d o c t o r a n d m a m a

Linda Shiue

Linda Shiue
San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
December 31
I am a physician and spend my free time with my husband and kids, reading everything in sight, eating, traveling, and cooking meals inspired by my travels. These days I'm spending more time at my food blog, spiceboxtravels.com. Please visit me there and follow me on Twitter @spiceboxtravels. Disclaimer: Health information presented here is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. © 2010-12 Linda Shiue. All Rights Reserved.

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DECEMBER 12, 2010 10:57AM

London's Borough Market, with Dickens and Mulled Wine

Rate: 14 Flag

Borough market gate by Linda Shiue 

It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly neither.

-Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friends

7:30 AM may seem too early to be drinking cocktails, but on a frosty gray morning in London's Borough market, it seems just right.  "Mulled wine, mulled wine," cried the purveyor.  He resembled an American hipster more than a Dickens character, but the product he poured carried the aroma of centuries past.  Warm with both heat and sweet spices, this is exactly what you need to warm your bones in the London chill.

Borough market, England's first market and possibly the world's oldest continuously operating urban farmers market, has served London's public since Roman times.  The original Borough market adjoined the end of London Bridge.  The present market is located on Southwark Street and Borough High Street just south of Southwark Cathedral, on the southern end of London Bridge. Revamped in the last few years into a food-lover's paradise, it is that rare combination of locally sourced, perfect produce, game, fowl, and cheese, as well as prepared gourmet food, all at very reasonable prices.  

It's been fancied up to attract fashionable young foodies, and has been promoted by British television chefs such as Jamie Oliver.  Recent films have been shot at this atmospheric site, including Bridget Jones's Diary(2001)  and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).  But if you wander into its far corners, you can still imagine yourself in a Dickens novel, or if you're by the freshly slaughtered meat, perhaps Sweeney Todd.   

The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol  

Borough market by Linda Shiue 

Borough market by Linda Shiue  

Borough market by Linda Shiue 

Borough market by Linda Shiue 

Borough market by Linda Shiue 

Having read about and then imagined this ancient market, I had longed for years to experience it.  When I got a chance, I was only disappointed that it would be mainly to taste and gawk, since I wouldn't have a kitchen in which to prepare anything I could buy there.  Thankfully, for the visitor like me, there are newer stalls showcasing prepared local foods, such as freshly baked bread, pastries, meat pies, sausages, and jams.  

Borough market by Linda Shiue  

Borough market by Linda Shiue 

The warm, sweet mulled wine I started to sip in the early morning was just enough to carry me through the maze of the market stalls, and remember a London I never knew.

*     *     *

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine by Linda Shiue 

The host had gone below to the cellar, and had brought up bottles of ruby, straw-coloured, and golden drinks, which had ripened long ago in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain slumbering in the shade. Sparkling and tingling after so long a nap, they pushed at their corks to help the corkscrew (like prisoners helping rioters to force their gates), and danced out gaily.

--Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

yield: Serves 8.


1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (such as Malbec)

2 cinnamon sticks

5 green cardamom pods

3 whole black peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 small orange, thinly sliced

1 small lemon, thinly sliced


1.  Boil together sugar and water until sugar is dissolved.

2.  Add the wine and the remaining ingrdients and simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes.  Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet, December 2002.


© 2010 Linda Shiue 


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Great post.

Plus, yum, mulled wine - just the thing for a Canadian Yule...
Dickens and an outdoor food market - two of my favorite things! What a lovely juxtaposition of past and present, and some beautiful photos, to boot.
Linda, A feast for the eyes. Thanks for the lovely tour. Now I think I need to read more Dickens.
Very nice, Linda. Good Dickens selections. ~R
Those pictures certainly recall Dickens! As does the recipe. Cheers...and more cheers!
Thanks for your comments, Myriad, Grace, Scarlett, Füsun, and Bellwether. Cheers!
What an amazing virtual tour! Now I REALLY want to spend a wintry day at that market, exploring all the edible goodies with snow falling on my face. And mulled wine is truly a wonderful thing--I haven't made it in ages; thanks for the reminder!
Yes the English have come a long way. When I passed through just 3 months ago local pubs were not the same anymore. The steak and kidney pie will remain as will bangers and mash but they have had to move over to make room for a lot of other goodies that were not there before. Thanks for the nice reminder of how England has changed.
By the way I did meet up with someone who went to school with Jamie Oliver and said how in his early days he was in the dubious class and had a bit of a stutter.
Travel in time and space, taste and sight: this is a really lovely treat.
Travel in time and space, taste and sight: this is a really lovely treat.
London and Dickens were made for each other and truly set the tone for Christmas and a market jaunt. Well told. :) Rated
I want to be there! Love your pictures & the Dickens quotes are wonderful - I think Chuckles was a foodie. Bonne Chance! (Just three more to go!)
I love Dickens too! Thank you for this. I had a great mulled wine recipe from a few years back but can't seem to track it down on any of my thumb drives or external hard drives. Happy Holidays!
Linda, this is so ... I feel like I'm there, wonderful post.
You and Charlie D. make a great team, Linda.

Did you write this in London? I've never traveled with a laptop (or for a lapdance). If you used your machine a ecrire, did you have wifi in your room? Or did you need to find a hotspot?

And how did Charlie manage all those books without an e-keyboard?
Chuckles and Charlie D., I wonder which nickname he'd prefer?
Thanks for taking the walk with me, everyone. Seems like there are lots of Dickens fans today!

Leon, I take tons of photos when I travel and am overjoyed when there is an opportunity to share them. I don't travel with a laptop because it is too bulky-- but my husband does, so I use his instead! Best of both worlds. Starbucks, love it or leave it, has free Wifi around the world.