And now, after our brief DC diversion, back to reliving London from one year ago...
After our Sunday roast, we desperately needed to walk around to digest all that delicious food. There was a Sainsbury's grocery store down the street from the restaurant, and we hadn't yet been to one of those, so we thought that would be the perfect spot to walk, explore, and maybe pick up a couple of snacks.
Near the entrance, we were greeted by a sign advertising fireworks. Here on the East Coast, fireworks aren't legally sold in most places (there's a reason for all the giant billboards as you drive through South Carolina), so it was strange to see them so casually mentioned in a grocery store of all places. Interesting, but not about food, so moving on.
We walked up and down every single aisle of the store, spending a decent amount of time in the produce section even though we couldn't really buy anything and didn't have a kitchen in our hotel room. One of the things that I was fascinated by were these herb and seasoning pastes. I had seen some of these at home at the time, although they were not at all commonplace and were fairly expensive. Trader Joe's now has a couple (ginger, umami) at decent prices, but they didn't then. If we had this array at home, I'd probably pick up one of each of them.
I was so happy with their allium selection. There were just so many varieties and they all looked so good. There were these giant leeks, baby onions, echalion shallots, and so many other types of onions, all from British farms. That was one thing that I had been noticing at the grocery stores we visited, both here and at Waitrose the day before - all the packaging left no question as the origin of the produce, and in many cases, proudly proclaimed their British origin. The bag didn't just say "baby onions," but instead, "British baby onions." It wasn't just produce, but also in meat, fish, everywhere. We definitely don't see that in most grocery stores at home, and it was nice to see that type of national pride about the quality of their food. I don't know if it's because of how our food is produced in the States versus Britain, or if they have to do it because of regulations, but the feel was different walking through the store. It just seemed like people in London cared more about where their food was coming from in ways that many people here don't, and there was a lot more talk about sourcing and sustainability everywhere, not just at the higher end shops.
As we strolled the aisles, we came across some Yorkshire pudding mix which we considered buying as a "souvenir" of our Sunday roast, but didn't in the end. It did amuse us though, seeing that so soon after our meal.
We walked through an entire aisle of yogurt (and wished we could get some but we didn't have a fridge), and then noticed one of the big differences between US and UK grocery stores (that we knew about before but had forgotten) - eggs. Eggs in the UK are not refrigerated. There are all sorts of good reasons why not (more here if you're wondering), but even though we knew they were fine, it still felt strange seeing all the eggs just sitting out there because of how we've been conditioned to see them at home.
We also saw a couple of shelves with Nando's sauces which we were really tempted by. We hadn't yet gone to Nando's in London (although we planned to), but we had gone to Nando's in three different states in the US earlier in the year. But the last thing we really needed at home was more sauces or condiments.
As we started nearing the last aisles in the store, the lights dimmed. We thought it was just a temporary glitch, but then we noticed that the lights never got brighter. After noticing that the store seemed pretty empty and checking the time, we realized that the store was closing. When the lights dimmed, everyone just went to the front of the store and checked out. No need for an announcement or anything. It was so orderly. We couldn't imagine that ever happening at home.
Our haul from the store ended up being some more bottled water (so dehydrated all trip), a couple of mini bags of chips and a bag of fruit jellies (all of which we ate during the trip), and two things from the spices section to bring home. I was pretty excited about the dried kaffir lime leaves and have used them quite a bit, but I'm a little embarrassed to say that a year later, I completely forgot we even bought the piri piri seasoning and obviously haven't used it at all. I should get on that. Don't want to waste our souvenirs!