Finding my allspark…Borough Market, London

Friend: You have loads of cool clothes.
Me: Well I work at AmericanApparel so I’ve got quite a bit from there, and other places I like.
Friend: Where do you like to shop?
Me: Borough Market?
Friend: I beg your pardon?
Me: Heh heh.

I fell ill on New Year’s Eve after my longhaul flight back to London and spent it listening to some hooligans screaming out on the streets as fireworks were letting it rip in the London nightsky. My whole body’s just been a little bleagh, as there is no other word to describe it – and I’m just sorta lackadaisical every day. Been to a staff meeting, done some readings, gone for 2 start of term seminars and it’s all been pretty bland. Until Wednesday when Central London witnessed heavy snow.

Haven’t seen such heavy snow with snowflakes the size of eyeballs! Doubt we ever had it that heavy up in the West Midlands but gosh, sitting in a Starbucks attempting to read my dead boring notes, it just started to snow like there was no tomorrow. Every 10 seconds I looked up, the snow was getting heavier. And the heavier it got, the happier and more energized I felt. It was almost like instead of blood coursing through my veins, it was pure electricity and I was just buzzing to get out and jump in the snow (which might have pelted me down from the size of it!) Of course, people around me didn’t seem to be enjoying it that much. Bustling past, shoving strollers aside, big shopping bags slapping you in the face and arms – it was a bit of a mad scene in High Street Kensington where I work. I wasn’t working that day actually but went in to do a bit of shop and get away from the early afternoon grey bore that is Old Street (really, it only comes alive in the night and you know why).

After the snow stopped, I kinda lost my mojo a little bit. The electrifying burst I experienced – and it’s not from caffeine, I promise, only had a bottle of juice – when the first giant snowflake fell was gone. And then Thursday was just a little lacklustre. Yes it was sunny and then a little grey and then white cloud, but the streets had all iced over. So it was just me, annoyed that I had to head into uni and even more annoyed that it was colder than when it had snowed. And just too much of an effort to keep myself upright instead of horizontal – the number of times I almost skid myself to death is uncountable! But like my neighbour said, it felt a lot better knowing and seeing that the other man on the street was struggling to the high heavens to not fall over either. Which is great, I agree. But not when they are still pretty composed about it. I, on the contrary, make these stupid squealing noises at the slightest slip or skid. Ridiculous. My new classmates (from this new module I’ve taken this semester) must pretty much think I’m a super weirdo.

Super weirdo. Ok that’s a label no one’s used on me, yet.

So anyhow, it’s just all been a little dead. Got up this morning, looked out. Nice and sunny. Streets still fairly icy but looked like a day to do something that’d shock or wake my system a little. I’m working on Saturday – would be nice to be a bit more alive so I don’t sulk through the day and upset customers or offend my mates at work. And as the title of this post suggests, I managed to turn things around. The allspark was found! And who would think it’d be at a food market, but not any regular food market! The infamous London Borough Market, an awesome spot that I would dare argue could compete with all my other favourite shopping spots (good for clothes, vintage finds, jewellery all that sorta stuff any other person would normally relate shopping to).

I arrived at Borough Market at noon and it was bustling like it’d been open for ages. Loads of people, loads of bright-eyed stall owners, steaming cups of coffee, mulling wine and hot cider, hot roast pork baps, sandwiches, grilling sausages and onions, etc. Heavenly! Was totally lovin’ the good range of fresh and/or organic produce available, and the wide range of cuisines on sale from Spanish to Italian to good ol’ British to Thai. What a good wake-up call to the world. Someone had fished out all the stars in the sky and put it in a jar just for me. A beautiful scene and medley to watch.

Poet Pork Pie for you, dear Sir? Or how about a little Priest?

My original intention was to simple soak up this buy/sell, look/taste/sample atmosphere, take a few photographs, draw inspiration from it, but being around food and people who obviously love it makes it hard to disengage from such an environment. I was fully immersed in the moment. Seduced, charmed and drawn deep into its embrace. In terms of shopping, I merely wanted some fresh fruit as I’d run out…yet again, nothing new there. I might’ve gotten carried away but it’s hard not to. I took home a lovely sack (alright ok, not a sack but a bag worthy of being called one) of fresh vegetables comprising beautiful red onions, an organic aubergine with a skin so glossy and unmarked, a medley of wild mushrooms, fresh marjoram; a packet of fresh beetroot tortelloni which is a real stunner in terms of colour (at £6.20 a packet it had better be!); some nectarines and red apples; a spice bag for hot cider – yum yum and fresh croissant for brekkie tomorrow.

