Street Food, I Love You

School Diner, Leeds

I remove a slice to unveil the shape of Pac-Man. Studded with gems of ruby red pepper, a smothering of blistered halloumi and slugs of muddy green pesto. My pizza sits on a paper plate it’s already outgrown and as each fragile slice is airlifted towards my mouth, rings of translucent grease and flecks of watercolour tomato reveal themselves. Next to this is a dabeli; warm spicy potatoes who refuse to get out of bed because their duvet is a soft, glossy bread bun topped with sev and bejewelled with pomegranate seeds. Beside that is a bowl of fried smashed potatoes, their cracks soothed with a few dollops of curry sauce. We sit and slowly feast.

*

Foodhallen, Amsterdam

We scan the room like children in a school canteen. There’s nowhere to sit. Every possible corner that could be fashioned into a table and chair for eating is occupied. Even piles of coats and handbags are enjoying a sit down, whilst their owners run to collect their orders. The only flat surface still available for resting the bamboo steamer that houses our dim sum platter for two, is the top of a bin. We place it down cautiously. We carefully lift the lid. We feast on gyoza, wonton and dumplings with sophistication, as we converse over our bin, in a sea of people.

*

Field Day, London

The rain is biblical. We might as well have stayed at home and huddled together in the shower fully dressed but we’ve forced ourselves outside in the name of music. I shiver inside my oversized raincoat as water seeps in, bleeds through my clothes and drains my body of warmth. The grass beneath me wears a perfume with notes of citrus and wet soil. I cradle the closest thing to sunshine in my hands; a box brimming with fried chicken, jollof rice, red bean stew, fried plantain and okra fries. I carry this box around like it’s my hot water bottle, each bite slowly reigniting my central heating system. In between dancing, I feast to stay cosy. Glistening macaroni cheese with bacon; chicken yassa with fluffy rice.  

*

Time Out Market, Lisbon

Trays of food fly past and my eyes and nose obediently follow. It’s a feast for the senses. Choosing lunch is too difficult. I settle on one place and my companion decides on another. We queue in our respective relay races, ready to be handed the baton that is our tray and find a finishing line in the nearest table. Orders are called like lottery numbers. My companion gets a head start. My tray is next and it’s a sprint to the finish. Silky, buttery salted cod gratin with spinach and carrots nestled inside layers of velvet potato. We cool down after the race, then meander through the crowds to queue for pastéis de nata which are served at lightening speed. We scuttle off with these mottled puddles of custard, eating whilst standing up.

*

Markthal, Rotterdam

Freshly-made yufka is topped with confectionary-sweet tomato, slippery mozzarella and plump-looking basil leaves, before it’s folded up like a tea towel, brushed with oil and grilled on a plancha. The thin dough crisps up, sealing in a pool of melted cheese ready to burst its banks with one bite. It’s handed over to me and I forget all notion of cutlery and start pulling apart at it’s gooeyness and piling pockets of dough into my mouth. I scald my fingers in the process. It’s a solo feast today; a lonely one. But I know I’ll find a friend in food.

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