2. Ahh yes I've heard great things about Quorn!! Thanks for reminding me to try it!