Hot spiced cider to warm my freezing butt up; went down really quick and easy because it was just so cold

Was pretty relieved I hadn’t take out more cash with me or I’d have spent it on some meats and poultry too. I fell in love with the fresh fish that caught my eye and you so gotta check out that halibut! I spent ages wandering about the ice counter looking, goggle-eyed like the fish on display and taking photographs. Thank goodness they didn’t chase me away. Everything was very fresh and was particularly impressed with the tuna steak, salmon fillets and sea bass. Will be back for any fish dishes I’ll be preparing. Really love buying fresh fish on the day it is to be cooked rather than getting it and freezing it for later use, then having to fuss about thawing it and all that.

the size of this mad Icelandic halibut will blow your socks off

Moving out of the Green Market, I spotted some stalls selling sweeties and patisseries. Tried to avoid it so I wouldn’t get tempted to buy any. Safe!

there was lemon tart – how on earth I managed to resist that, I have no idea

I found a stall selling fresh pasta and I was drawn to it like a fly to light. I’d eaten this squid ink ravioli filled with salmon in Salou, Spain last summer and the taste of it was fantastic. I think a lot had to do with the garlic olive oil sauce as well but I found this stall selling something similar but a little more posh. A crab and cheese filled squid ink ravioli but for a meagre packet (look at it! I’d gobble that up in seconds. It’s a SINGLE serving packet for sure) was going for £9.50. That’s the problem with specialty foods. To me, it’s just costing an arm and leg. But having found the fresh pasta stall I couldn’t just turn and go empty-handed. The beetroot ravioli, actually the first thing which caught my eye, was purchased and stall owner and I were both happy.

the fresh pasta dudes, grinning and happy despite the cold

I might have drooled for quite a bit at the empanadas stall but the Arabica food one lured me over. I loved everything I saw. Always so beautiful and I’m sure very tasty. But the food was all a little pricey for my tiny student budget so only photographs were taken! There was a huge range of dips available but the one that caught my eye was, yes you got that right! The beetroot hoummous dip! Intriguing. Too bad my fingers were occupied with the camera and too cold to attempt successfully dipping a piece of pitta. I’m sure I would’ve totally mucked up the ‘communal’ sample pot and get chased away by the stall owners. Oh, too embarrassing to imagine any further.

oh the sweets – my giant sweet tooth nearly had a heart attack looking at these

After that I routed back to the vegetables section and finally bought some fresh produce. Apart from photographing sweet treats and desserts, my next favourite thing to photograph is actually vegetables. I think the effect of looking at vegetables through a photograph is actually very calming. I’m not too sure why. Maybe it’s the connotations of a garden, of farming, of family, and of home it invokes that makes me feel so much more at ease and relaxed. And another reason why I love my vegetables and if I ever have children of my own, I’ll be sure to tell em to eat theirs. My family was brought up on knowing the value of our greens and I’m glad my parents were so good with that. I can’t live a day without having some fresh vegetable or fruit. It actually makes me feel a little ill if I go long without some.

Not all the stalls had great vegetables. Some were just a little rotten or banged up. One selling organic stuff was really good, I don’t recall the name. But the lovely lady, all wrapped up to her eyes because of the cold, was really friendly and helpful. Putting my vegetables in my ’sack’ for me since I was too busy with the camera and she thanked me for every purchase I made. It was hard to stop. First the fresh herbs, then the aubergine I mean it was all good and top fresh stuff.

And then I hit mushroom heaven. I am a mushroom otaku. This was me hitting the jackpot!

from the local to the exotic, they have it all!

And so my shopping came to a bit of an end as the first bits of snow started to fall again in a light snow shower. The cold was getting worse, I was a moving block of ice with frozen chips for fingers and snot running down my nose. Not exactly a pretty sight. And legs as stiff as cement blocks I thought it wise to jump into a cafe for a hot drink or something. Nope, didn’t happen.

I love stories that happen on the whim, stories that occured from an act of pure impulse. And I have a funny one for you. It concerns my lunch. Or really, the discovery of my place of lunch. Cold as heck, I sorta go smacked by these plastic curtains you often find at entrances of supermarket freezers, kinda didn’t know how to get out of it and then sorta just fell into this random hole in the side of street in pure Bridget Jones style. And then, after a few odd stares from the staff and customers, I realized the hole was in fact not just a random hole, but the shop entrance to Feng Sushi Restaurant. And so, this was it! Someone was telling me to have a nice sit down in the warmth, have a bowl of udon in hot broth, chill out until the snow stops.

The staff were really friendly and I loved the layout and randomness of this restaurant. I could’ve kissed the gorgeous man who came to offer me a cup of hot green tea to warm me up. I believe they’re famous for their fresh fish and sashimi which from the customers sitting next to me, was proof of that. My own white fish tempura was good but I can’t say this is authentic. My tempura was soggy and the tempura batter tasted nothing like tempura. My hot udon soup came a little lukewarm instead of steaming and the soup wasn’t what I expected. The udon noodles were so soft and overcooked they practically came apart between my chopsticks. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal because it was something hot and still food that was tasty.

Food chowed down and paid, leaving was the hardest part. I stepped back out into the cold and dashed off for a bus home. Definitely freezed again but made it home satisfied.

Borough Market, I shall be back again to explore more. My neighbour’s got another food market to introduce to me soon. I can’t wait especially since she swears that it’s where all the fit dudes hang out. Oh she tickles my funny bone. Tomorrow, I shall whip up a lunch using my wild mushroom medley and all that. Stay tuned!

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