When I was 18 I had a wise idea; I was going to pack a suitcase, get a student work permit and visit a friend in London for 6 months. I knew the difficulties in working in a foreign country from friends and figured I better jump on the chance to make this cosmopolitan dream a reality. So with passport and a work visa in hand, I hit the UK running.
Like many other 18 year olds, at the time I thought I knew everything and that I could wing it. The phrase "culture shock" wasn't even a part of my vocabulary, and why should it have been? My bravado and wanderlust were going to carry me through my travels, naturally! Boy, was I wrong.
Apparently I forgot to pack my motivation and confidence.
What I discovered was a big, giant, bustling urban sprawl, filled with cars and people living their busy, busy lives. It was quite the opposite of the slow, relaxed Texan pace I knew. I also discovered how to live off of only £3 a day, and most importantly I discovered that I wasn't cut out for a retail job on Bond street. Nothing better than a big giant city to slap a boy into reality!
Of course I wouldn't change my experience for anything. It wasn't until passing through London 13 years later on my way to Spain that I was able to laugh at the experience and see it through a different set of eyes. A set of only slightly more mature eyes – I still have a whole lot of growing up to do and I'm fighting it at every step of the way!
So why am I sharing all this? Because I have regrets. I regret, first and foremost, spending two months in London and never venturing out of my tiny gastronomic comfort zone. I regret having never visited the places I dream about today, from farmer's markets and pubs to places like Neal's Yard Dairy. I regret having gone too young in my life, and I regret biting off more than I could chew. However, I hope to make all these regrets disappear someday, and I hope it's soon.
I've still got a little bit of that wanderlust in me.
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Ok, so I may live on the other side of the planet on the edge of Western civilization, but thanks to importers and modern technology we're all able to enjoy foods from around the world. While I'm talking about England I must include a blurb about The Fine Cheese Company
of Bath, England. I was recently given their English Pickles to taste and can I just tell you that my socks have officially been knocked off? As if I wasn't impressed enough by the adorable packaging, man, this stuff is amazing. Meant to be served with various cheeses, these savory and tangy pickles are made with natural ingredients and come in Apple, Plum, Onion and Tomato. A generous dollop of the English Onion on a piece of sharp cheddar (I mean English Cheddar, naturally)
sends me out of this galaxy. And their crackers are the perfect accompaniment to cheese. If you can get your hands on the Charcoal crackers, by all means, do!
Now if you'll excuse me I have some almost-empty jars that need licking.
Online at The Fine Cheese Company