Monday, September 18, 2006


I write a monthy column for the TriCity News, an alternative newspaper focusing on the arts, culture, and politics in eastern Monmouth County, New Jersey. The column, published every third Thursday of the month, examines what it's like to be an expat American living in London. My fourth piece, 'Nduia!, was originally published in the August 17, 2006 edition of the TriCity News. Enjoy.

copyright Chris Osburn 2006

One of the (many) reasons I love being back in London is easy access to yummy pork products from all over Europe. For a variety of reasons, you just can’t get a lot of the really good stuff in the States. American access to international food products seems to be increasing, but it’s still difficult to get hold of some of the finer meats, such as Spain’s Jamón Serrano. Same goes for the funkier varieties of stinky cheese from this side of the Atlantic.

Much of this inaccessibility has to do with U.S. food safety regulations. I have no interest in boring you (or myself) with the details, but if you want to learn more, have a look at – the “gateway to government food safety information.” In a culture on the verge of a “sanitize-or-die!” approach to food preparation, age-old methods of how to make extremely delicious meat and dairy products are often kept beyond the reach of the average American consumer.

Now, if western Europeans were dropping like flies, I’d understand. But, the fact of the matter is that most Euros have longer life expectancies than their American counterparts, despite the fact that they’re over here eating uncooked meat and unpasteurized dairy products and drinking alcoholic beverages at a higher rate than folks back in the land of the free. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the U.S. ranks twenty-fourth in life expectancy, with an average lifespan of 70 years for babies born in 1999.

Nine of the top ten countries in the same WHO report are western European (first place goes to the Japanese with an expected lifespan of 74.5 years). Yep, the French with their tartar and their oozing, bacteria-laden fromage rank third with a life expectancy of 73.1 delicious years on earth. That’s more than three whole years of better eating than the average American!

Getting back to the meat of the matter …

A very enjoyable foodie activity here in London is visiting Borough Market, at the southern end of London Bridge. During its Friday and Saturday retail food market, a cosmopolitan panoply of vendors hawks almost every conceivable delicacy to crowds of tourists from any-and-everywhere, not to mention the swathes of unperturbed locals just trying to grab a bite or do a bit of shopping. Borough Market’s general setting has been a food-shopping hub since the thirteenth century; it just feels right to buy and eat food there.

One especially scrumptious delicacy that I picked up last time at Borough Market is ‘nduia– a spicy-hot salami-like loaf-o-flavor comprised of finely minced pork, lard, liver and lungs, packed into a skin of intestines, and jacked up with super hot peppers. This treat, from the southern Italian region of Calabria, is a bit like an extremely hot version of chorizo but with a mushy texture.

Traditionally known as an aphrodisiac, ‘nduia’s name, as is the case with so many southern Italian foods, is allegedly derived from a naughty reference to its restorative powers. I’ll spare you any tales of restoration, but I will say that I intend to purchase more next time … because it tastes good.

‘Nduia is especially agreeable when spread upon a nice piece of crusty bread, which brings me to another fine reason to be in Europe – bread. Um, I kinda get why some European meat and dairy products aren’t readily accessible in America, but what’s with the lack of variety when it comes to decent bread? I suppose one can find excellent breads Stateside, but they are few and far between and can be rather costly. Even if you’re flat broke in London (the world’s third most expensive city), you should be able to afford a perfectly baked baguette with a bit of cheese that would knock your socks off.

I don’t mean to sound like a snob – and I could (as I did in my last triCity News piece) blather about how the U.K. could learn a thing or two from the U.S. Heck, in my first piece for this publication, I rued the loss of many a Jersey Shore treat. I only mean to highlight a few positive aspects of living here (pork products, cheese, bread, longer life expectancy) and to ponder why the quality and availability of such seemingly simple things can vary so drastically from place to place, even in today’s global economy.

Chris Osburn lives in London where, when he's not stuffing his face with yummy pork products from all over Europe, he writes about his dining experiences in his blog,

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