An Extended Snack Attack Journey
I think the true measure of whether you’re staying long enough in a foreign destination is having the luxury of returning again and again to the same restaurant, as I returned this week to No. 33 Café in Norwich, England to eat yogisha soup and will do so before we leave. We’re here for a five week stay in our “cheap basic house" in Norwich's "Golden Triangle," visiting the Chef’s mum while he works from a desk at the University of East Anglia.
The first day I happened upon No. 33 [it’s named for its address on Exchange Street] in the heart of this cathedral city I have come to love, I had made that classic traveler’s mistake: going into the city on an empty stomach. Used to 24/7 eating in New York City, I was unprepared when all the restaurants shuttered at 3:00 PM until dinner. It had been a chill, damp, typical British spring since our arrival and I was craving something warm: a jacket potato or a hearty soup. I was near tears, from hunger, cold, and that feeling of otherness when you still feel betwixt and between home and away. A woman directed me to No. 33 Café. There it was, the soup I was craving. Their yogisha soup (£6.50)* is a fragrant mixture of sweet potato, carrot, coconut, coriander and toasted almonds. The liberal sprinklings of the latter two ingredients are what elevates this soup into something special. On its website the café boasts of its generous quantities. When thinking of British portions, one tends to think of thin British Rail sized sandwiches, and, indeed, I think the Perfect Sandwich is best in mean quantities. But not soup. Along with the bottomless wide soup bowl is a large toasted ciabatta loaf halved with pats of that excellent yellow British butter.
I ate every drop and morsel, and as I ate I listened to two young men next to me play an interesting game rating world leaders. “On a scale of one to ten, President Obama and President Trump.” I listened in horror as one of them put Obama on a six and then seemed to take too long a time deciding where Trump should be on their scale. I did an American thing, and I butted into their conversation, “Sorry for eavesdropping I said, but I just came here from the States, and I think Obama is a ten and you need to create a negative scale to put Donald Trump on.” They laughed good naturedly and went on to rate Theresa May and other European leaders.
Now, it’s three weeks later and I’m not sure I would have interrupted with my vehemence, both because I’ve been upbraided for behaving like an uncouth American but also because, three weeks in, I feel, happily like I’m looking through the wrong end of the binoculars at our president. I can see this tiny orange man with a pouf of yellow hair waving his tiny hands around at the end of a long tunnel. I see him gesture and know he’s shouting, but I can’t quite hear what he’s saying. Instead, I turn my attention to the things I see through the right end of the binoculars: the flecks of herbs and toasted almonds swirling in the creamy orange soup, the tangy pink slaw I ordered with it this time (£2.50), the red rowan berries in the bush near our front door on Caernarvon Road, where I insert the now familiar skeleton key and feel, inexplicably, at home.
*With an exchange rate of $1.40, the yogisha soup comes in at $9.10 and the side of coriander and lime (pictured) is $3.50.