"Hey, now I'm as tall as you are!" Amadeep and I were standing on the escalator going down the Tottenham Court Road tube station, with me one step higher than him. I'm only about five feet tall; I'm used to people towering over me.
"Actually, you're a little bit taller than me."
"I've seen really short people before. You know, like this tall [holds out hand about waist-high over the ground] with arms like this [pulls arms closer to body so that they resemble nubbly appendages]"
"Um, are you sure those are humans?"
"Yeah! I think they're referred to as 'midgets'. I happen to call them 'goblins'."
Sigh. I'm going to miss Amadeep.
First day in London
I didn't plan my trip to London very well. The original plan way back when was to meet up with Sophie (the girl who ate more than everything) and gorge on something unhealthy, until work reared its ugly head (but I suppose work isn't the worst thing since it leads to moolah, which results in more eating possibilities) and stole Sophie away from me. I also emailed Amadeep a few times about meeting up, but we didn't confirm that until a few hours before dinner on Saturday night. I didn't mean to subject my way too friendly host, Leanne, to spending so much time with me, not that I don't enjoy hanging out with her but I know she has a life that doesn't involve making sure I don't get horribly lost around London.The Barbican. Thankfully the tube is easy to follow, although a note for future London tourists I'd make is to get an Oyster card, which they don't really advertise and you can't get everywhere. So helpful, eh?
I did get to her place at some point (15 minutes later than I had planned) without losing my way. After I got settled in my new home for the next two days (aka, her living room), we went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen for dinner before heading to ULU to see Peter Bjorn & John.
My overall rating for GBK is that it's not the best burger everrr, but it's uber filling and I'd be tempted to go there a lot if I actually lived near one. They have more than 20 types of burgers including some vegetarian options, all of which I'd want to try. My venison burger was juicy enough (I guess not everything has to be dripping in meat fluids) and was topped with some relish-y spicy red currant sauce, crispy lettuce and slices of tomato and onion. Eating it with my hands was kind of impossibly unless my hands were inhumanly large. Which they weren't. I cut the burger—impaled by a skinny, long wooden slewer so that it wouldn't plop apart—into managable chunks with my fork and knife. After finishing most of it (or perhaps I ate the whole thing; I'm not sure), I hugged my distended belly and prayed for faster digestion.
Leanne and I shared what looked like a reasonable portion of thick cut fries with accompanying garlic mayo, but it ended up being an undefeatable mountain of golden, crispy fried wedges-o-starch with a pot of mayo that contained the concentrated power of 500 garlic cloves. We suffocated each fry in a bath of sulfuric compounds. Tasty sulfuric compounds. Unless you're really, really hungry, it's best to share the fries between three or more people.
- Peter Bjorn & John...but actually without Bjorn or John since those photos didn't come out as well, and with Victoria Bergsman
The concert made me happy. Because nothing says fun like sweating for a few hours and enduring the pain of standing in the same spot for a proloned period of time. I really do enjoy concerts though, mostly if I'm familiar with the performer. It's inspiring to see people play instruments and sing at a level that you will never attain, or even if you did you'd pass out after standing under bright lights after 20 minutes. I'll write a proper review in my other blog at some point; I'm too lazy right now.
When we went back to her apartment, Leanne pulled out her new inflatable mattress whose presence I was to inagurate. By settling all my weight on it. But first, we had to fill it with air...which proved difficult when we found that it lacked an electric air pump. However, it did come with a built-in foot pump. Which took maybe 20 minutes (or was it longer?) to fill the mattress. Leanne, Jeremy (Leanne's boyfriend, as they both live in the same apartment) and I took turns doing some kind of strange workout dance (which I would call the [fwoosh fwck fwoosh] dance after the melifluous sounds made by the pump) to convert the mattress skin into something that would suitably lift a human off the hard floor. We could hardly believe it when it actually worked.
Lesson: don't buy an inflatable mattress unless it comes with an electrical pump.
On the upside, I had a notably good night's sleep, probably because I didn't have to use an alarm the next morning.
So much walking, oh boy
Leanne and I started our day at a market right outside her apartment complex. After walking up and down the street maybe four times, we moved onto Borough Market, which involved walking...around. I just followed Leanne as we went across the pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge, past the Tate Modern, past other stuff, until BOOM...
