Monday, March 17, 2008

American food that I miss in the UK

Miracle Whip. I've learned to tolerate mayo, but it just doesn't have that tangy zip, ya know?

Root beer. Good root beer. Real root beer. This root beer.

And Vernor's, naturally.

And as long as we're on the subject of pop, Faygo. Espeically Redpop. Yes, ''red" is a flavor.

And distilled white vinegar. Despite being made by Heinz, and despite Heinz food products being all over the UK like tattoos on sailors, they don't sell their distilled white vinegar here. (I know because I asked them.) I can't describe to you what it tastes like, but it's not wine vinegar and it's not cider vinegar, or malt vinegar. It's unlike anything else, and in most cases you can't substitute anything else. I may never eat coleslaw again ('specially since the second ingred in the dressing is Miracle Whip! Double screwed!).

And why do Campbell's use different recipes for their UK soups???? I know it's nasty canned soup, but damnit I grew up eating tomato soup, and if it's good enough for Andy Warhol...
(it's also the base for the sauce for my grandmother's gallumpki recipe, another old family favorite I may never be able to make again, and it kills me that my kids won't grow up eating them for Christmas dinner every year. :o(

Oreos. Enough said.

And graham crackers. Digestive biscuits are similar, but they really aren't the same.

Grape-flavored anything. Everything here that's purple is blackcurrent flavored, even the skittles! How wrong is that!
Especially grape jelly. On a grilled bagel. With cream cheese. Oh my god you have no idea. And on PB&J. Grape is always the best on PB&J.

And speaking of bagels, good bagels would be lovely, if they could be had here. You don't have bagels in England, you have round bread. It's different. Trust me. If Einstein Bros. were to open a shop in London they'd make a killing.

And speaking of bagels, why do you not have pumpernickel??? ANYTHING???? You're closer to Germany than America is, so why is there no pumpernickel bread here???

And you'd think that in a country with enough Polish immigrants for the BNP to whinge about them at every fucking opportunity I could get a decent loaf of rye bread. You would think that, but you'd be wrong.

Speaking of Polish food, you people wouldn't know a decent dill pickle if it walked up and raped you.

Bacon. Even what you call "streaky bacon" isn't the same. It's got to be something in the curing process, because when I cook English bacon the fat turns all hard and white and rubbery. It doesn't melt away at all. Gross! How am I supposed to get bacon drippings for recipes??? (Once I was in a shop where the girl at the check-out was German, and we spent 10 minutes bitching with each other about how crap the bread and bacon in England are. At least I'm not alone. *sigh*)

Proper pizza. Real, sloppy pizza with a soft crust (as opposed to the matzah bread that passes for pizza crust in this godforsaken land), globs of spicey tomato sauce oozing all over (NOT the ketchup you people use. One word: OREGANO), and heaps of mozarella cheeze (now hear this: CHEDDAR CHEESE DOES NOT BELONG ON PIZZA!)

Getting back to the peanut butter issue, there is a decided paucity of peanut butter in the UK. Jars of it, sure no problem. But could I lay hands on a Reeses peanut butter cup if my life depended on it? Doubtful. Ditto Reeses Pieces. Ditto peanut butter Twixt.

And that's just the processed, packaged food. Let's move on to produce, shall we?

Basically during the month of August I go nuts for want to of decent produce. I grew up in an agricultural state, eating (despite what you may think based on the above diatribe) a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. Come summer time we'd go to the farm market in town, about a mile and half walk, and buy all sorts of yummy, fresh stuff that had been picked that morning by, *gasp!* the same people that grew it!!

These are some of things I miss the most...

First of all, my esteemed British readers should be aware of something: Corn on the cob should NEVER, EVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, be sold pre-shucked and packaged in shrink wrap on foam trays. This is wrong. This is evil. This is the devil's work. If you can't buy sweetcorn that looks like this, you should not buy it at all. Period.

Ripe tomatoes. It just doesn't get hot enough here for good tomatoes, even in the greenhouses.

Ditto the peaches.

