Cape Town in February this year was a difficult delight. The city was in the throes of a dangerous drought. And still, with the rationing reminders in all bathrooms, the bottled water and my self-conscious hyper-brief sailor showers, the city was none-the-less an absolute delight. Flying in for a few days for work, getting to see all the beautiful greatness in nature and people, and rationally witnessing the reality of a city in severe drought made leaving all the more feel like an act of betrayal. Especially coming back to London for a long hot bath.
Part of the water saving initiatives was to not use glasses in restaurants where possible. So if you ordered a soda, you’d be offered a straw to drink it from the can or bottle directly. Now of course, Cape Town hipsters are as conscious of the plastic crisis as hipsters anywhere. But when faced with these conditions, our waiter presented us our plastic straws with a laconic drawl: “One crisis at a time.”
Any of you who have been fortunate enough to taste a chicken katsu wrap from Katsu Wraps in Petticoat Lane Market will get what this is about. London like many large major metro areas is a ‘melting pot’. But no other city since the fall of Rome has this as engrained in its fabric of being. Compared to New York’s arterial pumping in of migrant community to diffuse into the rest of the US from there, London is a vast and continuous capillary throb of coming, going, melding, evolving.
Petticoat Lane Market itself is a quiet example that can catch a foreign visitor off guard of this essential nature of London. The word petticoat itself is naturally of French origin. This speaks nicely to the wave Hougenots refugees settling on the eastern edge of the City escaping Louis XIV in 17th century. Here the Hougenot refugees set up shop as silk weavers, tailors, merchants, bankers and more. They also quickly established their churches in the area; nine new churches springing up in just 10 years.
As the refugees settled and thrived, over generations they anglicised their names, and moved on to other areas. In the meantime the next wave of outsiders landed and established themselves in turn.
Visit the area today, and you’ll find not only the well known delights of Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane, but also the Great London Mosque; itself formerly the Great Spitalfields Synagogue; formerly a Methodist Chapel; formerly a Huguenot Church.
If places of worship can layer like this, it becomes easy to imagine the possibilities for all else. Not surprising then to find a delicious East Asian – Middle Eastern fusion take away among the many other culinary and cultural delights available to discover.
And so this is where Katsu Kurry Wurst coms into its own. Discovering the cross overs no one would anticipate, but that make the whole thing only so much better.