The Differences Between Food in England and the United States

Well weve been in England for over a month, and are adjusting pretty well, actually. I think I expected it to be quite a bit more drastic and chaotic than it has been, so far at least. Maybe Im just mostly relieved to be done packing/moving out/traveling across the world with a toddler/settling in. I know well reach a point of culture shock eventually. I guess maybe this has something to do with still being mostly just a mom + grad student. My responsibilities, though in a different country on a different continent, are still mostly the same. And thought I hadnt been working much in the States, now Im not working at all for the time being at least. We really love living somewhere so walkable-we can literally see on grocery store from our home, and theres another within 400 yards (or __? meters, Im not good at doing the conversions yet!)

These are just some of the differences that weve noticed so far, in our short time here and especially related to food.

1. The eggs are not refrigerated.

This has been weird to get used to, but in England they dont generally refrigerate eggs. In the grocery stores, they are all on the aisles, generally in the baking section. And in the home, they are generally just kept on the counters in an egg basket or carton. Apparently, the eggs here are not dipped in a sanitizing (often bleach) solution as they are in the states, so the eggshell is not broken down, thus removing the need to be refrigerated. This sanitizing solution removes a cuticle layer of the egg, thus making the egg more susceptible to harmful bacteria like salmonella. The colder temperatures in the refrigerator help prevent eggs from deteriorating so quickly. The English egg shells are a bit harder, weve noticed. You have the hit them a bit harder to crack them.

British Insider explains

In the U.S., the Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that eggs destined to be sold on supermarket shelves — called graded eggs — are washed and sprayed with a chemical sanitizer before they are sold to the public to reduce the risk of salmonella infection.

In the U.K., Grade A hen eggs may not be washed because the process is thought to aid the transfer of harmful bacteria like salmonella from the outside to the inside of the egg, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. In fact, Forbes contributor Nadia Arumugam pointed out that USDA graded eggs could not be legally sold in the U.K. (and the other way around) due to these different preparation methods.

Fascinating, huh? I thought so.

2. All the produce comes in plastic packaging.

Im not sure how I feel about this one, but most apples, onions, avocados, salad greens, carrots, blueberries, etc. etc. some in plastic containers and then are sealed in another package. It is still basically the dead of winter, and most of the produce seems to come from far away lands, so Im not sure if this is a seasonal thing or not? The only things in season in England right now seems to be potatoes and carrots, ha! But there is so much plastic is the produce section! And this makes the produce displays way less colorful and appealing, to be honest. We live near a lot of farming land, so Im hoping to find some local places to buy produce during the later spring and summer/harvest months. I still am getting used to seeing grapes and zucchini stamped with origins of places like South Africa, Morocco, and Israel. They seem so foreign to me; even more foreign than seeing Chili and Mexico when I lived in Bellevue. I just dont get it, if youre going to wash it anyway, why does it all need to be wrapped in plastic?!

3. They eat a lot of cakes and sweet, refined-flour things.

This really puzzles me. I assume they eat all this stuff, but Im not sure where it all goes. Somehow they stay so slim, at least in our area that Ive noticed. The only thing I can gather is that the walking everywhere all day long makes up for all the cakes and beers! And except for breads, nothing is whole wheat! I dont understand Maybe using whole wheat in baking isnt really traditional here, or I was just spoiled in Seattle with artisan whole wheat or gluten free things at my finger tips.

4. They walk everywhere.

I really think this helps answer the question of how they stay slim while drinking lots of ale and eating cake. Im not driving here- yet, at least (they drive crazy fast on the other side of the road on the other side of the car), so I walk to the library, grocery store, park, swimming, river, trails, pharmacy, and I love it. Since Elsas been born, I havent had the luxury of not getting in my car all day, while still having access to anything I needed. Walking seems to be a way of life for the Brits, both for daily needs and recreationally as they have an amazing collection of public footpaths throughout the country. Since I walk to the store, this means I go a lot more often, almost every day it seems for little bits.

5. There arent as many options at the store.

Generally speaking, there arent as many options in the stores as we had in the States. I dont think I really consider this a negative, because in the States, we really had WAY TOO MANY options when it came to milk, crackers, snacks, yogurts, etc. Why does a grocery store nearly half the size of a football field need to exist, when its mostly filled with 2-3 long aisles of processed snacks and convenience foods? Now there are still snacks and convenience foods in England, but just not as many. There are also generally 3 types of milk (maybe an organic brand or two, and a convenience brand or two) in most stores, rather than the 10 brands my QFC used to carry in Bellevue. This keeps shopping a bit simpler, and I like having the stores a bit smaller and easier to navigate personally.

6. Fairtrade products are a lot more common.

Read more about Fairtrade Foundation here. Ive noticed this sticker on a lot more products than in the States, and I even lived in the Seattle-area! The foundation has a strong and active presence in the UK and many products, both organic and commodity, may have a fair-trade sticker on them. Almost all the bananas Ive seen are Fairtrade.

{ Isnt she sweet running through the daffodils?}

7. People spend more time outside.

This is probably related to walking everywhere, and the fact that I dont drive (Brian does, and I will eventuallybut havent yet). We are outside everyday walking or running to shops/groceries or to parks or to the river. We get lots of use out of our wellies, and Elsa is always wearing her warm insulated coat and warm pants over her inside clothes. Its still chilly in England, I think the seasons are a bit behind Seattles.

8. Their coffee is so watery!

Its so watery here! We generally make our own espresso, so this doesnt really affect us much, but their coffee is so watery compared to the norm in Seattle.

I think those are the main differences weve noticed in our short month of living here. There are probably several other things, but these are the things that have stood out the most.