...We found the sea of people craving foodstuffs. Baked goods, cheeses, meats, produce, confections, other stuff, over and over and over again. It wasn't as scary as a night market in Taipei, but it was one of the most crowded and largest markets I had ever been to. Unfortunately, I wasn't up to invading every foodie nook and cranny since that would probably involve shoving into lots of people.
After walking around most of the vendors, I got a fish buttie (aka sammich) for lunch. Hot, crispy, golden flaky strips of fish with just the right amount of tartar sauce smoosh between two thick slices of soft, chewy bread. Ooh yes, it's good. For my tastebuds. Not my health.
After that we went back towards Tate Modern, the only museum I really wanted to go to (I went to the other major ones the last time I went to London) because I like looking at art and then laughing because I don't "get it".
Don't hate me for not going on the slides; I was too tired to wait around (you get a ticket that gives you a time slot, or you can wait in line to go on the two-story slide). We went into all the free exhibition halls where nothing especially touched the bottom of my soul, but I at least found enjoyable. Especially since it was free.
Since Leanne was in the beginning stages of getting a cold in addition to being tired, I finally got in touch with Amadeep to do some fooding that night and allow Leanne to regain some energy. He said to meet at the Virgin Megastore outside Picadilly Circus at 8 PM. "Or make that 8:10; I'll probably be late. Or how about 8:13?" Which is how I ended up waiting outside the store until 8:30. If I didn't think it would be worth meeting him, I would've been more frustrated.
I didn't really know what Amadeep looked like, but I assumed he would recognize me. That tends to happen when I meet online friends in real life who don't choose to reveal as much about themselves as I do about myself. However, even while staring blankly at the store entrance while standing near the facing sidewalk barrier, I noticed one guy who stood out. He walked a bit more slowly...then looped around...walked back...looped around again...
...And then he was standing next to me. "You're so shy!"
He said he had wanted to pretend he was lost and ask me for directions, but changed his mind.
Amadeep is not a food friend (I met him a few years ago through mutual interest in Sigur Ros), but he follows my livejournal and catches the few food photo-laden posts I make that induce drooling, according to him. We've mainly communicated through livejournal comments over the past few years, which has somehow provided enough insight into the other person to find meeting up worthwhile.
He ended up being just how I imagined him to be in real life from his online personality. Which is a very comforting thing. Sometimes people are different for better or worse and it can feel kind of awkward. It makes me wonder, "How could you be so...different?" Of course, don't even think of asking me what my opinions of your online/offline personas are. I WILL SAY NOTHING! I just mention Amadeep because he's a bit of a special case. Hanging out with him reminded me how differently I act around certain people. It's not just a case of hiding some characteristics or amplifying others, but...really acting quite different because I know it's more acceptable, thus making me feel more comfortable.
Amadeep is a joker. He doesn't really called midgets goblins, I mean. I think. It's fairly easy to tell when he's saying something truthful or in jest, but I can see his personality being confusing to other people. I was just so damn relieved, even giddy, that I too could be completely non-serious and play along with weird jokes, or even make weird jokes that would receive some kind of positive response and not dead silence/a weird look. It's kind of how I can act with Mare or Tristan, but...differently. I have no idea how many weird goofy personalities are hidden inside me; they only come out around certain people. Which kind of makes me wonder what my natural personality is.
But back to the fooding. Amadeep literally dragged me (well, not on the floor, but there was much playful jacket tugging involved, which made me wonder if it would've been easier to put me on a kiddie leash) from Piccadilly Circus past some touristy areas alight with neon glow-age passed the two streets of Chinatown to the Bloomsbury Wagamama. We had passed another Wagamama, but Amadeep scoffed at it, saying the Bloomsbury one was better and less crowded. At my request we stopped in a little pastry and snack shop in Chinatown that advertized egg custard tarts in their window.
"Have you ever had an egg custard tart before?"
"WHAAAT?" (On retrospect, it's totally non-weird to have not eating an egg custard tart, but I wasn't in any normal reacting mode at the time.)
"Actually, I don't eat egg."
"I'm a vegetarian."
"Like a vegan?"
"No, I just don't eat meat, fish and egg."
"So you eat dairy?"
