Before I had memories, I had nostalgia. I pined for other people’s memories. By 1990 I was 14, with no notable romantic experience under my belt (or above it, for that matter) and not a modicum of worldliness to speak of. I really, truly didn’t have my groove on yet. What I did have on — on repeat on my boom box, to be precise — was Kathy’s Song. If you want to know how I feel about moving to London, pop in your earbuds and listen to it while you read this post. For the full effect, you’ll have to imagine me singing along with the same descant I made up 20 years ago — because, you know, where would a Paul Simon love song be without girlie parts?
Maybe you pined a bit in your adolescence as well. Maybe you grew out of it. Me? Not as much. To this day, I don’t think of happiness as something you show with a smile on your face. Contentment, instead, is a lump in the throat and a diffuse but energizing longing in the soul. It’s a drizzly day, a gentle nudge out of the comfort zone, an adjusted but not totally unrecognizable perspective. It’s forging ahead while remembering to look back with kindness. It’s “cress” where you once had watercress, “nicking” a parking spot without denting a car, and, apparently, calling everything from a living room to a kindergarten class “reception.” It’s London, now that you mention it.
Last week we went flat- and school-hunting in the city that is soon to be our home. It wasn’t all English rose bushes, tiny Richard Branson look-alikes sitting next to us on Virgin Atlantic, and smartly dressed female real estate brokers saying, “Just stick it in there and jiggle it like a bastard. Excuse my language.” Though those were a few of the highlights. There were also sleepless nights with jet-lagged children, and, amazingly, a complete lack of time and energy to explore the food scene in any way, at all, whatsoever, in each and every real or imagined capacity. There was no Borough Market, no Barrafina, no Gelupo, no St. John, no Hix, no The Eagle, no Morito, no Vinoteca, no Andrew Edmunds, no Mandarin Oriental, no Yalla Yalla, no Harwood Arms, no Tayyabs, no Neal’s Yard Dairy, and no Cookbook Cafe, despite all of your helpful suggestions. You can be sure that we will hit that list HARD when we arrive for reals in July. (Book your flights now, won’t you please?)
Instead of any of that, I was tailed around the city for five days straight by an egg and watercress sandwich operating under the alias Egg & Cress. It even followed me home on the plane. I kept eating it, but then there it was again. Sometimes it jumped off the shelves at the market. Twice we found it in a small sandwich shop next to Cope’s new office. Once it was handed to me by a flight attendant. Clearly Egg & Cress really likes me.
Thank goodness I like it, too. It makes me happy. Not smiley happy, of course. It’s more of a heightened-awareness-of-beauty-due-to-viewpoint-set-askew, deliciousness-in-dissonance kind of happy. Not a bad day’s work for a sandwich, right? Still, I think I’ll save the full Kathy’s Song treatment for Borough Market. Assuming we ever make it there.
Egg and Watercress Sandwich
Makes one sandwich.
2 small slices whole-grain bread
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 small handful watercress
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Just go ahead and make the sandwich, mate.