There seems to be a common misconception among many Americans that when it comes to shopping and eating, there is far greater variety on the western side of the Atlantic as opposed to in Europe. While in some quarters of the market this may be the case, in the area that currently makes up 95% of our shopping, namely food, we have found far more variety in supermarkets this side of the Atlantic.[ad#ad-1]

Our shopping basket frequently holds lush black and red seedless grapes from South Africa, Italian Kiwi fruit, New Zealand lamb, Dragonfruit (Pitaya) from Vietnam, salmon from the remote lochs of Western Scotland, Fuji apples from Japan and China, broccoli tips from Kenya, French and Italian cheeses, Spanish tomatoes, baby potatoes from Israel, and on. It has become a fun – and educational – game with the kids to note the country of origin of the food we buy.

If you know where to go, I’m sure these are all freely available in the US but we never noticed them on the shelves of our local larger supermarkets (Wal-Mart, Giant Eagle etc.) Here, these items and more all seem to be carried as standard.

Much of the variety in the UK may derive from the way in which the country gets its food. Comparatively little of the food consumed in the UK now comes from truly local sources. In contrast, the US provides much of its own food. This domestic production leads to greater availability; however, it seems to offer less choice for the consumer who chooses to shop beneath one roof.

The variety extends beyond the supermarket shelf. Large scale immigration into the UK in recent years has led to a huge variety in high street restaurants. For instance, in one block of a neighbouring town we can choose between traditional British fish ‘n’ chips, Thai, India, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Chinese foods – all within 100 metres; if we include the adjacent block the variety extends even further, including Iranian and Hungarian cuisine.

Anyhow, it’s time for me to have a cup of tea – from Kaisugu, Kenya.

The return of the reds

When Walker’s decided to create new flavours for its crisps, one of the popular ones was Cajun Squirrel.  I never tasted it, and I don’t know which one Walker’s will decide to eventually add to its line, but I just thought Cajun Squirrel was a silly joke.  Apparently, this is not the case.

The campaign to reintroduce and protect the red squirrel has been so successful in the north, that the man behind the campaign is moving south to do the job.  He has reported that the gray squirrels are a delicacy and have been in great demand at butcher’s and restaurants.  (I wonder if Walker’s has been putting in orders.)  In the US, we called them “road kill” (and, yes, people in the US have devised a wide selection of road kill recipes), but here, the squirrels are trapped.

It doesn’t sound very fair to the grays, and I do wonder if there’s a difference in the taste between the grays and the reds.  And what about the blacks?  They’re still quite rare over here.  I hope they don’t end up killing all the grays.  In the US, we had the full range of colours.  We even had bi-racial squirrels running around our yard – red fur covering half the way, black the rest, and various other combinations.  I hope this doesn’t become a one-squirrel country.