Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 5: Oxford to London

Thursday night I ate alone at 4500 Miles from Delhi, a very nice Indian restaurant right around the corner from our hotel. Eating alone in a restaurant is not my favorite activity but I think of it as a survival skill I have had to learn. My favorite place to eat alone is at a bar, preferably in front of the people who are cooking my food or a friendly bar tender. The activity gives me something to do. I never bring a book with me: I believe that eating alone gives me the chance to taste my food and if I’m reading I will be distracted from appreciating it. What’s more, I have always thought that a woman reading while eating her dinner looks a bit pathetic. I don’t want to generate sympathy. I want to have fun and enjoy myself and tell myself stories about the people eating around me.

That said, the dinner at the Indian place was really very pleasant, even though it didn’t satisfy my preferences when eating alone. I was seated at a table looking out toward Park End Street. There was a family sitting in front of me; two Indian fellows, one of whom had his cell phone glued to his ear; a table of four and a table of two women—plenty to keep me occupied. I started with Poppadoms served with four chutneys; moved along to Aloo Tikki, fried potatoes cakes stuffed with peas; and finally Chooza Makhni, tandoor chicken in a delicious tomato sauce with some Garlic and Coriander Naan. A glass of house Merlot. The family finished eating, paid their bill and left the restaurant. A few minutes later I saw the four of them on the top level of a bus as it drove by. I thought to myself: When have I ever seen a family of four in the US riding a bus home after dinner in a nice restaurant? Isn’t that true?

Now jump to Friday. We packed up our bags to come back to London. I set out for a nice walk through Oxford one last time, looking for a place to have lunch. I had noticed several places selling pies with various savoury fillings. In a covered market just off High Street, I found a nice shop called Pieminister and ordered a lamb and mint pie which was served with gravy. The crust was not as flaky as I would have liked and the filling didn’t have much lamb or any mint that I could detect. But what I liked most about the experience was catching sight of two students next to me eating their pies in the traditional way: with mashed potatoes, gravy, a mound of mushy peas on top and a dollop of ketchup on the side.

We took the train to London later in the day and had a lovely dinner with friends at their home—such a nice change from eating in restaurants. The food they prepared was beautiful, fresh and delicious. Thank you, David and Sarah.

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