Letters From London: Family Dinner

Christopher Tinley ’12 is a participant in the UConn in London study abroad program during the fall semester.

My first three years of UConn were not a dignified or varied gastronomic experience. Most days, I would be pleased to scarf down whatever was edible at the dining hall that day, and I ordered pizza way more times than I would care to admit. That has all changed. London has changed me into something of a snob. I don’t mean to say that I’ve succumbed to a high-class metropolitan lifestyle or somehow adopted more European sensibilities. To avoid any pretension, I would say that now I would consider myself a “food appreciator.” My eyes have been opened to the power of good food and the bliss found in sharing it.

Living in London puts us students far away from the dining halls, massive supermarkets, and – most tragically – those home-cooked meals we have back in the States. We are on our own to procure, prepare, and share our food between our ravenous flatmates. But yet, I would not have it any other way.

There was no better way to get to know my flatmates than to sit down and share what I call “family dinner.” Sitting at our table passing the plates of food around, telling stories, making jokes, and genuinely enjoying the food and company is one of the highlights of my experience in London.

My flatmates and I have learned so much about each other and even about ourselves through cooking and eating together. When we cook, we conjure up our own memories and experiences and share them – what we loved to eat growing up, what makes us feel at home. We’ll call up home to ask about that special recipe, so we can try it ourselves and share it with each other.

We all salivate when it’s fried chicken night and Daryl masterfully prepares us dinner; and the flat never smells better than when Dan expresses his Italian heritage through one of his pasta dishes, and I just get carried away by the whole experience. I find myself daydreaming about flavors and seasonings, going to book stores just to look through recipe books to get ideas and exposure to new ideas. I find myself in a Zen-like peace while chopping, frying, sautéing, seasoning, and experimenting with cooking.

After internship or class, I look forward to coming back to our flat – to smell dinner cooking in the oven, to hear the sizzle of the frying pan, and see the smiles on our faces as we experience the warmth and taste of food shared with friends.