On Studying Abroad as a Picky Eater

Jan 30, 2015 12:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

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Matt Linenbroker is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2015, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism and English major at the University of Missouri - School of Journalism, he is studying abroad in London this semester.

In his post below, Matt talks about everyone's favorite topic: food. As a picky eater living abroad, it's time to try something new...

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Since I was a child, I have been a terribly picky eater. Growing up, my main sources of sustenance were grilled cheese and buttered noodles. Every visit to the pediatrician included my mother worryingly asking the doctor about my diet. He assured her that with time, my food pallet would grow. And my parents did everything they could think of to make that possible.

Mostly, they bribed me. And it worked.

Calamari became a favorite dish of mine after my mother promised to buy me a pack of Pokemon cards if I would try it. My uncle attempted to pay me $15 to eat a piece of crab sushi (I was going to do it, too, had he not told me that once I ate it, it would come alive in my stomach - but years later, after realizing that mushed up crabmeat does not regenerate once you ingest it, I fell in love with sushi). Freshman year of college, a friend convinced me to just try a cheeseburger, and now it’s a staple.

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You’re appalled by the fact that I didn’t eat hamburgers until I was 18, aren’t you? Yeah, you probably should be. Because essentially, when it comes to food, I’m a scaredy cat. Which is one of the reasons why living in another country for a semester seemed like a daunting task. And London is not Paris or Italy; in fact, London has a notoriously bad reputation when it comes to food.

Frankly, I had just planned on sucking it up and eating fish and chips for every meal. Besides, I knew they would still have frozen pizzas in their grocery stores.

But when I arrived, I realized that one does not come to a city with the hopes of exploring a new culture without also journeying through their food. I came here to push myself, to try new things, to embark on a mission of self-discovery and growth - and so I knew I must push past my culinary boundaries.

During my second week living in London, I took the first step.

As we all learned in our history classes, Great Britain really liked to colonize places back in the day. In the 17th century, during a search for spices and textiles, they took to India. Due to its resources and the ability for Great Britain to directly rule certain provinces, it became known as “the jewel of the British crown.”

Apparently somewhere along the way, the British discovered how much they loved the food of their jewel, and since London has a massive immigrant population, Indian food is now incredibly popular, and incredibly authentic, throughout London.

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This is what led me and seventeen other Mizzou CAPA students to a restaurant in whitechapel called Tayyabs.

Fish and chips weren’t on the menu.

Tayyabs is known for its Punjabi cuisine, which is an area around northern India and southern Pakistan. They’re big on barbecue and cooking things in a deep pot, which is called Karahi. They allow, and, in fact, encourage you to bring your own drinks - so it’s pretty easy to get a meal for less than ten pounds.

And, so, I decided it was now or never. One of my coworkers recommended the lamb chops, and trusting his taste, I went for it.

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After all, when in Rome...or London.

And, you know what? The lamb was good. I mean, I had nothing to compare it to lamb-wise, but I assumed as far as lamb goes, it was pretty top notch. It tasted like a tender mix between pork and chicken, with a mild spice that tingled the inside of my cheeks. I enjoyed it. I would get in again (and when I told my dad about this culinary venture, he insisted on barbecuing lamb when I returned to the states - so I will have it again, not an option).

I just keep thinking about the little kid who thought the sushi would come alive in his stomach. What would he say, seeing his older self eating lamb in a foreign country? Would he believe it? Would he be proud or terrified?

But I guess it doesn’t matter, because current me is proud. And in ten years, if I keep taking risks, if I keep growing, well, I think I’ll be proud then, too.

Thanks Matt!

Matt’s journey continues every Friday so stay tuned! 

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Topics: London, England