Food & culture: An international student’s view

First of all I have to admit that I was foolish to assume that most of the people in western countries eat the same food. I was too naive to think that pizza, burgers and fries are norm of the day in this part of the world. But once I got here, within a few days I realised that each of these individual countries in this mighty continent whether they are small or big, differ between themselves in many ways and food happens to be one of the stark differentiating factor.

It was not very long ago that I understood fish & chips, bacon, pies, pastries and puddings are indispensable items in the traditional British menu. When I heard that Tata beverages took over Tetley, I thought Britain is also fond of tea like India but let me put that in perspective: Indians like their tea but locals here ‘die’ for their tea. Unlike Indian tea which is made entirely with milk, in England people prefer little or no milk in their tea.

Fish and chipsFood here has been influenced by various cultures and it is quite evident when one walks into any busy high street. Numerous restaurants of various cuisines that include Chinese, Thai and Indian etc. can be found without much of a hassle. It is not just global influence but there is a very strong European influence too. Paninis, pasta and baguettes are very much everyday food in this European nation.

One more interesting thing is most of the food that is sold in the supermarkets happens to be ready to eat packaged foods. This is something that took me by surprise, back home my mother cooks everything from scratch and sometimes it could take as much as 2 hours to cook a perfect meal but here I can buy some refrigerated food and put it in oven for 10-15 minutes. That’s it! Being an international student this helps me a lot in two ways. Firstly it saves my time and second reason is that I have no experience in cooking so far and this way of cooking makes my life much easier.

But this way of cooking also has some trade-offs too. I noticed that my food habits changed drastically compared to what it used to be back home. Instead of Idly or Dosa now I eat bread, butter and eggs for breakfast. For lunch instead of Hyderabadi Biryani or Puliyogare now I eat Panini most of the time. I miss eating curd rice for my dinner and I eat pasta as it is very easy to make.

Being an Indian and especially being from the south I crave for spicy foods and this was the biggest problem for me in terms of adjusting to the new environment. Because of years of eating spicy food I don’t know whether my taste buds have gone bad and could not register taste or something. I find most of the foods to be bland for my tongue. So, every now and then I pop into south Indian restaurants to relish my taste buds. So, one piece of advice for the prospective students is to get your spices from home!

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