I met Charlie at the age of 2 at nursery where we discussed all things baby during morning break over a bottle of milk. This first meeting wasn’t all goo goo and gaa gaa, baby tensions built over who would get the final biscuit. I knew from that moment on that we were destined to be lifelong friends bound by our unrelenting passion to eat great stuff. As I’m now in London for Christmas with my family I wanted to introduce you to Charlie, Distracted a blog that is fast becoming one of the UKs go to site for all things London (including food).
Charlie’s zest for life is contagious and her ability to identify the most bizaar yet interesting activities in town makes for an adventure that is not only fun but unique. This chick can make fluffing cushions on a Monday afternoon seem like a trip to the moon. So if you find yourself in London and you need stuff to do, bargains to find, places to shop and things to eat then Charlie, Distracted is your first port of call.
Tell us about your blog and how it all began.
It started as somewhere for me to keep a track of my spending. When I started to see on the internet just how much I was buying, I started to feel guilty and ultimately started shopping less. So that of course fizzled out after a while. It then started to change into more of a diary of my life in London and has now become a fully fledged lifestyle blog including things to do, travel, a bit of fashion and LOTS of food.
What are some of the subjects you focus on when writing about food?
I don’t really write recipes because although I love to cook, I mainly just steal ideas from books or Pinterest. I predominantly write about where I eat, from Michelin starred restaurants to local food markets. There is always somewhere new opening in London and I do believe it is one of the world’s greatest cities for being a foodie. I also write about food products that I’ve discovered and loved. Whether that’s something I’ve picked up on a whim in the supermarket or a weird ingredient I’ve found in a specialist store.
Where did your love and passion for food stem from?
My family. We love to eat. We connect over a big meal, all sitting around the table to eat together. My mum is the champion for home cooking, so much so that I didn’t eat a frozen ready meal until well after I’d moved out of home (and then I hated it). My ethos on homemade food comes completely from her and I strongly believe that even with no time, you can create something much more quick and delicious from scratch then you can buying something from the freezer aisle.
What is your fondest food memory?
That is near on impossible to answer, there are so many! I remember making an entire meal from the Roald Dahl Revolting Rhymes recipe book at about 11 years old and loving serving it up to hungry family members.
Every Christmas the meal my whole family looks forward to the most isn’t Christmas dinner itself, but my mum’s famous turkey and ham pie which we traditionally have on the 27th.
A few years ago my boyfriend and I visited Chamonix when he spent the summer climbing. We stayed with his Nepalese housemate who made us the most incredible curry (a food I previously never ate), and completely changed my mind about that entire cuisine.
I love thinking back to picnics. As a kid my parents would stuff us five kids into two cars, drive us to the middle of nowhere so we could tire ourselves out. Then feed us with tupperwares full of homemade snacks, particularly boiled eggs!
Even more recent fond memories of food: watching keenly as friends tried fried plantain for the first time and being proud that they all loved a food from my Jamaican heritage. Teaching my boyfriend how to make chappatis from scratch in our tiny London kitchen and being super proud that they actually tasted good. Being the allocated birthday cake maker at my last job. It gave me the chance to experiment with all kinds of weird bakes. Food is at the centre of my life, so I attach a lot of memories to the ceremony of eating and cooking!
How would you like to see your blog evolve over the next few years?
I’d love it to evolve to the point where I can actually start freelance writing. It’s been my passion since I was little so to do it full time would be a dream. As for the blog itself, I just love that people actually read it! It’s so much fun to work with brands and businesses to review their products and it’s an opportunity I never thought I would get.
Why do you think food blogging has become such a ‘thing’ in recent years?
I think as the world has opened up it has introduced two things: the amazing amount of cuisines available to us no matter where we live, and the importance of home cooking. There is such a focus on healthy eating trends, obesity and other ways of vilifying food that the people are taking it back and reminding us that food is to be enjoyed. We don’t have to feel guilty about having a slice of cake in moderation! People are taking their health into their own hands as well as shunning modern day conventions and going back to basics. We are losing the art of being homemade and relying on convenience and people are rebelling by making everything from scratch; not just food, but clothes, home decor and everything in between.
How has blogging changed and influenced the way people look at and interact with social media?
Food blogging has changed how we communicate for the same reason other types of blogging are also popular. We all want real opinions from real people. Nobody trusts the traditional media any more so we look to our peers for recommendations. I personally scour the internet when I’m travelling to find the right places to eat. My biggest fear is ending up in a foreign version of an Angus Steakhouse (a London based ‘restaurant’ that plagues the tourist areas of the city and is always full despite being bloody awful). I love that I can put a tweet out asking for somebody to suggest where I should eat in any given city and somebody will respond with their favourite places. People are passionate about food and they love to share the experience with you, even if that’s just by making sure you visit somewhere that they’ve previously enjoyed.
Since writing your blog what are some of the best food experiences you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy?
I’ve had the chance to learn some butchery skills including how to properly fillet a fish, something that’s always terrified me! One of the best experiences was going to an offal masterclass where I was taught how to cook with pigs trotters, lamb testicles and ox tongue. All of which were surprisingly delicious! I’ve also loved meeting new foodies at events. There are a couple of bloggers that I regularly eat out with as I know they’ll always be willing to try something new or show me somewhere I’ve never eaten at before.
“Charlie, Distracted……by ANYTHING and everything.”
You’ve traveled quite a bit recently, where would you say has been your international food highlight?
Again, I can’t limit this down to one thing as there have been so many.
Eating whale in a traditional fish market in Bergen.
Experiencing the incredible Christmas markets in Frankfurt with their kartoffelpuffers and dampfnudel.
Picking wild garlic in Somerset.
Experiencing one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had in Paris.
Enjoying coffee for the first time ever in Melbourne.
Watching fishmongers at work in Hong Kong (they just pick them out of a bowl and let them flop around until they’re shoved in a plastic bag still twitching!)
But I guess the biggest highlight is Beijing – just the entire city. I accidentally ended up ordering intestine soup within three hours of being there. I enjoyed tofu for the first time ever, I ate a whole pigeon on a stick and I drank whisky infused with a fermented snake. I had the best meal of my life in a random shack with a whole fish in the middle of the table that we all dug into with chopsticks and followed up with prawns in crunchy tea leaves. It made my tastebuds the happiest they’ve ever been. I think food is really the reason I travel!
It’s your last day on planet earth, what would be your final meal?
A big lamb curry with cheesy naan bread, saag aloo, yellow lentil dal, wholegrain rice and onion bhajis. Followed up by a massive slice of my mum’s homemade apple pie with cinnamon sprinkled on the top and a pint of vanilla custard.
Check out Charlie, Distracted here!
All photos on this post have been taken by Charlie for the purpose of her blog Charlie, Distracted.