After shivering while walking in the freezing weather (which I actually liked and thought felt refreshing, as long as it wasn't windy) we finally made it to the less tourist laden Wagamama. Amadeep was visibly excited to be bringing me to THE GREAT WAGAMAMA. God, I love that name. I have the inclination to lengthen it into Wagamamamomahfuhmuhfoog.
I had trouble deciding what to get. My inner turmoil at the sight of a menu laden with choices that all pleased me was quite visible, causing Amadeep to comment that I was one of the most indecisive people he had ever met, or something to that degree. Well. it is hard to choose when you like most food and don't have a diet restriction. I asked him what was good and he so helpfully pointed out all the vegetarian options.
I did end up going with a veg dish, the yasai katsu curry: "slices of sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs. served with a light curry sauce and japanese-style rice. garnished with a combination of mixed leaves and red pickles." Oh god. If there were Wagamamas in Paris or NYC, I'd probably at them a lot. I love curry, but the vegetarian curry options are a bit thin, and even though I'm not always in the mood for pork katsu, I order it because I know it's tasty and it's usually the best option. I'd totally go for sweet potato, eggplant and squash if it were more readily available. When it is an option, it's usually in tempura-ed, not katsu-ed. There is a difference, that being that I like katsu more than tempura. Anyhoo, this dish made me happy. Short grained sticky rice with mild curry sauce (I like it spicier) and crispy breaded slices o yummy vegetable stuff. No complaints; it is what it is.
Amadeep ordered the yasai itame: "stir-fried bok choi, tofu, red onions, red peppers, oyster mushrooms and beansprouts. served with rice noodles in a spicy coconut and green chilli soup. garnished with coriander, mint and a wedge of lime". I didn't try it, but it looked damn tasty. I was done with my plate of rice and fried goodies before he was even halfway through his bowl. At first I figured he just ate really slowly, until....
"...Dude, your chopsticks!" He hadn't broken his chopsticks apart; he just carefully held they open just wide enough so that they could grasp his food without breaking apart.
"I can't use them well!"
"I already did."
I pulled out a pen and pencil to demonstrate since by this point my plate and chopsticks had been taken away. And then I realized I had no idea how to explain it. (However, I don't even hold my pencil correctly, so I'm probably not the best person to teach the secrets of chopstick usage.)
He was too full to finish the whole bowl. After the waitress took it away, I told him that I probably would've eaten it. Because I'm just a vacuum cleaner made of flesh and bone. And blood and plasma.
Of course, I wasn't done eating yet. The desserts looked interesting and you know me and my sweet tooth (it's ginormous). I asked the waitress to help me choose between the tamarind and chilli pavlova and the white chocolate and ginger cheesecake. After she said that the cheesecake was more popular and the pavlova was the "stranger" of the two, I went straight for the pavlova.
"I knew you would get that." Amadeep figured out my eating habits so quickly.
The three-layered pavlova, "a sweet spiced tamarind parfait with a crunchy meringue base. served with a sweet chilli sauce", was definitely a bit weird, but also tasty. I would only object to the structurally awkward spongy marshmallow-y texture of the pavlova, which made it hard to cut into with my spoon, thus destroying the otherwise elegant cylindrical-ness of the dessert.
The real kick of the dessert was the chili sauce. It burned. I thought everything was find and dandy, like "Ah, that had a bit o spice to it, loverly," (alright, I don't think in those terms at all) until I felt a burning sensation in the back of my throat similar to the one I've had when I tried chili flavored chocolate. Except this was stronger. And pretty awesome. Since it's not on your tongue it's not like...eating a chili pepper (which isn't smart, and I know from experience and subsequent feelings of taste bud death), but it definitely kicks your throat like, BOOYA FOOGAMAFOOG, or whatever it is that would say if it could speak English.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Wagamamamooga (yes, thoroughly...as opposed to partially) and would like to go back. God knows when I'll be in London again though. It's not like two years ago I was planning to visit again anytime soon (the first visit was kind of impulsive since a friend invited me to her home about a hour away from London), which made meeting Amadeep a bittersweet experience. We got to hang out for a few hours and there's no way to know if it will happen again. It meant a lot to me for reasons that I could go into if it weren't so boring and time consuming for you to read.
I gave him a genuinely big hug, assuming it would be my last.
I actually have more to say about my trip, but it doesn't feel right to tag my last fooding excursion onto the end of this entry. So wait! For the next one!