Food Spotlight: European Grocery Shopping

In England I experienced my first grocery store experience. It didn’t seem like much difference or highlight in my journey until I began to look more closely at the shelves. For instance, I love orange juice with high pulp. In Britain, however, it’s not called pulp, but bitsOne thing that you should notice right away is the amount of country labels plastered over all the shelves! I don’t mean to sound negative (because I don’t really have a solid side on any of these nationalism debates), but I do think it was a bit excessive in some areas. There were bag of chips (or crisps as the Brits call them), water, or milk that kept emphasising their “Britishness.” Being a political science major, I am quite interested in the relation of expressions of nationalism to globalisation, american hegemony, and economics. That is: are the bottles of water labeled as “purely British” as a marketing gimmick to sell the brand OR was it due to deeper socio-cultural notions of superiority or incompatibility? Great paper I could see myself writing in a few months. I’ll let you guys know how that goes!

It was interesting to see familiar brands, but with slightly different labelling along with discovering new products with weird and outlandish flavours. In addition to different names for similar food attributes (eg. bits/pulp), there were things like roast chicken and garlic flavoured chips and orange-cream-filled chocolate bars that immediately caught my eye. The way the food was stored was also a bit of a surprise. Things like eggs weren’t always stored on refrigerated shelves, but were instead being kept at room temperature. Also, growing up by the sea, I’ve seen seafood on ice, but never so far away from the sea and in such quantities (I lived near a market street that was lined with all types of meat and seafood sitting in open-air displays).

For the most part, I’m still alive and the food is delicious, so maybe all the extra-sterile advertisement in the U.S. isn’t as all that it’s hyped up to be?

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3 thoughts on “Food Spotlight: European Grocery Shopping”

  1. Interesting. I Like your thoughts. As an Englishman who has lived and worked all over the world including the USA I can assure you that we found the USA food experience anything but sterile. In the UK many practises seen in the USA were outlawed years ago. Legislation in the USA food industry is there to make money for politicians, not to protect the public I think.

    Eggs on shelves? Look it up. They are best kept at room temp. Fresh eggs in the USA are many weeks old before they get to the shelves in most cases.

    US meat controls? Awful. Check. Then look at EU controls.

    I’m pleased you posted this as it shows the different perspectives. More please.

    1. Thanks Tony! EU law is light years ahead of making sure consumers are getting quality food products. What I did notice was the appearances side of things, where items are packaged and placed in such a way as to almost to distance them from their maybe less-than-savoury source. I’ve noticed this more with meats than anything else. Animals parts drying from hooks in ceilings is something many of my U.S. friends aren’t accustomed to. Their placement doesn’t speak to their sterility, but more to the appearance of the same.
      I do see what you mean and perhaps “sterile” was lacking in clarity. I’m thinking of somethings like soda, that are more naturally coloured and sweetened in the UK, but in the U.S. the goal seems to be to make it appear as “pretty” as possible, ignoring reference to natural shades or flavours.

      Oh, that does explain a lot (about the eggs). They do seem to taste better in the UK! I can’t wait to go back!

      1. Ha eggs. Yes My family described USA eggs as tasteless and watery. Don’t get me wrong, UK eggs are getting that way too.

        There are many UK food practices that are just wrong. We have plenty to criticize.

        It is like two different worlds. We marveled at the way there didn’t seem to be a “meal” concept in the USA. Difficult for me to put into words but it was always a mish mash of things.

        I hope you found that UK food is not bland and tasteless like so many believe. I also hope that you noticed we don’t all have bad teeth. Lol

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