Cheek by Jowl

Life would be boring without a bit of spice and colour wouldn't it and I am not talking about a mean looking jalfrezi here, I am talking about life in general. And I for one, am always grateful whenever the humdrum and monotony of a normal, working day is punctured by a swift, manic. burst of the surreal and the crazy. A quick episode happened in the park this lunchtime. I wondered up to Exmouth Market to have a peruse and a meander around some of the stalls, forgoing the temptation of double pie and mash. It's just too muggy today and the required splash of Vinney would only make me sweat some more see. So after sniffing around, eyeing the Ghanaian stews at Jollof Pot, duck salad and almonds at Moro and some steaming frankfurters, tended to by a carefully coiffed German, who was wearing the most ridiculous white sunglasses I have ever seen, I decided to hit Spanish Flavours. Simply because they had the longest queue. Using this method of standard deviation always pays off when trying to make a decision, although the ensuing wait does play havoc with the saliva glands. I always feel slightly embarrassed when I finally make it to the front and open my mouth and soak the vendor with small jets of spittle. Still, they must be used to it by now.

Anyway, I purchased a splendid looking wrap, complete with barbecued chorizo, paprika marinated chicken, salad leaves, roasted Piquillo pepper and alioli for a reasonable fiver and marched to the adjacent park to go sit under a tree, munch my lunch and watch the world go by. Along with all the other beautiful, lithe, trendy office things who pepper the green, barefoot with white smiles, giggles and cartons of 'street food.' All was fairly quiet and uneventful as I made my way through the juicy, garlicky, crunchy roll and I was near to finishing when suddenly I heard a noise. Quite a harsh, twanging sound, with T's glottalized and H's dropped.

I thought to myself, "Ah, that sounds like one of my own, a kindred spirit, a fair descendant of Cockaigne, well would you Adam and Eve it." And when I looked around, straight away I knew I was right. Well, half-right as the years hadn't been kind to her so you could hardly use the word 'fair' but she was certainly a local character, probably the sort who visits the park daily, with her pit-bull terrier "Buster", to imbibe a can or two of Brew in the glorious sunshine. Or rain even. So I sat up a bit more to focus and to see what the brouhaha was all abaaht. Apparently she had asked some chap, resplendent in preppy geek chic, for a light for her fag and thick glasses, wonky haircut, skinny chinos had decided to ignore her. And she was making it clear to him and the rest of the park, exactly what she thought of him and his ilk.

"Don't ignore me like I am some piece of shit, I just asked for a facking light you caant. I don't know, you lot facking came daan 'ere like you own the place every lunch time, eating yer facking fancy sandwiches or whatever shit they sell around there and then you fack off leaving your shit all other the place. Well I'm facking fed up of those stalls and all the poncy twats, like you lot, eating all that bollocks and ignoring people like me who use the park everyday! Caants!"

And then she walked off. And then everyone else breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Now if there ever was a damning indictment of the street food movement in this capital, that had to be it. Her outburst certainly got me thinking. I mean, as this exciting and vibrant trend continues to soar, with it's democratisation of food and access to lots of different ingredients and dishes, I do wonder if some tiny conceited, cracks are starting to appear. And as more and more cool and sexy, bright, young chefs steadily come up with 'new ideas' and 'concepts', which are fundamentally based upon original humble cuts and offerings, I do worry sometimes that I am being enticed by the Emperor's New Clothes. Furthermore, some recent visits to various markets have culminated in a hefty whack on the wallet, which to my mind is not entirely in keeping with the whole ethos of street food. It shouldn't be dirt cheap but the change out of a tenner shouldn't leave me weeping into a venison burger, which is what happened recently. But hey ho, what do I know, I still do love a lot of the street food that is out there.

Personally, I was just glad that my Mum didn't spot me, sitting under that tree. 


Food Urchin said…
I would categorically like to state that the aforementioned woman in the park was NOT my Mum.

Sorry Mum

Alicia Foodycat said…
On the other hand, one of the local ladies was pretty pleased that we were all eating our fancy street food in the park the other week when she fainted. Trained first aider FTW! After we got her in recover position and called her husband we went back to our pinxos boxes (I work just behind Exmouth Market, and my glasses have thick rims).
Unknown said…
I was in exmouth market yesterday too!! My favourite bit was when the flying bed landed in the middle of the street and everyone started singinging...
Lisa Cookwitch said…
Well said Danny. Street food used to be food that everyone could - look at the Bhel Puri stalls in India for example. or the samosa stands. A whole bowl, or box of lusciousness for a few rupees.

Bunhill Row, and all of that area, used to be solidly working class so if anything cost more than a paaahnd, it was a scandal and unaffordable.

The old hipster thing is more than a little...annoying.
Andrew said…
You ruined the story with that clarification. Shame.

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