Tag Archives: Street Food History

Food Hawkers’ Conference

31 Mar

Exciting news for all fans of the street slinging side of life. On 22 and 23 April, CRASSH will be hosting a food hawkers’ conference. Bringing together in one spot a wonderful spread of speakers, all gathered for the purpose of discussing the resilience and timeless appeal of the selling of food on streets.

Regardless of era, climate or economy, the world is – and has always been – peppered with curbside cuisine in one form or another and those interested in food and culture, cities and commerce, remain gripped.

If you’re anywhere near Cambridge for those dates, or if you feel like a little East Anglian sojourn, it looks to be well worth the trip. From talks on Frost Fairs in early modern London to ‘Psychology and entrepreneurship in the street food sector of Vietnam’, the two days sound like they’ll be a riot of information to the mind hungry street food fanatic.

Register in advance HERE.

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Fire & Knives

22 Mar

Food fans and fans of food vans – check out my recent article in Issue 2 of new food quarterly Fire & Knives: ‘Hot to Trot – Is Britain’s Street Food Scene Ready for Transition?’

Tim Hayward has pulled together in one beautiful magazine the notion that Britain as a subject for food is full of juice. Different to much food writing which casts its eye to far-flung cuisines, Fire & Knives gazes within our own Isles and finds more than enough to get excited about.

I was asked to write about how Britain’s street food scene carries with it its own particular traditions, limitations and possibilities which, if exploited properly, could lead to an important next chapter in the progression of our national food culture.

The magazine is available HERE.

eat.st in the news!

7 Mar

Just back from an incredible trip to India where I really got down to chowing on some fine roadside fayre. More on this soon…In the mean time take a look at this Guardian vid I shot with food writer and blogger, Simon Majumdar – eat.st‘s first mention (as well as my first taste of jellied eels. Did I disguise my distaste sufficiently?!)

Jellied Eels – the Real Deal

7 Feb

On Friday I met up with food writer and champion of Britain’s great food traditions, Simon Majumdar. He was filming for a piece on street food with the Guardian and was keen to bring together the old and the new as we pondered the question, ‘has the new wave of British street food got what it takes?’

First stop was mobile seafood institution Tubby Isaacs – operating from the same East London pitch since 1919. Simon’s argument is that it’s all very well us fancy food vans gadding about and crying ‘street food!’, but we’ve got to know the roots of where it all began and show some respect.

As one of eat.st‘s founders I was all up for doffing my cap at the alter of street trading tradition. In my research on the subject it is the fruits of the Thames that would sustain London’s street eaters the most: oysters, cockles, mussels and winkles…and those slippery little blighters – eels. Whilst the former have all been absorbed into our food culture and been hailed across the board as delicacies, it is only through the gentrifying effects of smoking that the eel has found any respectable footing.

Rubbish, said Simon – you need to know about jellied eels. And with that a quivering bowl of gelatinous fish chunks was pushed towards me. With Paul the owner, Simon and a big camera all looming over me I forged ahead, exuding a jaunty nonchalance. Suck on it and spit the bones on the ground, instructed Simon encouragingly. It felt like the first time I smoked a cigarette – down at the Youth Club surrounded by a brigade of ice-washed denim fans with excrutiating perms.

I dived the plastic spoon into that yellowish gunk and selected my catch. Moist squelching ensued as I cut that eel loose and tossed it into my mouth. Gnaw, gnaw, suck, suck – I separated the flesh from the bone and downed it on one. Quite tasty actually – especially given that we’d soused the bowl in Paul’s extra hot chilli vinegar. Yup, no problems there.

Have another one, suggested Simon. The camera came closer, Paul looked pleased. Sure, why not. But this time the piece was at least twice as large. I could barely fit it in my mouth. I wrestled and grappled with the almighty dense nugget, spat out that bone, got the thing down my gullet and decided I’d paid my dues – no more.

But more there was. Not more chunks or jelly diving but more…after-shocks. Yes, the only way to describe the rest of the day – and despite all else that I went on to eat – was one of repeated blows to my vom barriers as the eel chunks nudged up against them.

I’m glad I tried those suckers and I loved seeing all the brawny Eastenders turning up for their weekly/daily doses – but I think there’s probably a reason why that particular tradition has all but faded away