SMU-in-London: Arts 2014

Students in the SMU-in-London: Arts spend five weeks in the city, becoming 21st-century explorers while taking two courses. Associate Theatre Professor Gretchen Smith in the Meadows School of the Arts teaches London theatre history from the era of Shakespeare to the present. Dance Professor Shelley Berg teaches about London as a metropolis filled with myriad “performance” experiences – cultural, social, historical and political.

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Borough Market

Borough Market produceAfter visiting Borough Market and experiencing the vast array of food and food-related products, I find it extremely difficult to choose one experience to describe. A walk through that market is an adventure in new tastes, smells, and sights the likes of which I hadn’t even imagined before.

Kangaroo meatballs were featured next to gigantic wheels of cheese that seemed straight out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. All morning I was bombarded with food experiences, many of which did not even require the act of consumption. Despite the overwhelming sensory input, one market stall stands out from the rest. Just as I began my walk through the market, I turned a corner to see what must be the most visually striking produce stand in all of London.

The area covered in ripe, colorful fruits and vegetables occupied about the same amount of space as two smaller food stalls, and the myriad of colors and textures on display immediately drew me closer. Upon closer inspection, the produce was just as beautiful and wholesome as from afar. The proprietors of the stall had obviously spent a great deal of time cultivating their collection of produce, including many items that were new to me. Strangely shaped doughnut peaches, dragon fruit, and out-of-season pomegranates sat side-by-side with more common, but still enticing grapes, apples, and carrots.

I wanted to touch the beefsteak tomatoes, drawn as I was by their shape and bright red skin. The air smelled of fresh dirt and the sweet scent of slowly ripening fruit, and I felt that my senses were uniting to enhance the experience. After I had browsed at my leisure, a gruff man greeted me with a rough paper sack to fill with produce. He didn’t dote on me as a customer, and I actually have no idea if he spoke English. It didn’t matter. He was as authentic as the nectarines I selected for my lunch. (Emily, B.F.A. Dance ’16)


Borough Market breadMy sense of smell commands my feet to move to the center of the market and there I am in front of a giant, delectable bread display of croissants, breadsticks, muffins, and many other carb-heavy treats. The sign in front me reads “Karaway Bakery” and I know I cannot leave the stand without having a taste of the bread that produced the alluring aroma from across the market.

I ask the lady behind the counter about her recommendations, and with a thick Russian accent she replies, “All my favorites, baked fresh every day.” I glance at an article on the table that describes the bakery’s birth, “founded in London by a family with 120 years of baking experience and roots in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine.” I come to the realization that the bread in front of me is not just an enticing food display; it portrays a family tradition that has been passed down through countless generations. I start thinking back to my family’s own cherished, traditional recipes that represent countless years of heritage and pick out a 2-foot-long olive and cheese breadstick.

I smile and thank the lady and am ready to continue my trek through Borough Market, breadstick in hand. With the first bite I immediately taste the pungent cheddar cheese laced with the flavor of fresh olive. One bite leads to another and I am already almost halfway through eating the savory breadstick, I slow my pace because I know I have to save room for other culinary gems.

As I finish the last salty morsel, I stop myself from going back and ravishing another breadstick. Instead, I capture the memory of eating food that not only stimulated all of my senses, but also evoked a rich sense of globalization, family, and tradition with every mouthful. (Aymen, B.S. Biology, B.A. Spanish ’15)


Borough Market paellaMy favorite food experience by far was the paella I had for lunch. Coming from a Spanish background, I was so excited to taste another version of the dish I have had so many times before.

The sight of the dish was enough to bring me over and have a taste. All of the colors in the skillet, as well as the way the various seafood pieces were arranged on top, created a beautiful image. After I had a taste, my mind was decided. They gave me a portion that had a mixture of each part of the dish. It was then that I was truly able to appreciate all of the different tastes as they came together.

What I found even more interesting was the comparisons I was able to make between the paella I had at the market and the dish I had in Barcelona. The two dishes actually tasted pretty similar, which attested to the authenticity of the food in the market. The paella I had last weekend in Barcelona had a slightly more fishy taste, and the colors were much more vibrant in the dish from the market. I really enjoyed being able to have each of my senses aroused through color, smell, taste, and even the different textures provided by the different vegetables and fish pieces. (Melissa , B.A. English and Psychology, ’15)


Borough Market seafoodWalking through the Borough Market was like entering 70 countries at one time. Each stand was different, from exotic zebra meats to the aromatic smell of Italian fresh bread.

I was astonished by the specificity of the displays, some selling specialized olive oil soap while others sold luxurious truffles. In order to sell these exotic items and make a decent profit, each stand had to apply specific tactics to attract the audience.

This performance of selling merchandise varied dramatically, as some advocated live music while others simply were cooking in front of the audience. Other stands let the aroma of the food speak for itself, such as the truffle stand in which a giant sign stating “smell me” pointed to a jar of large truffles. (Kinga, B.S. Biology, ’16)

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    About Kathleen Tibbetts

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