Saturday, January 13, 2007

A trip to the market, a trip around the world

DATELINE: Uxbridge Road ("a west London road which was a decade ahead of its time")

Every day at rush hour, at every busy tube station and bus stop, thousands of London commuters avail themselves of free newspapers. With sensationalist headlines like December's "Killer Fog Traps Travelers" and telefocus paparazzi pictures of Kate Moss sunbathing topless, rags like London Lite are indistinguishable from bad tabloids. This past Thursday, however, in their style section, The London Paper got it right with their full page exposé on our street in Shepherd's Bush, entitled Round the World in One Exotic Trip: "Uxbridge Road doesn't claim to be glamorous ... but for food shopping it cannot be beaten, with a myriad of Lebanese, Polish, Syrian, Caribbean, Sudanese and Somali small businesses thriving there." The full article, and a cute little "audio slide show," is available here (pay no attention to the next slide show about a certain photographer).

Whatever its pretentions to glamour, Shepherd's Bush is undeniably an immigrant neighborhood (we fit right in!), and it's not unique; we've often been surprised at just how international and even transient London's residents are generally. Nearly everyone is here temporarily. Indeed, it's really quite difficult to meet anyone who is actually English, much less a homegrown Londoner. A full third of London's population is foreign-born, and consequently the trade in exotic ex-pat comfort foods - from rose petal paté to peanut butter - is big business; witness the American foods section at the newly remodelled world-famous food hall at Fortnum & Mason.

Inspired by the sensationalist press coverage of our own neighborhood, we spent the afternoon exploring the specialty grocers, delis and international food markets and that spill out onto the sidewalks of our street. While snapping pictures at our favorite Middle Eastern supermarket, Al-Abbas, Tam was stopped by one of the produce vendors, who insisted on posing for a portrait with his wares.

We shopped for sujuk sausages at Naama and picked up some pierogis from "England’s best Polish supermarket," Mleczko. Tomorrow, we plan to construct a multi-cultural experience of our own: eating an English Sunday roast and watching the NFL playoffs at a pub in West Kensington which turns into a gathering of homesick American sports fans every Sunday evening. Go Saints!

No comments: