Poptarts and Potato Waffles: An American’s Guide to a British Supermarket

British food has a bad reputation for being, how should I say, horrible. I’m not qualified to speak on this, as I’m a picky eater and think a lot of food is horrible. To stick up for the UK, though, I have learned to enjoy quite a few ‘proper’ meals like fish and chips and roast dinners. ‘English breakfast’ is very good, and I have gotten into the habit of eating baked beans with things I never would have eaten baked beans with before. I have had even had lasagna with baked beans and LIKED IT.

Anyway, this was in my head as I went to the grocery store today, and I thought I would bring you along so we can experience the highs and lows of being an American in a British supermarket.

Let’s start in the produce section.
IMG_0359Nothing much to see here, though helpful to remember that zucchinis are “courgettes,” eggplant is “aubergine,” and rutabaga is “swede” (though who even knows what a rutabaga is to begin with?).  Easy enough.
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The next stop is the refrigerated section, which is relatively standard, but holds some secrets of its own.

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(I literally just posted a picture of cheese. Am I doing this blogging thing right?)

Orange juice is readily available, but “pulp” is referred to as “juicy bits,” and honestly the jokes just write themselves.

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It does get confusing when you start looking for eggs. Oh, no. The eggs are not in the fridge. They are stored casually, on the dry shelves, next to the bread like it’s NO BIG DEAL.

IMG_0389 This is jarring for an American who is used to the “eggs must be refrigerated” mantra, but apparently it really isn’t a big deal since the eggs are processed differently than in America. If you’re incredibly interested, here’s an article. If you’re not, let’s carry on (isn’t this the most fun you’ve had all day? I BET!)

The snack aisle is one of my best friends, and even more so before I started this running stupidity. Thankfully, the UK has Oreos, but they’re sold in single sleeves instead of the 3 sleeved approach in America.

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Wait, do they sell them in single sleeves here because British people control themselves and don’t want 46 Oreos at once like I do? I don’t know. Possibly.

I also enjoy Freddos (Chocolate in the shape of a frog. IS THAT WHERE JK ROWLING GOT HER CHOCOLATE FROG IDEA FROM? This is blowing my mind).
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Okay, so far so good, chocolate knows no borders.

But then it gets weird. Like, really weird. I don’t even know how to bring up the next picture because it makes my stomach so uncomfortable.
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Okay, yes, America has pizza Pringles and so I can hardly judge the UK for following their paprika-loving hearts, but roast chicken? How does that even work? If the chicken isn’t enough to tide you over, you can always follow it up with some flame grilled steak.

IMG_0375Or some bacon.
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Now that we’ve eaten an entire week’s worth of meat in the snack aisle, we’ll continue on to the breakfast aisle. The cereals are pretty standard, though noticeably lacking in sugar.

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Need some beans with your toast? Don’t worry, the UK takes its baked beans very seriously.
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One of the saddest sections for me and my Americanness is the Poptart section, which isn’t so much a “section” as a small sampling of the wonders that Poptarts can bring you.

IMG_0394Only strawberry and chocolate? WHERE IS MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH flavor? Brown sugar cinnamon? S’MORES?!?

After we finish wiping our tears and texting all of our friends to send us cookie dough Poptarts ASAP, we’ll hit the frozen section.  Of course they’ve got the staple frozen items—ice cream, pizza, vegetables. But, to make up for the British food jokes, I would like to present to you one of the greatest achievements to have ever come out of the British empire: the potato waffle.

IMG_0392Is it a potato? Is it a waffle? I was obsessed with these when I first moved to the UK, and my roommates and I spent hours discussing what we thought it would taste like.

Turns out, it’s literally a potato product shaped like a waffle. Two of my favorite things in one. Nice, move, England. Almost enough to make me forget about your roast chicken Pringles. Almost.

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15 Responses

  1. Very witty post!! Made me giggle!

  2. RunTroyRun says:

    Thanks for the tour down memory lane! I remember shopping in England as a child! We even had a van that came to the village we lived in and brought the market to us!

  3. ldr13 says:

    This is hilarious and SO relatable. I literally went “I didn’t know that one, but who knows what a rutabaga is anyway” and then read your next sentence which said almost exactly that.

    The eggs things is also so weird. My boyfriend just walked in as I was reading your article and I told him “this is why I took so long in the co-op the other day, I couldn’t find eggs.” And he said, “I wondered what you were doing in there all that time.”

    I also cannot believe they have chip flavours like Prawn Cocktail, Roast Chicken, Marmite Yeast, Steak (which all taste exactly the same) and they don’t have the bloody best flavours like Dill Pickle and Ketchup!

    Reading this article was like reading my own thoughts only funnier. Have you ever thought about writing a book? You should!

    • That’s so funny that you had the same problem with eggs. And then British people look at you funny when you ask because it’s just normal to them! I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years and sometimes we still have cultural misunderstandings like this and I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m an idiot half of the time.

      Ketchup chips and dill pickle chips?! Even those sound weird to me, must be a Canadian thing! I do love ketchup though…

      I would love to write a book, actually. One day! So glad you can relate and I’m not the only one who thinks these things! 🙂

  4. Freddos were popular in the 60’s or 70’s, I think, and Cadbury brought them back for the nostalgia crowd. Cheese and onion crisps! Those are the best! Although the Walkers Roast Chicken is worth trying too. Open your mind.

    I lived in England from 1992 to 1996. The mega-supermarket was still a fairly new thing, so I could not understand why people were dawdling so much in the aisles and so overwhelmed by the choices, when I was just the American tornado of activity of “get in, get my stuff, get out”. It wasn’t until my English/naturalized American husband and I were watching Back in Time for Dinner that I finally understood why people were just standing and staring at the shelves a lot.

    In other words, yes, get used to being puzzled the rest of your life.

    • I have to admit that as much I as like to tease my British friends about their crisps flavors, I do enjoy most of them! Cheese and onion are amazing.

      Really interesting to hear about your experience with mega-supermarkets in England. I didn’t realize they only started to become popular in the 90s.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Charlie Taylor says:

    Did you know in Australia you can get giant Freddo bars
    http://www.sanza.co.uk/Cadbury_Freddo_Giant.asp

  6. Charlie Taylor says:

    In London you can get them at Cybercandy in Garrick Street, Covent Garden or in Camden

  7. Anastasia says:

    Love this. So funny! I love posts like these because it makes me feel like I myself had just gone on a little journey through a foreign supermarket in a far-away land!

  8. TheGirl says:

    From what I understand, it’s not that eggs are “processed differently” they come out of a chicken’s butt everywhere in the world; but the hens are vaccinated with the salmonella vaccine, while in the States they are not. So technically in the States you can leave your eggs to room temperature too, but it’s a bigger risk since the hens aren’t vaccinated.

    • Charlie Taylor says:

      The other difference is that eggs get washed in the US which destroys the coating on the outside that stops bacteria getting into the egg.

  1. September 8, 2015

    […] I discussed in this post, finding American food in the UK can be a struggle without paying extortionate import prices. But, […]

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