Globalisation is a a subject which divides opinion. Some embrace the idea, others like to smash in McDonalds windows because of it (although I have to admit l felt like doing that after the last time I ate there). On the one hand, if you arrive in a strange land with strange custom, language and currency, seeing something immediately familiar can be very re-assuring until you find your feet. However, if that is all you experience of a country then you have failed epically at traveling.
It has been noticeable this trip just how homogenous Europe has become. Nespresso seems to be taking over Europe. I’ve had George Clooney smirking at me from shop windows everywhere we have been. We have so far managed to avoid drinking in the coffee shops (Starbucks & Costa…there are so many Costa’s in Europe now!), eating in the fast food chains (McDonalds, Burger King and KFC) or the chain restaurants (there has been a a TGI Fridays in every place we have visited). However, we have failed with the Supermarket.
When we checked into Prague, our host’s mother (see Day 5’s blog for the full story) told us the closest Supermarket was..you guessed it…Tesco. We headed off to stock up on some basics. It was slightly alarming how similar it was to Tesco at home. The only real difference being that they were selling bottles of beer cheaper than bottles of water (you’ve gotta love those Czechs). We used the self service aisle and had the same same sanctimonious woman telling us about there being an “unexpected item in the bagging area” and getting us to call for the assistant.
We also tried a supermarket called “Albert”, but that was really more to do with the name than any other reason. We stumbled across a very posh supermarket call Julius Meinl in Prague and Vienna. What made this supermarket (/restaurant/cafe) different was that it listed which country produce came from and had a little flag to illustrate it. This turned shopping into a sort of Geography quiz at the same time.
Karen squealed with delight when she found Almdudler (an Austrian herbal drink) in (unsurprisingly) the Austrian section, and Baci in the Italian section. Then it all began going a bit wrong. Karen is rather partial to Charbonnel and Walker “Chocolat Charbonnel”. Nothing like a nice bit of French hot chocolate….except it’s not….it’s British.
Well it’s nice to see that British firm is doing well, pretending to be French (a bit like the cast of ‘Allo ‘Allo). On a near by shelf was a very British product. Marmalade. Mrs Bridges to be precise (I assume named after the cook in the TV series Upstairs Downstairs. The original one with Gordon Jackson. Not that daft re-make which was effectively just “Downton Lite”). But what’s this. Mrs Bridges is German!
Well that was it. I couldn’t cope with anything else so I had to leave the shop in case I found out that Quakers Scots Oaks were actually Croatian or that Marmite is actually Russian (devised as a torture device by the KGB).
The fact is that as the world gets smaller (figuratively, not literally. That would break all the laws of physics if that happened) what we identify with as being a product from a country will change. The edges will blur. I could never imagine a McDonalds selling beer in it’s homeland, but they do all over Europe. Equally Costa is as British as they come with Whitbread brewery being the company behind them, but they pass themselves off as a a chain of Italian coffee shops. Saying that, our next stop is Italy, and even if there is a branch of Pizza Hut or Pizza Express…I’ll stick with the local fare.
Today’s cake is a Hugarian classic. It’ called kürtöskalács and you usually buy it from street vendors. It’s made on a roller affair and cooked over a charcoal fire. Link to the recipe below as usual (I’m guessing you will have to improvise with the BBQ and a rolling pin).