London, England English Food and the Vh1 Thing

I’m on a brief layover in London. As is my habit, I am ranting mid-journey on my way to Istanbul.

I’m a huge fan of London. It’s one of my favorite places to visit. Fantastic mix of cultures. Some of the best museums in the world. Every street and alley soaked through with history. But my God, the food is still terrible.

I’m stunned. Every time I come here I expect it will have changed. I mean, it’s not that hard to get a decent meal these days. Ingredients you used to have to seek out like kalamata olives and feta cheese are now readily available at 3 in the morning in the dank corners of your local 7-11. I’m embarrassed to admit how good the food is at tacky mall chains like Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s. I even enjoy airplane food. Evidently, fine dining can now be cheaply and reliably mass produced. So how come everything I eat in London tastes like paper?

Don’t hate me for saying so, oh loyal subjects of Her Majesty, the Queen. The truth is, I adore you. I’d trade my annoying accent in a heartbeat for any one of yours (except Yorkshire — that’s rubbish). I just don’t understand why you’re stuck in the culinary dark ages. Is it a curse from some old imperialist transgression? If I snuck a panini through customs, would it magically come out dry and flavorless? Or is that just how folks here like food to taste? Even Australia’s gotten their act together.

What gives?

The Vh1 thing airs tomorrow. It turned out surprisingly bearable. They were merciful with the interview footage they used. I come off seeming like less of a dork than usual. I just wish they’d been able to spring for the right music:

I’m on my way to Istanbul to shoot a television commercial for a Swedish travel agency. As far as I know, my obligation is pretty much limited to dancing badly from time to time over the course of two days. There’s worse ways to make a living.

This is a quick refresher before I leave to start the new Stride video in 10 days. It’s a chance to test out my new luggage — Salomon laptop backpack and Osprey Porter 90-liter main bag — a revelation. I’ll be back home in time for trivia on Monday…I hate missing trivia.

The trip over today went all pear-shaped very quickly. I wasn’t even supposed to be here in London. Bad weather in Chicago delayed my flight from Seattle and the connection to Istanbul had left before I even landed. The airline desk was abandoned and their 800 number was closed for the night. The Istanbul flight only goes every other day, so it was looking like the whole trip might have to be scrapped, until an angelic American Airlines agent rerouted me on a red-eye to London that involved some running and panting.

I thought I had a pretty good sob story, and then I realized every other person in the airport had gotten screwed worse than me. This seems to happen a lot at O’Hare. Bad weather makes everything go to hell. Apparently one sixth of all US flight cancellations happen at that one airport. Maybe our nation’s second-busiest transportation hub shouldn’t be in a quasi-arctic climate.