Before I left for London, I spent a few days travelling around the United States visiting various friends. I saw Philadelphia, Poughkeepsie, and New York City, saying goodbye to people I care about pre-departure. I started to notice that my friends all said similar things to me as I left:
- “I’ll miss you!”
- “This is a really great opportunity for you!”
- “I’m so jealous! You’ll have so much fun!”
After all these encouraging words, my friends inevitably met me with a look of pity, an empathetic pat on the shoulder and, “but the food…it’s going to be rough. Good luck.”
I arrived at London Heathrow airport, armed with an umbrella, plenty of sweaters, and a steely-eyed distrust of fish and chips, bangers and mash, or anything with the word “pudding” in it. I wanted no part of any of that so-called “gross” food. On the plane, they gave us conversation heart candies, and the most helpful one read, “Just Say No.” I made a mental list of all the foods that I should “Just Say No” to: anything with liver in it, meat pies with undisclosed ingredients, black pudding for breakfast. I chanted my new “Just Say No” mantra all the way to Goldsmiths University, where I was studying for the semester: “Just Say No. Just Say No. Just Say Nooooooooo!”
As we drove through London on our way to Goldsmiths University, I looked at every restaurant with intense skepticism. But, I did start to notice something interesting. Unexpectedly, the city-scape was littered with seemingly infinite fried chicken restaurants. I had no idea that the British had such an obsession with fried chicken, and assumed that every restaurant would be a perfect spot for pudding fanatics (aka, not me).
The other night, some of my friends and I were in a pub a few blocks away from our dormitory. We shared a few drinks and stared out the window at the shining white beacon that was “New Perfect Fried Chicken.” The glaring signage called out to us in the night and eventually lured us in with its starchy siren call. We all ordered chicken and gobbled it down. It was probably the best decision of the night. The chicken was moist and truly perfectly fried. And oh! The chips! (Fries to us Americans). The chips were possibly the best potato product I have ever consumed. They were fresh out of the fryer, hot and crispy. And to think that I was worried about starving to death in London.
I decided to do a bit of research into the chicken shops of London and found this helpful article. I was surprised to learn that fried chicken restaurants are quite contentious in London; the government is attempting to crack down on them for fear of creating a large mass of obese people fed by such locations as “Tennessee Fried Chicken,” “Perfect Fried Chicken,” and “New Perfect Fried Chicken.” Fried chicken is not the most healthy option available in England, but then again, neither is black pudding or chips for breakfast.
As an American abroad in London, I was expecting to have to stomach all sorts of unappetizing pies and livers. While I will definitely sample all sorts of British cuisine, deep down in my heart, I may have already sworn allegiance to New Perfect Fried Chicken.