Imagine a life where grocery shopping was really exciting. Where it was not one of the most—if not the most—mundane, thoughtless thing you did all week. That is my life. Going to buy the things I will eat for the next few days is truly one of my favorite things to do here.
The first thing to understand is the very European idea of shopping for only what you need that day and maybe tomorrow. It changes how you approach your meals entirely; Changing how often you buy ingredients, what ingredients you buy, and therefore: what you’re actually cooking. There are not scary preservatives in everything that will keep it good for the next three weeks—so we have to be careful not to over-purchase, lest we throw money out the window. I bought “sieved” tomatoes for the first time yesterday (the equivalent of crushed tomatoes, I…think?), which typically would have been such a staple in our household we would have had five cans of San Marzano at any given moment. I finally spent enough time reading all of the labels in the tomato section to find what I needed. Now I can make Angie’s sauce, properly, cause it was gettin’ dicey there for a bit. (Get it?! DICEY?!) (Oy.)
What’s great about England and the anti-preservative lifestyle is that the resulting high-quality produce is just unbelievable. Pears, apples, plums, tomatoes, lettuce—all far superior to what you would have available in a grocery store chain in the states. (Not superior to Medeiros Farm, to be sure, but, better than your average supermarket.) I used to like cauliflower, but now, I’m roasting one at least once a week. It’s like candy!
Buuuuuuut all of that is not nearly as amusing as what I took pictures of yesterday during my shop with the intent of sharing here. For putting up with that boring VEGETABLES-ARE-DELICIOUS set of paragraphs, your reward is now a photo set of the ridiculous, quirky, zany, delightfully-English things I see during these trips:
That is exactly one brand of pretzels. And ironically, they are called “Pennsylvania” brand. Apparently Pennsylvania is known in England for… having… pretzels? And there are only those two kinds. Plain, and some chive flavor to the right. That’s all. I’ve seen the awesome(-ly fattening) Snyder’s pretzels in some bodegas around, but no big bags in the stores. COME ON. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE EAT WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK IF NOT HONEY MUSTARD SNYDER PRETZELS? Ahem. But you’ll notice that everything else around is pretty much as you’d expect. Doritos, Pringles, et al. Oh, except for maybe the “prawn crackers” down in the bottom right there.
Ah, “sultanas”. Golden raisins, I believe you mean. And to the right? “Californian” raisins. These poor people missed out on one of the most genius claymation ad campaigns of all time. I heard it through the grapevine…
See those? Those are eggs. Just out on a shelf. Like nooooobody told ’em there was a refrigerator a coupla aisles down that they had an appointment with. I don’t care: we come home and put them in the fridge immediately. I just can’t leave them out. It does make you think about the ridiculous things you do as a culture that other cultures just don’t do and are completely healthy, though. But that doesn’t mean I’m just going to give up these senseless American habits.
All. Kinds. of. Baked. Beans. Need I say more? One choice of pretzels, but half an aisle’s worth of Heinz baked friggin’ beans. I’m interested to try the “curry” flavor. And if you look carefully up at the top, you’ll see the enormous family-size containers.
Ah, my favorite image from the trip.