More cheddar cheese

Cheddar cheese

I was feeling like a man today and went all-in for the #5 cheese.

Cheddar cheese options

Cheddar cheese

Sainbury’s helpfully ranks their cheese strengths from one to five, where five is apparently something like “strongly mature and aged”. I wasn’t man enough for that, so I opted for the more reasonable #4.

It’s pretty good, but it’s no Beecher’s Flagship. I’m looking forward to exploring cheddar here in the UK to find something that rivals my hometown fave.

Kitchen tool…?

Spatula

Who broke my spatula?

Seriously, though, this is one of the tools I found in corporate housing. All my years of cooking and I’ve never seen anything like it. Can’t imagine what it’s designed for.

Grocery shopping in London

I’m not afraid to say it, I already miss American-style grocery stores. I’ve been here for 24 hours and I’d kill (a chicken) for my Safeway back home. Not for its physical size like most people would think (because of course Americans just love their big box stores), or the one-stop-shopping, but because of the wide selections of real food.

Shopping here in our London neighborhood, as my wife described it, is like shopping at 7-11. Yes, the grocery stores have a little of everything, just not much in the way of quality or choice, and the amount of garbage food is astounding. I’m not talking about regular junk food like candy, potato chips (crisps), or breakfast cereals (although that does all exist). I’m talking about prepared foods, pre-made packaged meals, frozen microwaveable single-serving things, the eat-it-only-if-you-can’t-boil-water-for-ramen food. You know that freezer section down the middle of every Trader Joe’s? Imagine an entire grocery store full of stuff like that. The London groceries stores in my new neighborhood seem to be extremely targeted at people who can’t (or don’t) cook.

And packaging? The US ain’t got nothing on the UK. Everything, I mean everything is sold in a plastic tray and wrapped with plastic, even the fresh produce. What’s going on in the UK that’s so bad that you have to shrink wrap broccoli?

Of course, some of my opinion is colored by the fact that I can’t find what I’m used to and that’s uncomfortable and frustrating. I am particularly missing ham (pressed ham) and decent avocados for breakfast. I wish my local grocery store had better produce – Washington apples, even though the best ones get shipped to Hong Kong, the ones we keep behind are fresh, firm, delicious, and diverse in breed. Apples here are nearly flavorless, pale red, and tiny. Oh, and don’t forget coffee. I really miss a nice selection of whole bean coffees. I know I’m (arguably) in the land of tea, but I find it extremely odd that the varieties of freeze dried instant coffee seemingly out numbers the tea selection at my local Sainsbury’s.

On the upside of shopping here in London, I have found peanut butter and that’s a bit of a relief. I don’t know where everyone gets the idea that there’s no peanut butter in the UK. I’m have a jar in my kitchen right now! I would also say that the eggs here are wonderful. Not the pale yellow things with runny whites we get in the States, but nice thick strong whites with nearly orange yolks; so much flavor!

I’m looking forward to eventually knowing where all the single-product markets are so I can avoid the less-than-mediocre selection at the grocery store. It might be a little more expensive and definitely more time-consuming, but I’m sure I’ll be getting the level of quality I’m used to. Plus, it’s just kinda cool and European to shop at smaller places and get to know the purveyors while supporting local businesses.

Whoops, bad planning!

I should have realized this before we left the US, but I can’t port my phone to Google Voice while in London. I need to receive a confirmation code on my cell phone. Which of course only works in the US. Shit.

We went shopping for cell phones today and found a solution that will work for our budget. But imagine our surprise when the sales guy told us “Debit cards only, tied directly to your UK bank account.”

“Um, don’t have one of those. You don’t take credit cards?”

“Nope.”

The irony is that our soon-to-be banker wants us to call him so we can finish setting up our bank account. Ostensibly so we can get a cell phone. To be able to call our banker.

Go figure.