Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Didn't Go Shopping: Springtime in England

Readers--it's spring!  I've left snow in North American Halifax to discover that things are alive and blooming in the other Halifax.

I'm back in the United Kingdom, in Yorkshire this time. I came to England's Curry Capital, Bradford to research the south Asian immigrants who have been living here for over fifty years. They came to work in the wool mills that defined Bradford since the nineteenth century.  The mills closed down in the early 1980s, and they remain empty today.

More recently Bradford achieved infamy when some people burned copies of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, setting off a big debate about multi-culturalism and what that means, that continues today.

The city is not the most cheerful place, but there's a lot going on, and so much new construction.  People live here, and they are making the best of it. You know how I love my little markets, and I've found several here in Bradford. I didn't buy anything, but I looked!

 Little puris

so much supari

so many chilis!
syrups for serbeth

Unfortunately, I'm not here long enough to do a lot of cooking.  As much as I thought the South Asian food scene was going to be the most interesting thing to discover on this trip to England, I've been more taken with another food to do.

I've discovered plans for the royal wedding.  You may have read that Kate chose a traditional fruitcake with 'Joseph Lambeth technique' icing.  I didn't know people did fruitcake for weddings, it sounds delicious to me. And apparently they are going for 'traditional and elegant' with that Joseph Lambeth technique icing. I wonder if it will be all white.

While the happy couple and their 1,900 guests are eating cake, you can help yourself to some pie. I saw these at the grocery store the other day.

Nothin' says lovin' like "a dash of brandy in lovely pastry."

Dandy!  To wash down your pie, Schweppes encourages you to celebrate the perfect couple, Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton, with what else, a Pimm's Cup.

I asked the people I am staying with and their friends if they were paying attention to the wedding.  At first they said no, but then they slowly started bringing out one by one all the details they knew about the couple. The fashion show at St. Andrews, Kate's pictures of William in her childhood bedroom, Diana's engagement ring.  I asked why weren't they against the monarchy.  A young man said the royal family brought in way more money for the country than they cost. At first silence to a pragmatic answer, and then a young lady said, 'but it's nice!' and there was suddenly a chorus of 'yeah, it's nice!' in the room.

Many people have said that the wedding is something for everyone to be cheerful about, a moment of renewal that will bring the whole country together.  Springtime for Britain and the Monarchy.  And while we might not be invited to the 'traditional and elegant' wedding, at least they're letting us drink Pimm's.

Unless you keep halal of course, like many of the South Asians in Bradford.  In that case, no beef and bacon pie, and no alcoholic Pimm's cups.  Perhaps multi-culturalism has failed, but now, if being part of the 'whole country' means celebrating 'tradition and elegance' I'm not sure that's so nice.


  1. Sigh...I miss England.

    xoxo ~ Courtney

  2. You're making me homesick with all this talk of pie and pimms! I'm among those who still love the fact that there is a monarchy back home - a touch of tradition when there isn't much of that left.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  3. superb work keep it up man i like your blog

    Urdu poetry

  4. I didn't set out to write an anti-monarchy blog post, I just started thinking about the experiences around food I've been having here in Bradford. When I make people food, whether it's dinner or just for a snack and tea, I try to plan as inclusive a meal as possible. Something that everyone can eat and enjoy regardless of their allergies and preferences. I don't think that's what's happening around this wedding, the commercialization of which is being framed around tradition. When the government takes that up, favoring one set of traditions over others, then I think we should be thinking carefully about the political uses of 'tradition.'

  5. Meanwhile, there is also this:

    Safe travels/research!