Oh man, oh man, oh man, dear readers. I’m beat. This city is possibly killing me slowly. Or at least my life these days is feeling a little bit like a death by 1000 cuts.
As most of us know, city living can be hard. We pride ourselves on being able to roll with the punches, dodge the urban land mines and come out on top: surviving and having fun in the dog-eat-dog worlds that are London, or New York, or wherever for that matter.
But these days, the city is wearing me down, my friends. Each Friday, I roll myself home feeling like I’ve just finished round 20 of a heavy-weight title match with Mike Tyson (Boxing metaphors in a food blog?? Times must be desperate). I hibernate and seclude myself most of Saturday and Sunday, and prepare myself for more black eyes and bruised kidneys on Monday. Its been tough. The weather has been bad, I’ve been working too much, my family is far away, my friends are moving away — and well, isn’t that enough?
Ah, but last Saturday the sun came out and I decided to go to Brighton, a seaside resort about an hour outside London. It was a long weekend, the temperature was above 17 degrees and just going beyond the city limits lifted my spirits both literally and figuratively.
The English have a, um, thing with seaside resorts. There must be at least one pier (if not several). There must be a fun fair (if not several, and if possible, they should be on the pier). There must be a beach (obviously) which usually will have stones instead of sand. There must be many beachside fish n’ chips kiosks/restaurants. There must be faded 1970s nightclubs with names like “Taste” and “Crush” that no one goes to anymore. Finally, there must be small stands selling strange crustaceans and invertebrates from the sea that you didn’t know existed.
Cockles? Whelks? Jellied Eels? Oh yes, that is a little shack of deliciousness over there. But more about them later.
Brighton is, and perhaps always will be, the KING and MONARCH SUPREME of British Seaside Resorts. It has a big beach, a big funfair on a pier, old windy lanes in its centre, an aquarium, many a jellied eel seller and the Indochine Royal Pavillion (aka B’s Church of Orientalism) a palace dressed to the nines in colonialists’ conceptions of Islamic/Chinese/Indian design, all at one time (don’t forget—the builders had never actually been to those places). This is the kind of shit I eat with a spoon. There was a 30-foot dragon hanging from the ceiling of the banquet room, and the kitchen had palm tree pillars. Oh, if only photography wasn’t forbidden, dear readers.
Here is the outside, in lovely afternoon lighting:
The whole thing is quite subtle, as you can see.
So when we first arrived we headed straight for the beach. Once we arrived in the station it was like we entered an unbroken stream of day trippers stretching a half kilometre between the train station and the beach. We relaxed, we swam in the ocean (more like shivered and forced ourselves in) and then sat saltily on the beach once more. Now of course England is famous for Fish n’ Chips — but many people believe it should be only consumed by the seaside. So we dutifully browsed all the beachside shops until we found the cheapest (3.90!) and dug in. I stationed myself close to the vinegar and salt station to the proper ratio could be maintained at all times. I also got mushy peas. The whole thing comes with this half-knife half-fork contraption I call a fife.
The fife isn’t pictured. But well … I don’t even need to tell you how delicious these were after a morning of sun bathing and ocean swimming.
We then headed onto the pier, where I proceeded to kick my friends’ asses at Dance Dance Revolution. Sadly, I did not permit any photos to document this momentous occasion. We then returned to the beach to visit our friend at the Jellied Eels/Cockles Stall. I’m going to name him Jim.
The first time I went to Brighton, tiny cups filled with chilled pieces of unidentifiable seafood really didn’t float my boat. It is now a year later, and perhaps the Englishness has steeped into me a little, as I couldn’t wait to try all the different wares on offer. We began with a lobster tail for my friend A, who had never tried it before.
But decision-making became really difficult – let me show you how difficult:
I like this one because it shows that the people in line were obviously as confused as me with regard to choice:
In the end we got 2 more (besides the oysters already pictured).
and Octopus (PULPO = B’s favourite Spanish word)
All of them are served with your choice of seven or eight condiments (homemade garlic mayonnaise, chili garlic sauce, tobasco, cocktail sauce, lemon juice, salt or pepper, just to name a few) and there is something so nice about eating tender, perfectly cooked little suction-cuppy octopus while walking along the beach in the sunshine.
Later in the evening as the sun was setting, we ate some home-made Colombian chorizo on the beach that A’s cousin had made, but that was put so directly into my mouth very few pictures of it were taken.
We headed back into the city in another unbroken stream of tired London day-trippers trekking up the hill from the beach to the train station. I was tired, I was red, but I was happy. I was ready to fight the city again for another week, as I had spent the whole day laughing.