The cooking continues this festive season here on Simply Without and while I feel at home and comfortable in the kitchen, a kitchen abroad can be tricky to navigate with different oven settings, temperatures and units of measurement. Mix in the grocery store and well, in one word: challenging. Food shopping is second nature to me, but when not at home I feel totally lost and like a foreigner; even to a country I have been coming to for over thirteen years.
When I come to England, the grocery store is the first place my mother-in-law and I like to visit. We go right to the cafe, have a coffee and start planning meals, snacks and menus for the holiday week! Overlooking the aisles I can’t help think about the farmers, food industries and people behind all the shelved items. We don’t have cafes like this in New York, or maybe I am just always in too much of a rush to stop for a pre- food shopping coffee.
After our cafe coffee, we head downstairs to gather our ingredients. Starting in produce, I feel OK navigating the brightly colored fruit and veggies. I love to read the labels from small British farmers. Smaller eggplants, carrots and onions than in the US which means less chemicals, smaller carbon footprint and non GMO goodies. The produce is separated by different types of fruit, then herbs, root vegetables and nuts and dried snacks are here too.
I normally mostly stock up in this area and then move to the gluten free section! This is a big difference than at home and if you are gluten free abroad, note that there is normally a completely separate section labeled Free From.
In the US we have the gluten free products mixed in with the regular products, which can be useful, but also tricky if you aren’t careful to read the labels. At Tesco there is a lot more options than last time I was here, but not everything is vegan. Most products are dairy free, but have eggs, but I did find a couple of bread products. The trick is be patient and read labels! One thing I love about the labels here, they bold the allergy ingredients, so you can scan for wheat, milk, eggs etc.
Next, the baking section for chocolate to make peanut butter cups, this aisle was fairly easy to navigate and I only had to ask for help once.
My American accent along with asking for gluten free products without dairy and eggs, is enough to throw off any local in the store, but for the most part I find everything I need and head back to bring all the ingredients together.
Tesco is our go to store while in England, but I do love Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer too! Since there is no vacation from food, the key is to read labels, scan for ingredients you know and ask questions. The results can be fine products for a great addition to your meals abroad.
Are you cooking abroad or away from home this holiday? Converting Celsius to Fahrenheit? Measuring in milliliters/kilos? I want to hear your stories!