When my husband and I first visited the U.S. with our very young children we stopped one day at a supermarket in Palos Verdes just outside L.A. I waited outside with our sleepy girls whilst my husband ventured into the shop. It was the first time he’d been in an American supermarket and just wanted a couple of small cartons of milk for the children to drink and maybe ‘lunch box’ sized treats of packets of dried raisins to eat. He came a cropper at the first hurdle (the milk). Here in the UK we have skimmed, semi-skimmed and full fat milk in small cartons of about 230ml (great for those lunch boxes), half litre and litre cartons. What he saw in that US supermarket was just totally mind-boggling. There was milk with this, milk with that, milk with this but not that, milk without any of it (except a little bit of this), milk with all of it and the sizes ranged from about 2 litres up to…well I don’t know really, he said they looked like gallon containers. A lady shopper saw his bewildered face and took pity on him.
‘You look lost’ she said. ‘Can I help?’
‘I just want milk,’ he replied forlornly. ‘Ordinary milk, from a cow, that no one has done anything to.’
That was our first experience of American food shopping. Nowadays, with regular visits under our belt, we’re old hands at it, rarely surprised by the sheer variety, sizings, quantities and even quirkiness of ingredients. (Although there are notable exceptions still)!
Today, because I’m just not feeling at my pukka best, I went over to YouTube to check out a few comedy videos to brighten my mood. I came across a French and Saunders sketch that I’ve never seen before and it made me laugh out loud because it’s filled with their usual silliness, comparing the tiny town of Bideford in Devon with life in a gated community in Florida, and because it references our above experiences of the American culture compared to our rather more austere (and sometimes lacking) European ways. Here it is: