From my days as a teacher I know that children from different countries usually begin a cultural exchange by swapping swear words. But where children use profanity, we sophisticated adults say it with food. There's no better place for a taste of another culture than around Cowley Road, which is also the home of Daily Info.
In true Olympic style we give you the world gathered together in one place. Here are some of the places you can step into another country just by popping in to a local shop, who you might find there and what you could buy. We've also given you some suggestions for books, songs or films to enjoy with your food, which give you a metaphorical flavour of the country along with your literal one.
And, if you want to hear some authentic voices and languages, you can hear interviews with some of the shopkeepers in Oxcast, episode 19.
On your marks, get set, go!
In lane one we have: ITALY
Where: Il Principe, Cowley Road
What: Pasta, pizza, salami and antipasti
Culture Vulture suggests: listen to La Traviata, watch Moonstruck (Italian-American) or Cinema Paradiso, or read the Inspector Montalbano mysteries
In lane two: GREECE
Where: Meli, Cowley Road
What: many types of hummus, tzatziki
Culture Vulture suggests: read Lawrence Durrell's Bitter Lemons, Gerald Durrell's My Family And Other Animals, or Captain Corelli's Mandolin
In lane three: FRANCE
Where: Chateau Gateau, St Clements
What: pastries, gateau, meringues and most of all macaroons (big and small)
Culture Vulture suggests: listen to Stephane Grappelli or Edith Piaf, watch Amelie or read The Elegance Of The Hedgehogs
In lane four: POLAND
Where: Cudo or Polish Food, both on Cowley Road
What: Polish beers, spirits, cured meats and wurst-style salamis, chocolate biscuits and many other things labelled in polish - so if you're after something special work out the translation before you go!
Culture Vulture suggests: Night Train (aka "Pociag") - a Hitchcock thriller from 1959
In lane four: MOROCCO
Where: Cous Cous Cafe, St Clements or Maroc Deli, Cowley Road
What: cous cous (obviously!), mediterranean veg, tagines and hookahs, leather goods, carpets, olive oil and more
Culture Vulture suggests: watch Casablanca
In lane five: RUSSIA
Where: Baltic Foods, Cowley Road
What: Russian dolls, pickles, biscuits and many other things
Culture Vulture suggests: listen to Gregorian chant, or read Snowdrops by A.D. Miller for a taste of Russian wrongdoing
In lane six: THE CARIBBEAN
Where: Taste Of The Tropics, East Oxford Community Centre or of course there's Hi-Lo's, Cowley Road
When: Wednesday lunchtimes
What: Pop-up restaurant serving rice and beans, jerk chicken, ackee and fried plantains
Culture Vulture suggests: read Graham Greene's The Comedians (Haiti), or listen to Bob Marley
In lane seven: THAILAND
Where: Oriental Mart, St Clements
What: Sauces, Thai veg, sweets, noodles, plum wine
Culture Vulture was a bit stuck on this one. We hesitate to suggest watching The Beach to get an authentic taste of Thailand...
In lane eight: CHINA
Where: Jing Jing, Cowley Road
What: noodles, sauces, pak choi and other veg, banh (sweet rice dumpling things), big prawns...
Culture Vulture suggests: read Amy Tan, or watch Kung Fu Panda
In lane nine: INDIA
Where: you're spoilt for choice - we recommend Eastern Continental Stores (green door/window frames), The Asian Supermarket, Al-Amin, and many other places on Cowley Road
What: Mangoes! currently in season, dates, rice, spices, snacks like bombay mix, coriander and other herbs, chillis and garlic, and much more
Culture Vulture suggests: watch Slumdog Millionaire, or read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala or John Masters
In lane ten: ENGLAND
Where: you could do worse than The People's Supermarket, Cowley Road
What: all your grocery needs
Why: It's a people's cooperative, and a good antidote to the big supermarkets
Culture Vulture suggests: watch Monty Python, or the Olympic opening ceremony for a true taste of Englishness
Happy exploring, happy eating, and we're aware this doesn't by any means cover everywhere in this area. Do send us suggestions for anywhere we should have mentioned!
Jen Pawsey (DI Reviewer), 01/08/12