Blueberries. They're available, but at about 15 times the cost of back home. A blueberry pie here sets me back about $20 or more. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

And finally, apples! The English are very proud of their apples, but the varieties available here are really, really limited. And they're all very sweet. The stores carry braeburn, gala, and cox varieties, and that's about it. You can get granny smiths (which I like for cooking) and bramelys (which the English like for cooking), but you can't get any tart red varieties. Come fall i'd cut my ear off for half a peck of northern spys or ida reds or jonathans or cortlands. mmmm, cortlands...
(Pirate has already agreed that we will be growing our own apples from older, more antique varieties, before they hybridized them for maximum fucking sugar content and they really did keep the doctor away. Maybe they still do, but brace yourself for a trip to the dentist instead! Blech.)

And lastly, while we're on the subject of apples, I MISS CIDER!!! You can get fabulous hard cider over here, and that's great. But you can't get fresh cider. It doesn't exist. I want fresh, unpasteurized, oxidized cider. In gallon jugs.
Fortunately, Pirate has agreed that once our trees are producing, we can invest in a small, one-man cider press. Whee!


Annie Rhiannon said...

I am so with you on all this. UK food is rubbish. So is Irish food. It's just awful and disgusting, we have no clue.

Being in both Italy AND New York was a foodie's dream come true.

Morgan said...

Doesn't your mum send you care packages from home? I'd not have been able to survive without those when I left home.

Belladona said...

You can get Oreos and Reese's peanut butter cups here. Oreos I usually find in delis and oddly Topshop sometimes sell Reese's stuff by the counter (tho' it is stupidly overpriced). You can sometimes get other american items in delis but you have to hunt.
Haven't you any polish supermarkets near you? Keep a lookout, there are loads of polish people in my area now so there are also more and more polish items being stocked in sainsburys and also purely polish shops.

Geosomin said...

You can still get Hires in thestates? I feel gypped...I thought my favorite rootbeer was long gone. Cool.
But you have Cidona...and the Guinness is better. That has to count for something...

Homer said...

Dear God woman, the can of worms you will have opened up...

oread the SSA said...

It looks like mum was right, you DO need a care package...ASAP!
I don't know about Hires, I think it's gone under, but we do have a Thomas Kemper brewery here...

hendrix said...

I have no idea at all what miracle whip is but if it’s tangy stuff that’s sort of similar (ie gloopy and pale) to mayo you’re after, you could try Heinz salad cream?

Root beer – well that is American. But you could always try growing your own ginger beer plant.

Vernors – no clue.

Faygo – ditto

Distilled white vinegar. That is strange because Judegirl asked me to send her a couple of bottles of distilled vinegar at Christmas cos she couldn’t find it over there. You can buy it here because I use it to clean with but as I don’t have any at the moment (we’re in the week before the monthly shop) I can’t tell you who makes it. I think though that’s probably Asda’s own make.

Campbells tomato soup is horrid – Heinz’s is much better, although obviously the tin isn’t quite as iconic.

Oreos – They advertise them on TV so I’m presuming you can get them here.

Graham Crackers – Try Asda I’m sure I saw some in there – I think they’re in the world foods section.

Grape Flavoured anything – now you have me, because I adore goober grape jelly.

Bagels – try making them yourself – dead easy to make (and just as a tip – most supermarkets will give you free yeast if you ask at the bread counter).

Pumpernickel - ditto

Rye bread. Lidls. Or you could make your own.

Dill pickles…you’re probably right although the German ones you can buy in Lidls are pretty good.

Bacon – First off – stupid question - you are cutting the rind off it aren’t you? If so then it really depends on the sort of bacon you buy. I don’t have a problem getting bacon dripping from bacon but I don’t ever buy streaky. Try back, nothing too cheap cos then it just disintegrates into water and avoid the fancy cured types if you want dripping.

Alternatively if you ask then usually the meat counter in the supermarket have suet which you can use instead.

Proper Pizza – Depends what you call proper pizza really. People have wildly differing views on this. For example I can’t bear pizza with any sort of doughyness to the bread at all. Luckily the guy who owns the pizza place downstairs is from Marseilles so the pizzas have millimetre thin crusts and loads of oregano.

Reeses peanut butter cups and pieces – You can buy them here but it’s true that not everywhere stocks them.

Proper produce? Surely your town has a farmers market? I bet it does. Do a search for it. If you go just before they start to close up for the day everything is reduced too.

