“I always lose weight in England. The food is TERRIBLE!”

Such were the sage observations of my friend Anne, a French expat, as we debated the finer points of European cuisine last night. Since I’d only returned to Toronto the night before, she wanted to know all about my trip. But of course, when you put a Frenchwoman and me together, the conversation will inevitably turn to food.

I know how defensive the French can be about food, but I must respectfully disagree with Anne about the eating habits of the Brits. I ate plenty in my 6 total days in the UK and, mostly, I ate well. I tried everything: from the addictive artificial sweetness of the McVitie’s Jaffa Cake to the three course, perfectly proper roast beef dinner (Yorkshire pudding and all). I ate sausages and chips at a pub. I mowed down on Party Rings. I waited patiently, time and again, for the slowest table service I’ve ever experienced in my life and, usually, it was worth it.

English food, in the traditional sense, might not be the most exotic, but after a day of walking in the rain (then sun, then rain, then sun, then rain again with a side of wind), nothing hits the spot like a really solid fatty protein-and-carb combo. I ate the best club sandwich of my life in London.

And, in Birmingham, I enjoyed the most fantastic curry I have ever tasted.

It’s tempting to think of the UK as a bastion of the bland–insert stereotypes of homogeneity, tea, and bad teeth–but once I actually got there, I found my preconceptions completely subverted. Like my proudly multicultural Canadian homebase, the cities I encountered in England were equally vibrant, varied, and multiethnic–which, as always, was beautifully reflected in their food.  As I was explained by Lizzie, my English friend and tour guide, Birmingham is all about the curry.

I ate curry in each of the three countries I visited on my trip (Germany, the Netherlands, and England), and the first two were terrible. While I had already heard rumours of England’s emerging curry tradition, I wasn’t quite ready to let down my guard. It’s hard to recover from a broken heart, and culinary disappointment can be pretty damn devastating.

Thankfully, English curry did not let me down. If anything, it gave me the strength to love and trust again–and by love and trust, I am referring specifically to my relationship with foreign curries.

There is hope, after all.

The curry in question

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