It’s no secret that the food culture has exploded in recent years, that foodies have been split into tribes and more and more people get their food from even narrower outlets. But we believe there is still a national, indeed universal, hunger for authentic food cultures that speak for the country and the world, ask sharp questions, tell hard truths, experiment what other’s cant do and turn light on communities whose influence is inherent in your life even if you haven’t heard the names.
As we get excited with new wave mall culture in India, getting stuck in fancy food courts and addicted to unhealthy junk food, we forget the glorious past of eating together in markets and sharing our friendships and values in the openness of a market.
There have been talks about authentic food all over, on radio, food magazines and tourism circles. I think the fashion of authenticity has come back after a long stint or since revival of the market behaviour after the economic down turn. There’s huge demand for good, cheap and original food from passionate vendors on the street. As experts suggest, even corporate lunches these days are taken away from glamorous restaurants, instead they flock into small coffee shops and market places.
As tourism connected a global community across continents, food has become the star attraction of every major city in the world and indeed London is at the top with its immense variety of ethnic visitors and their food.
Now lets go to a place in London where everyone has to go at least once to experience the energy, smells, colours and of course flavours from the depth of hearts and true source. Borough Market stands tall in the city with its enormous influx of madly attractive young crowd and people from diverse walks of life. Situated and sheltered comfortably under London Bridge, this is the happening place today for your picnic on a Saturday, shopping, week day lunch, even for Chefs to experience the new arrivals (both ingredients and cooked food).
Many years ago I had the opportunity to enter the world of Borough Market, may be just the time it was getting popular. The concept was unique and new, as an Indian very close to home and something I would have loved to experiment any day. To talk about this unusual meeting place one has to go long way to understand its history and purpose of having a completely free market purely for the benefit of the public.
Its huge popularity jumped miles since it became the destination for the world’s trendy and quality food from the days of a wholesale market selling fresh vegetables and meat. People who run stalls in Borough Market emerge from small social enterprises and producers of authentic food who mostly grow their own ingredients.
As you stand patiently in a long queue waiting to reach a stall for a healthy fruit juice or delicious paella, you will be transcended to another world of energy, closeness and happiness. Among the world food on offer in one place, there’s a small presence of India too with a young lady making dosa and samosas.
In the smoke-filled air around crowded food stalls were dancing mood of the passionate individuals behind the counters, naked look and feel of food was revealed away from the pretence of unreal colours, flavours and ego, just like unperfumed bodies are brought exposed in the lust of day light to be just real, trust me, in this place you have the best treat possible any day.
On a recent visit to Borough Market, I experienced everything and more since the first taste in 1995. It’s very hard to express what it feels to be there but it brought back memories of a happy community and an unchanged mood every time. As we left this wonderful place on that Saturday afternoon, squeezing through a noisy crowd of football fans, there was an uncontrollable urge to go back and live those moments again.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain