Tuesday, January 01, 2013

No Small Potatoes

Among some Americans, there is a presumption that British cuisine is…somewhat lacking. Frankly, based on my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. I have not gone grocery shopping frequently while visiting London, but occasionally we have.  Visiting food stores is one interesting way to experience a slice of culture in a particular country.

One of the first times we visited our daughter and son-in-law, we spent a fair bit of time in absolute delight at the Borough Market, which was near their flat at that time.  We loved wandering around the various stalls—in fact, I wrote about thatexperience.  The smells, the sights, the absolute sensual overload. 
On our most recent trip, I went grocery shopping with our son-in-law.  Our mission—procure all the ingredients for a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch New Year’s Day dinner: pork loin roast, potatoes, sauerkraut and applesauce.  The large grocery store we went in had lovely pork roasts, including some from free range pigs.  Really?  Thinking about shopping for meats in my local U.S. grocery store, I do not routinely find free range meats.

And as for potatoes.  Well!  I did recall the Borough Market shopping experience where the vegetable arrays were an absolute feast for  the eyes, with at least 10 different kinds of POTATOES.  Once again, the choices were far larger than I would find in a typical U.S. grocery store.  In the U.S., I might have a choice of ordinary white potatoes, yellow potatoes, redskin potatoes and baking potatoes.

In London, in a large grocery store, my choices were:  “essential” potatoes, “essential” baking potatoes, organic potatoes, organic NEW potatoes, baby potatoes,  Maris Piper potatoes, King Edward potatoes, McCain roasting potatoes, Red Desiree potatoes, Charlotte potatoes, Carlingford small new potatoes, Roseval potatoes and fingerling potatoes.  All of these were the FRESH potatoes.

Our shopping trip was successful—true, we had to go to two different grocery stores to get all the items.  The large grocery store was OUT of sauerkraut.  But, once we went to a grocery that stocked “American” goods, we got the sauerkraut AND the applesauce.

Our New Year’s Day meal was a success.  And my admiration is great for the dedication of English grocers, small and large, whether in supermarket grocery store or open-air market, to stocking a full array of marvelous foods.

Next time someone scoffs at English cuisine—I might just say “it is far better than you know.”  Why, in the U.S., you can only find a few kinds of potatoes.   And no small potatoes!
 Note the dish with mashed potatoes in the foreground.


Ginnie said...

Wow, the mashed potatos alone look like a full meal. Glad you were with family and I wish you a Happy New Year and lots of blogging in 2013.

Climenheise said...


Climenheise said...

BTW, one person is smiling broadly, one is smiling slightly, and one looks affronted that you are taking a picture. Why is that?

Liza Lee Miller said...

Sounds yummy! When I was in London, we stayed with friends. She made fresh bread everyday and had these amazing puddings that you could heat up in the microwave. I think I lived on her bread and those puddings. We didn't try cooking while we were there. The market we went to was wonderful. I would be more intimidated by their small kitchens. Even cooking regularly in my motorhome, I think you'd have to be quite efficient to cook a large meal in an English kitchen! I love English food though!

Here in California, we have LOTS of free-range chicken. I'm not sure I've found free-range pork, however. Bet it was good!

Stevie said...

I love visiting the local Mexican and Chinese grocery stores. Now if there wasn't a language barrier maybe I would know what to do with all the cool stuff you see in there! Stevie@ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I suspect that the great varieties if potatoes and the free range pork is due to the many smaller farm operations. The meal sounds lovely.
Europe is away ahead of North America on the human treatment of farm animals which usually means abandoning confinement of live stock methods.

Anvilcloud said...

I think maybe bad cuisine is a thing of the past, and even then perhaps it wasn't true. My English granny could cook a mean roast.

Paddy said...

Happy New Year!

Have you read "Fatal Harvest"? A very good book that talks about loss in Agrobiodiversity. They mention that although there are about 5000+ varieties of potatoes only 4 account for the commercial majority today. I wonder how much of that is dictated by the fast food industry and the demand for fries

KGMom said...

Paddy--I have not. I will have to look it up. Good point on the fast food industry dictating our food choices, and thereby the farming choices.
I do worry about eliminating too many vegetable choices--makes us more vulnerable to plant diseases, etc.