American Food in London

There are certain types of food I’ve missed since we moved abroad. Pancakes. Good peanut butter.  This being 2014, most day to day items are pretty easy to find.  But some days call for uniquely American ingredients that British people simply do not understand and, frankly,  do not care about.  Since this is America we are talking about, the missing ingredients are usually canned or processed foods loaded with preservatives.  Due to the abundance of Americans in London, there is a whole network of stores that caters to the needs of desperate souls looking to soothe their  Captain Crunch fix.  Any neighbourhood that is densely populated with expats is sure to have an American food store.We decided to visit said store in Holland Park in West London, which is on the edge of Notting Hill, a neighbourhood popular with expats thanks to the tear jerker movie with Hugh Grant from the mid-90’s.  Why one would choose their place to live because of a mediocre fictional movie is beyond me. But to each his own.

We went to the store specifically for some Thanksgiving shopping, a holiday that UK stores do not stock for.  The contents of this tiny, bodega-like store were amazing. Teddy Grahams.  A multitude of flavors of Pop-Tarts.  Dunking Donuts coffee.  A shocking number of Betty Crocker cake mixes. It was truly entertaining to walk around and gawk at these products that are apparently in demand among the American residents nearby.  They even had Tab, a soda I have not seen in a really, really long time, even in the States. Maybe it’s special ordered for a local American who really needs his Tab fix.  Not surprisingly, prices were high.  A large box of cereal was £6.50, or almost $10.  No competition from larger supermarkets plus desperate Funfetti-seeking resident equals you can charge whatever you want.

What was on our shopping list?  No Thanksgiving is complete without green bean casserole.  And not some fancy casserole.  This dish HAS to be made with canned green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and French’s Fried Onions.  There are no alternatives.  There are no substitutes.  If you think about putting a fresh, organic, perfectly al dente green bean in my casserole, we are going to have issues.  This is a dish best served with the lowest quality ingredients.

And yes, the French’s Fried Onions were £4.95, or over $7.  That is a lot of money for onions that were fried in a factory probably a few years ago, but that is the price you need to pay for great green bean casserole.

We left the American Food Store, its actual name, with the large shopping bag displaying a rather huge American flag.  I wish the bag was a little less garish and conspicuous, but maybe I deserve it as I drink my Diet Barq’s Root Beer.  There is no better time to celebrate all things Americana than when you walk out of the American Food Store, carrying bag full of American ingredients for your own private, American-friends only Thanksgiving, while the rest of the British population just has a boring, routine Thursday night.

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  • November 26, 2014

    Happy Thanksgiving guys!

    I am SO thankful to have met Julie during the workshop last week, and delighted to follow your shenanigans in London here on the blog. I am headed out in search of canned pumpkin today…wish me luck!!!

    • November 28, 2014

      We found canned pumpkin at Waitrose luckily. The French’s Fried Onions obviously required a special trip though!