Yes, I know that I am living in the city and there are more restaurants here than I can even comprehend, but trust me, I am NOT going to be eating out for every meal. Groceries are a must, even if it just for breakfast staples, but with the way the grocery stores are here, I’d be fine with eating in all the time. Being an avid cook anyway, I’ve always found the prospect of grocery shopping a bit fun, but with but with a whole now array of English products and grocery brands to explore, it is now quite the adventure.
London’s basic chain grocery stores are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose (the third being a bit more upscale) and although they may look like any old supermarket, they are actually quite different. I’ve noticed, above all things, how much further ahead London is in the organic, vegan, gluten-free, unprocessed, and preservative-free movement than the U.S. They don’t even have organic sections at the stores here because most everything is organic anyway. Free-range eggs are the only variety sold and many of the produce and meat items (at Waitrose at least) have a label telling where they come from. I can’t buy too much at one time though because the food here contains far fewer preservatives and has a much shorter shelf life. To be fair, however, I did have to chuckle a bit at the extraordinary biscuit (cookie or cracker in America) sections. I have never seen such an expansive aisle of the most bizarre and fun brands and names that would put Oreo’s and Little Debbie to shame (the dark chocolate Digestives are amazing by the way). I suppose no matter how healthy people get, they still have a place in their heart for their favorite biscuit.
My favorite grocery store, however, is a lucky little find called Planet Organic. Unlike the other stores, this place has a less sterile and bland grocery store feel and instead is cozy, with short ceilings and closely packed shelves. There’s a real homey feel to it with definite earthy vibes. Large vegan selections, numerous varieties of quinoa and lentils, shelves of fresh bread and herbal teas, exotic ingredients, beautiful and natural packaging, fresh local fruits and veggies, and so much more fill the spaces. Packs of granola, nuts, and dried fruit replace the candy shelves by the registers and a large takeaway meal bar features couscous salads, fresh veggies, and fair trade coffee for the health conscious on the go. This place is going to take much more money from me but it’s worth it.
Not to get too serious and sentimental here, but these stores really astound me and highly please me as someone who really cares about the quality of the food I put in my body. These grocery store visits have proven false the conceived notion that English food is starchy, unhealthy, and heavy. They have informed me of a food culture that is very old-fashioned and inspired by people long to get food that is as pure and as close to the source as possible. People don’t care if the food has dirt on it, in fact, the more the better. Freshness as essential and it’s imperative that none of the food is messed around with. The people here know how it’s done, now let’s just hope that America can catch up.