Ripe Tomatos. Sorry. You’ve never tasted the ones mum grows in her porch or the ones my granddad used to grow or indeed the ones I grow every year on the windowsill in the computer room (moneyspinner and tumbler are great to grow indoors and crop from July through to October – two plants of each were all I needed to grow to have tomatoes with every meal)

Peaches – can’t bear the horrid things, like eating fruit wrapped in mouseskin.

Blueberries – they aren’t a financially viable crop to grow (unfortunately cos I love them) but the frozen ones aren’t too bad especially for cooking with.

Apples – Yes, have to agree with you, paucity of varieties in supermarkets however if you find a farmers market then you should be ok.

Cider – you can buy it and there are some wonderful types out there. I’d suggest again, the farmers markets – that’s where I used to buy mine. Or try a specialist off licence. I doubt you’re going to find it in a supermarket though -

Calamity Jane said...

Just stumbled in from I'm not sure where - excellent rant. For a modest handling charge I could probably hook you up with most of the groceries (wouldn't want to be sending you produce via Royal Mail though, might be slightly mushy upon arrival).

Alternatively you could try Rip-offs-R-Us aka CyberCandy - a company making the most of the pound vs the dollar

Calamity Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calamity Jane said...

Good grief, let's try this the low tech way:

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Annie R: cheers, big ears. it's nice to hear a voice of assent once in a while around here!

Morgan: you're kidding, right? you
think i would ever ask my mum to pay international shipping rates to post me pop? Or miracle whip??? Do you have any idea what that would cost?

Bella: ah, that explains it. No, there are no delis in Bristol, and I don't shop at Topshop because their clothes are ugly and don't fit me, so I didn't notice they sell Reeses.

Geo: you could the last time I was home. That's been a while, mind. Funny about the Guiness, all the Irish people I know in Boston (there are a lot of them) complain that the Guiness in the USA sucks compared with Ireland. Huh.

Homer: no, I don't miss worms. And they're plentiful, anyways.

Oread: a plane ticket back to Michigan in the month of August so I could eat my way through the state would be cheaper than shipping that crap over here!

HC: hello! I've missed you! (I can't eat you, though. Or can i... ;-p)

Miracle Whip is not salad cream. Salad cream is gross and needs to die.

vinegar: really? you use it? when i ask for it in stores (and i've tried every store in bristol) people look at me like i've got a pineapple growing out the side of my head! if you can think of a brand that makes it, please tell me so i can contact the company and find out where it's available.

yes, Campbell's tomato soup here is horrid. Campbell's tomato soup in America is a completely different recipe, despite having an indentical label. Trust me.

Oreos/graham crackers: awesome.

Bagels: making bagels is not easy. you have to boil the dough before you bake it. This is what distinguishes a true bagel from round bread, which is what you get here. I really don't have the facilities and equipment for bagel-making.

Goobers: it's funny about the Goober Grape stuff. I actually had a with me in Edinburgh this summer that I'd brought over with the intention of giving you (you mentioned once in a post a long time ago that you loved it), so when we weren't able to meet I had to eat it by myself. *sniff*

bacon: the bacon i've tried buying didn't seem to have a visible rind. I've tried the streaky and the regular stuff, and I can't get drippings off either one. (and none of the supermarkets where I live have meat counters.)

Pizza: i know the pizza debate is really a matter of taste (ba-doom ching!). i just like what i like.

Farmers market: there is one, every wednesday morning, but the sad fact is i just can't afford it. the produce there costs 3 times what it does in the supermarket. someday when i'm working full time i'll be able to spend the extra money to support the local growers, but i just can't be charitable on a student budget. i just can't.

tomatoes: you're right, i haven't. someday when i have space (right now i live in 1 room that's too small even to be called a bedsit) i will grow my own.

blueberries: i can't make blueberry pie with the frozen ones. the recipe requires fresh because half of them don't get cooked -- they go in raw! rawr!

cider: um, to be honest, i doubt it. i think we're probably thinking of different things.
thanks for all the advice, though! good to have you back. x

peaches: you feel that way because you've never had a good one. there is not a single peach in this country worth eating. go to america in august and you'll see what i mean. they have a completely different texture, and they're heavenly! let me convert you!

Calam: i definately should not be allowed near candy with a credit card!

Frobisher said...

I've seen white vinegar, oreos, Reece's peanut butter cups in the shops - try Waitrose supermarket.

