Hometowns for me have come as pearls on a string. Each one perfect, beautiful and complete unto itself in a defined period of time, where the place expands into a space – of daily routines, friendships and fases. I grow attached to the places where I eat, as if I were in fact becoming part of them, by taking them into my body.
So, what are you eating these days? I am eating Brixton, and here is a post about what it tasts like!
We landed in Brixton 10 months ago, and during all the difficulties we had trying to get established in London, Brixton fit around us like a warm blanket. We both felt instantly home in the narrow streets with Nigerian, Jamaican and Pakistani music blasting from the open doors to the butcher shops, black hair salons and green grocers where all our favorite comfort foods are for sale: mandioc flower to make farofa, maiz flower to make arepas and xima, black beans for feijão and two-meters-tall-heavily-build-man-fist.sized avocados.
After our latest move we now live next door to the place where Cherry Dorothy Groce was shot dead by the police in 1985 setting off the second round of Brixton riots. The worn yellow stone building holds a round, blue plack as a memorial which never seems to be affected by the patina of its surroundings .
We live in a large apartment complex consisting of some twenty buildings of 3-5 floors, closed inside a low bluepainted iron fence. Between the buildings are tall trees with squirrels and a lone fox romes around at night. Several of of neighbours have elaborately lush flower pot arrangements out front, and I as soon as the temperature reaches 20 degrees the evenings fill with smell of barbacue and the laughter of the kids running around in small flocks. We live in a 16 m2 room which sets us back 845 pounds each month and share the rest of the flat with two Columbian guys an two Australian girls.
On the entrance to our staircase is an invitation for free tai chi, coffee meetings, along with a notice that any group assembly in the cort yard between 8pm and 2pm is not allowed along with an informational sheet about what to do if you see any activity related to drug sales take place in the neighbourhood.
On the other side of the road is an islamic association which holds a clothes bazar for charity in the afternoons, and further down the street is an elegant eritrean restaurant, with a Kizomba place in the basement. The libraries host various groups for aspiring writers and revolutionaries, and Ritzy puts on alternative Cinema and black music events. Brixton is bursting with Jamaican music and food, and on every corner is a fried chicken shop where you can get a special of 4 chicken legs on top of a serving of french fries and a pop for 3 pounds. Chicken bones are sprinkled everywhere in the street, it is the after school favorite.
Further away from Brixton towards Oval station, which is now our closest tube, is St. Mark’s church where a ”get a life – bin your knife” box stands at the corner. Here you can safely deposit any weapon you may wish to part from, and receive a help kit in return. Brixton is completely safe to walk around in alone any time at night, but its better not to be in a gang. Inide the station is a book shelf where you can take a book and leave a book, it is alwas full and the underground staff writes an inspirational quote in swung letters on a white board above it every morning
The transformation of Brixton during the last decade has definitively lifted it out of ghettodom, and all the creative and cultural energy which is present in the area has already attracted so many hipsters that it has started losing its economic accesibility along with some of the ambience, like it happens in so many cases. Brixton is, in either case, a very special place to have meal after meal of comfort food from other continents, until it feels like home.