SMU-in-London: Arts 2013

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, while Dance Professor Shelley Berg teaches about London as a metropolis filled with myriad “performance” experiences – cultural, social, historical and political. The students have visited museums, palaces, food markets, theatres (for “formal performances” and backstage tours) and participated in multiple “scavenger hunts,” and walked and walked and walked!

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Food as ‘performance’ at Borough Market

An update from Erica:

Walking through Borough Market was like nothing I had experienced before. Every stall had a beautiful display of food ranging from aged cheeses, olive oil, mustard varieties, sangria, baked bread, meats of all cuts, pastries, vegetables, to just about any other thing you could imagine. To make the situation even more wonderful, just about everywhere you went vendors were more than happy to share a free sample of their goods with you.

Exploring the area was like taking a walk through a multicultural culinary-based world’s fair where each new block has something entirely different to offer. After wandering around for a bit, we began to really interact with the different vendors. Instead of just sheepishly eating their food and walking away, we started conversations with each person and began to learn more about their culture and background.

I came to realize they weren’t just offering food, but a seemingly endless source of information. Each worker was fully versed in their unique product and was able to give any questioning soul an entire dissertation on any of the inventory. Two particular stalls come to mind when I think about my experience at Borough Market: one was worked by an adorable old man with homemade mustard and the other was an interesting encounter with jamon.

I thoroughly enjoyed both stalls, but if I had to choose my most memorable food experience I would probably choose trying jamon for the first time at “The Ginger Pig.” We wandered into a quaint little area with wood interior dressed up like a small country meat store. As we were meandering around the little shop looking rather lost, we began to watch the man behind the counter carefully slicing a raw chunk of meat.

After noticing me and my two friends intently watching his every move, the meat cutter began to interact with us. Not only was he very knowledgeable about how the meat had previously been prepared, but he also knew about every step of the process. He explained that their pigs are raised in a very natural environment and taught us how to read the tags on each piece of meat, even though they were written in Spanish. For example, the one he was currently working on said that the pig lived in the wild for the last 28 days of its life. He then went on to explain the process of how the ham was cured and finally cut.

Keep in mind he gave us all this information while concurrently delicately slicing the mass of meat and intricately laying each slice on a sheet of wax paper. He then gave each of us a free taste; I’m sure in hopes that we would buy some, but also just to share the experience. I had never tried raw meat before and was a bit suspicious of the idea. Much to my surprise, the jamon tasted quite good, at least in a wet beef jerky, bacon fat kind of way.

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