Grow your own tomatoes - most shop ones are from Spain/Holland and tasteless. Unfortunately you have to pay for quality here. Grape jam sounds yum, start harassing the food companies (which are prob. American owned anyway).

You are SO WRONG about cider - fer Christsakes you live in the West Country. Try Farmers Markets, food festivals or even explore the countryside and look for signs at farms!

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Frobi: no Waitrose in Bristol. (not that it matters, i probably couldn't afford to shop there if there was.)
I will grow my own 'maters when I have a house with space. currently i live in a bedroom in an 8-storey urbran tower block. that is all i have. As for cider, i really don't think you grasp what i'm describing. hard cider is abundant and delicious. what i'm talking about is fresh cider, which is not known here. I gave some to Pirate when he was at my parents' home for Christmas 2 years ago. He had never seen or tasted anything like it, and he was born in Cornwall.

FirstNations said...

on the other hand, they DO have pie in a can.

this certainly simplifies the quandary of what to get you for a wedding gift (welches grape jelly in the family size jar! enough to last the whole honeymoon!!!!)

The Black And Hollow Heart said...

I can get Oreos in the local corner shop, Reeces anything and Welch's grape Jelly ......they do have all that stuff here you just have to be lucky enough to live in a community where it is demanded....ask you local shop to start stocking it.

Miss Melville said...

Oh god, how I miss maricle whip! I totally agree, salad cream is probably the devil... Also, no Hidden Valley Ranch here, which you might not miss, but I certainly do!

It might be a Scotland thing, but we've got peanut butter cups, grape jelly and pumpernickle. We also have a hearty polish population, and I'm told that the pickles won't be far behind (not that I eat them anyway). Also, we're golden on the bagel front. I even bought some lox a while back-- fantastic.

When you do set up your cider press, I will vacation to help you use it. Did you ever go to Glies as a kid and try their cider? I'm willing to bet it's the best in the world. Full stop.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

FN: you mean the meat pies? some of them are lovely, some are just congealed fat surrounded by greasy starch. fresh pies are better. I know a pub in manchester that serves a steak, Guiness, and stilton pie. Heavenly!

Black and Hollow: it seems Brizzle shoppers just aren't as discriminating as your neighbors!

MM: ooh, I'm ALL about the ranch, and no one does ranch like Hidden Valley. But i've found a cheat: you can buy powdered HV Ranch in packets at Meijers. Dehydrated. Doesn't weigh a thing. I buy a few boxes every time I go home and bring them back with me. Presto! Ranch whenever I want it!

The only place I've seen pumpernickel bread in the UK was in Edinburgh in a gourmet deli. Apparently the scots know a thing or two about bread, and good on 'em.

Yes, you can come play with the cider press, but that's still some years away. First we have to have a house with some land, then we have to have trees putting out a decent yield. (We used to go to G's farms for our cider and hot pumpkin donuts!)

hendrix said...

Damn! you mean I missed you and a jar of goober grape jelly...that just made my bad day worse!
Anyway - I know you live in a tiny room but I grow my tomatoes on top of a very small chest of drawers in the computer room and there is a type of cherry tomato called (I think) Tumbler which grows to about 40cm in height and about 60-80cm width and it fruits continuously. Have a hunt for it - it would be worth it.

Bagels aren't difficult but I'll admit the boiling makes them fiddly. Perhaps one to leave till you get your own kitchen.

Peaches - no, can't convert me. Didn't even like the ones in the South of France.

Farmers market - It depends on where you live and what you buy I suppose. I used to do ok at the one in Palmers Green - even on a tight (£50-80 a month) food budget (for 2). Otherwise, are there any ethnic shops near you? Chinese or Indian wholesalers are usually pretty good for cheap and good quality veg.

llewtrah said...

Oreos are available - so much so they are advertised on TV. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and other peanut confectionery is available (Woolworths usually stock them). Pumpernickel is widely available in supermarkets - real pumpernickel! Maybe you just have crap supermarkets there?

And the Italian pizzas we get are the real thing, none of your sloppy USAnian faux-pizzas for us taverrymuch.

You have obviously not investigated farm shops or Waitrose where you can get all sorts of apples including heritage varieties. I get Orange Pippin, Spartan, Starking, Empire, Russet and various old varieties whose names I have to look up when I buy them. Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer feature heritage apples throughout the year.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

It seems some of my deficiencies are just access problems. THERE IS NO WAITROSE IN BRISTOL! (I have a Pains-bury's Local and a Tesco Metro, and that's IT.)
And I don't have a TV, so I have no idea what's advertised on it.

