“L’Allée Breeteesh” – The British Supermarket Aisle Abroad

When abroad, taking a look at the international aisles in supermarkets can be such an eye-opener. Sure there’s the sheer fact that a whole culture can be defined by a few jars on a shelf, but that’s even before you’ve taken a look at the astronomical prices.

So imagine how excited I was, when rocking up at my local Carrefour, I stumbled upon a veritable plethora of British goods. So this is what defines British cooking and presumably, if we are to believe the 13th century principle of supply and demand, it also denotes what we Brits abroad simply can’t live without and for which we are willing to pay through the nose.

 

We may have tried to invade France before and failed but these 8 shelves are all ours.

Some of what I could make out (apologies for the wobbly picture – people were getting suspicious around me)

  • Robinson’s squash
  • Various HEINZ products including: baked beans, tomato soup, minestrone soup, baked beans with sausages (over 3 Euros for these!), macaroni cheese
  • Apple sauce
  • Tinned peas
  • Marmite (but no Bovril – shame – vegetarians win again!)
  • Branston pickle (2.65 euros)
  • Bird’s custard powder
  • Ambrosia of some form
  • Cadbury drinking chocolate (sorry, if you’re reading this in a few years and it’s now “Kraft”, as a Birmingham girl: grrr)
  • Carr’s savoury biscuits
  • Fig rolls?!!
  • Pancake mix (highly offensive on our part I feel – the French definitely know how to do a good crepe!)
  • Green’s various ready-made cake mixes (the just add water and an egg kind)
  • Shortbread
  • Lemon curd
  • Various jams and marmelades (again offensive to the French – what about Bon Maman jams?)
  • HP sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Go Natural cereal bars
  • Sarson’s malt vinegar
  • Mint jelly (for the princely price of 2 euros and 53 cents – ouch)
  • What looks like a Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie for what looks remarkably like 4 euros and 90 cents – shocker!
  • Colman’s mustard – the French make without a doubt some of the best mustard in the world
  • Piccalilly?! Never eaten this in my life and at over 2 euros, don’t think I will.
  • PG Tips and various other brands of tea, presumably French strength…

So I can only conclude from this that our attitude to food whilst abroad is as follows:

Never mind what it is, so long as I can smother it in some kind of sauce.

 Because just look at the amount of condiments and sauces the aisle has to offer: HP Sauce, mustard, Sarson’s vinegar, and not just savoury; sweet too: cranberry, mint jelly, even custard – no course is spared from our compulsion to cover it in another strong tasting sauce.

And even more controversially, this aisle settles the age old argument of what is the best brand of tea. In one fell and conclusive swoop, Carrefour has named the winner of this title: PG Tips. And given that it’s priceless, who knows how much us foolish Brits are willing to part with to get our mitts on it. Well, I always prefer Yorkshire Tea personally, but that’s a topic not only for another blog post but for a whole new blog!

Apologies for the blurriness - taking photos in supermarkets is a tricky business!This is how obsessed we are with tea - again apologies for the blurriness.

This is how obsessed we are with tea - again apologies for the blurriness.

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Raiders of the Reduced Aisle Crosses the Channel

After months of silence, slogging away to finish my studies, I’ve popped over to work in France for a little while and what better way to celebrate an arrival with our continental cousins than by visiting my nearest supermarket and having a good snoop.
I’m extremely lucky to have an excellent Lidl right by my place here in Paris and as I have previously reported it’s sometimes easy to consider Lidl as one great big reduced aisle. But my god do they go one better here in France. Now surely we all agree that French food is ruddy bloody delicious (save the fact that every vegetable is overcooked and covered in herby butter) well imagine how they trump us in the reduced aisle. And of course it’s all about style and quality over quantity here, so sure I only found 2 things which I had to hunt for but check out what they are:

"It may not be Wednesleydale but it's very nice cheese Gromit"

So, delicious cheese and then I found some amazing steak….there is no hope for healthy eating here.

Pavés Marinés: aka bloody deliciously herbed hunks of steak

And then for your pleasure and delight I present my reduced aisle antics and travels over the past few months:
  1. A trip to a smallish Liverpool Tesco shows how other Tescos aren’t pulling their weight…
  2. A long journey back down the M50 calls for a stop at a prolific service station….
  3. Frantic scenes at Cardiff Tesco Extra at 7pm feeding time – definite scenes of shoving
  4. The wonderfully mental reduced aisle witnessed throughout July in Crwys Road Co-Op
 

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Co-Op takes the biscuit for strangest array of reduced items including: shampoo, pasta and air freshner.