London has always been such an enigma in my mind. When you grow up in the United States and aren’t able to actually travel much across the oceans, it is easy to get sucked into these labels and stereotypes that get placed on certain cultural aspects of particular places. Food seems to be a major victim when it comes to this stereotyping.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many instances in my life have involved a family member, friend or complete stranger answering a family member, friend or stranger that is traveling to (insert place here) with “Oh, you’re going there, huh!? Well get ready to eat nothing but (insert food here)!” Of course this has no ill intent. It is just merely a case of so many people having not truly experienced another cultures food for themselves.
Somehow London—and all of England, really—has always been at the forefront of places that I always felt to be getting an unfair shake of how good their food actually was. The stereotype, in short, was just that the food is horrible. I knew this—maybe at one time true—case of the “bad foods” was not still infecting London food culture. I live and breathe the foodie lifestyle, so I hear the echoes coming down the foodie pipeline.
A city so multi-cultural, a city with so many great chefs coming out of it, obviously has more to offer than the overly fried fish and un-inspired pub food that my fellow Americans and I have come to know it by. The problem is that I had never actually visited London. I could never fully state with certainty that “Yes, this is true! The food is good here!”
This is why, when I decided to start a film series focusing on my journey exploring different culture’s street food, it seemed like a no-brainer to start in London. There is possibly no better way to experience a city or place, to honestly see the heart and soul of its food culture, than to take a journey through their street food. What I found in London was absolutely stereotype shattering.
The London street food scene has completely taken off over the past couple of years and for good reason. It is a scene filled with many things, but most notably, amazing food and even better people. The food spans all different kinds of cultures just like the city’s inhabitants and the quality is otherworldly for street food, spawning the term “gourmet street food”, which I am hearing more frequently.
However, I think it is completely irresponsible when talking about the magic of this scene without pushing the traders, or people actually making the food, to the front of the stage. Every single one of them….EVERY, SINGLE, ONE….seems to always have an incredible story to tell, a smile to share and a genuine love for what they are doing that is impossible not to be felt. It is the type of infectious love for what they are doing that makes the food impossible to forget and the London street food scene impossible to not come back to.
I invite you to take a look at the first episode of The Sidewalk Feast which is part 1 of the 2 part series looking at street food culture in London and my journey through it.(Read his follow-up post here.)
Sammy Hutchison is an American filmmaker and foodie, currently experiencing the world through one street food culture after another.