Anonymous said...

Root beer. Miracle Whip. Oreos. Grape jelly. Peanut butter.

Ah. The "joys" of American food - and I use the term loosely.

Don't even get me started on French Fries, French Toast or any form of alcoholic beverage that claims to be beer.

grapecat said...

try ocado - they deliver waitrose groceries, they deliver to me in kent and there's no waitrose anywhere near. and try farmers markets - you're right - fruit and veg in supermarkets are not edible - but the farmers market scene is fab and cheap :)

llewtrah said...

I wandered into a couple of random corner shops at the weekend. 2 out of 3 of them stocked Oreos. Bristol has a Walmart/ASDA and it is served by buses. Git yer bum into gear, check out the bus website for routes and timetables and if you're that serious about the foods you miss make the journey! Good grief woman, think ahead! There may come the day when you get "cravings" and you'll be thanking me for nagging you into checking out the buses!

CompuNerd said...

hmm....stuff in the US of A...

Root beer, hires was damn good, too bad you can't find it easily around here. The one I found in Meijers at one point was Frostop but it was only on a hit and miss occasion, I still usually do A&W or Barq's.

I try not to use miricle whip much.

Cider...Apple Farm, Charlotte, MI, fresh pressed in October with some pumpkin donuts or apple donuts...damn, now that is sounding good but you can't get good cider in VA.

Veggies, only a farm market will help you there since you can't grown your own.

B said...

You can get pumpernickle it most respectable delis. In particular you can get it in Wild Oats.

Kanga said...

You can have a gander at:

That is an American food order online, like cybercandy, but more variety and not as expensive.
Also there is:
They are located up in Scotland, but they have a variety of mexican/tex-mex and American stuff.

I'm sure in time you'll learn how to substitute or know what place has American or American style product you want.

But, just think all the calories you are missing out on by not consuming so much High Fructose Corn Syrup!

Lisa said...

You have to PROVIDE the bacon with grease in order to make it crispy like American bacon. I have figured this out after 3 years of living in the God Forsaken UK.
I found this website today, which made me feel ever so much more like moving back to the western hemisphere. Last night (truthfully) I had a dream that I was telling 2 English people that everything in this country (at least food) is just second rate (if not 3rd). Not to mention customer service or convenience!! (what convenience?? oh more taxes??)

I use sunflower oil but I make sure that my bacon is swimming in the sunflower oil to a level that the bacon in America normally would have produced on its own, THAT IS THE ONLY WAY, I have achieved CRISPY CORRECT BACON in the UK.

I hate the food here. I have had digestive problems since my arrival 3 years ago. (lets have some MORE grease!! eew fish and chips- the leading cause of IBS) I live in a small town, which makes it that much worse and why I am complaining so much.

You were speaking of Bagels, thats how I found you, cuz my husband and I are going to open a bagel shop here soon, and I am currently trying samples to see if there are any worth buying premade. I just had one of Bagel Nash's everything bagels, like 10 minutes ago.
It did NOT have everything on it. It did NOT taste anything like as good as an EINSTEIN'S everything bagel but what the hell did I expect?? Not much and I was right.

This is the only country that speaks english as a rule in europe that is why we live here. If they spoke English as a rule in Poland or Spain, I wouldnt think twice about packing up my car tomorrow and leaving. (my husband is a polish citizen, mmm... polish food is our only salvation in this country)

He and I seriously stand on the High street in my town and repeat to each other - 'what should we get to eat?? I dont know, I dont want that, no not that,, eeew not that, oh I dont know!!!" Anyway, sorry to complain. England has been very good to us but I have lost 40 lbs since moving here (because the food is shit and I just dont want to eat it, not to mention parking 5 miles from anything all the time)
Well, Im getting off of here.

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Anonymous said...

i think the nearest to american cider is what we call cloudy apple juice you can find it in the chiller in most large supermarkets.

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Anonymous said...

This scares me in a way. I want to move to England for college and all the food on this list is my favorites. But there are substitutes I guess..

leanne said...

You all are so funny! I love this! I am from America, seriously, it would probably benefit us to get rid of some of our "good food" we are the fattest country haha.

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