I wrote this for my London experience journal entry this week and thought I'd let everyone read it. It's about food and grocery shopping in London. I tried to write a kind of story in four parts, but I think a lot of it sounds like my poetry. And I was being sarcastic about my baked beans obsession. Would you expect anything less from me? Oh, and Ribena is a brand of blackcurrant juice. Is everyone up to speed? Good. Let's begin...
My first days in London were spent moving into my flat, buying a cell phone plan, and scoping out the grocery stores. My first impression upon entering Sainsbury's was that the store was too small to carry all of my favorite brands. I was used to the oversized supermarkets that dominate rural North Carolina. Unless I wanted to spend all of my money eating out for every meal, however, I had to give it a try. I picked up fruits and vegetables, bread and cheese, peanut butter and Nutella. It wasn't until I found the cans of soup that I really began to miss the carts with wheels that circulate the supermarkets at home. The cashier gave me a funny side-glance as she rang up my three cans of baked beans. Two days after this maiden voyage, my loaf of bread began to mold. White and fluffy at first, I would pick it off the crust and create abstract forms with my sandwiches. When the mold turned a deadly shade of black, I knew it was time to let it go. I've since learned to store such things in my one-sixth of the refrigerator because they lack the preservatives necessary to survive in our climate. This, apparently, is why Londoners only shop for two days worth of groceries, and why I should only buy one can of beans at a time if I want to keep my obsession with them under wraps.
Everything in Britain comes in a blackcurrant variety. Blackcurrant juice, blackcurrant yogurt, blackcurrant ice cream… even strawberry flavored Starburst have been replaced by blackcurrant ones. I wouldn't be surprised to find blackcurrant potato crisps sitting next to the prawn cocktail on my next trip to the store. I have yet to find a blackcurrant in its true form. Maybe this is because "95% of all of Britain's blackcurrants grow up to be in Ribena". After tasting Ribena, I've given up on my search. I think that I'll stick to eating strawberries.
III. Food Labels
Eating in London quickly grew on me, despite the moldy bread incident. This is because Europe is much more vegetarian friendly than the US. Practically every meatless product on the market has a rather large "V" highlighted in green on the front. Even the restaurants have them on their menus. I no longer have to scan the ingredients for chicken stock, gelatin, or that ambiguous "natural and artificial flavorings". No longer is my time spent grocery shopping directly proportional to the speed at which I read! I loathe the thought of going home to mundane frozen veggie burgers and PB&J sandwiches.
I was advised against drinking North American alcohol in Europe, since that would take away from the experience of being in London, like I imagine sitting in the flat playing poker instead of watching British television might. Therefore, Sainsbury's brand Scotch, being wholly European, has tempted me many times. The cashier usually takes a few minutes to decipher my NC driver's license before telling me that I "don't look that old". I try to decide if it's a compliment, or just a frustration, to look younger than I am at twenty-one.