Sunday, November 09, 2008

Blame it on Nablopomo...

Now I know there are people who come here for lofty meditations and skiey verse, or I like to think there might be, but owing to the absurd exigencies of Nablopomo, and submitting to an odd and largely pointless bet that you can't post every day, I find I am descending from the sublime to the ridiculous and blogging for a whole weekend on the subjects of Lidl supermarkets and stock cubes. The scary thing is I seem to be getting quite a bit of response...

The above are, as is somewhat bleeding obvious, Bovril cubes, the top layer of a year's supply thereof. I do not actually use these much for cooking, as they have all the subtlety of a charge from the hitherto placid Bull no 4019. However, a cube a day every day, wherever we may be, is required for Tom's elevenses. I think perhaps in a past life he may have been some crusty old colonial type who travelled the oceans Port Out Starboard Home, sipping at beef tea mid-morning and playing deck quoits, and he still carries the vestiges of this existence in a taste for Bovril, and occasional crustiness, no sign of an urge to play deck quoits. Maybe I'll win a Nablopomo prize for blogging every day which will be a free session of Past Life Regression Therapy which I could offer to him to get to the bottom of it.

We used to ask people coming and going to bring us the odd packet of Bovril, and kept going quite well like that, but then one dark night it happened, and we were nearly out of it with ne'ry a cross channel tripper in sight, so I did something I've never resorted to before and looked up a business that fulfilled the gastronomic longings of pining British expatriates, and ordered a large quantity.

While on stock cubes, Plutarch very graciously ate a helping of humble pie in the comments to the last post and admitted that he had given in to their siren call since questioning my use of them in the making of cock-a-leekie soup. The link to that post, as Zephyr asked for it, is here.

I sometimes wonder if I oughtn't to have a tag on this blog for Lidl, I seem to mention it so often, but that would just seem a step too sad. But the eminent Europhile and globe trotter Barrett Bonden has remarked on my lack of inhibition in admitting that I shop there.

So I feel bound now, (and because I can't be bothered to post about anything serious), to launch into an ode to the joy of this pan-European phenomenon. Now I know their standard issue architecture, an unlovely combo of big-shed and Fisher-Price, which is presumably manufactured and sent out on lorries all over this continent and its fringes from the outskirts of somewhere like Wuppertal (apologies to any Wuppertalian readers...), is something of an eyesore in and around our towns, and I know that they keep everything cheap by employing a maximum of two staff per store, so that going through the checkout there is like some bad dream or ghastly game show where you're having to dive to catch the products as they are fired through at great speed before they hit the floor, and I know that 'after-sales service' is not a concept that occurrs in their mission statement, but withal, I am very fond of Lidl.

I never actually set foot in one when I lived in the UK, and not for a long time after I came here, but once I had, I saw the point. I don't know how much there stuff varies from country to country - another thing that amuses me about them is they never seem quite sure what language they should put on the packaging.

Here are a few things you can find there:

Free range French Label Rouge chickens, a good two or three euros cheaper than anywhere else. (Free range stuff has always been easy to find here, forget animal welfare, think taste, this is France...)

Reasonable Basmati and Thai Jasmine rice.

Consistently good aubergines, and mushrooms.

Lubeck marzipan, chocolate covered.

Japanese rice crackers.

Fruit and nut chocolate quite as good as Cadbury's. (I was going to scan that too, as well as the stock cubes, but thought I'd better stop somewhere. I regretted not having any of their jamjar lids about, which are printed all over with big bold colourful designs of the fruit. Scanner art nouvelle vague, Marja-Leena eat your heart out!)

And occasionally:

Guest ranges of 'exotics', such as bagels, English mustard, unsalted cashews and pecans, Spanish big white beans in jars, oyster sauce...

Fleecy sweaters, thick socks, big packs of delicious coloured paper and card complete with cutting board and scalpel with spare blade, the wool for my pompom shawl.

The wine range may not quite be what you'd serve if you had Plutarch coming for lunch, though the Alsace Gewurztraminer isn't bad, but they do a white port which is an acceptable alternative to sherry (unobtainable) of a Sunday lunchtime, a whisky cream liqueur that is pretty well indistinguishable from Bailey's and half the price, and vodka and gin which are very useful for the making of sloe gin, schnapps and other infusions.

Now I'm hoping to receive a Lidl gift voucher for this piece of fawning publicity. I heard about someone the other day who got a thank you e-mail from Appletise for mentioning them in a blog post, so it's not impossible...

Apologies for not getting around much today. I did put my nose outside the door, but also was rather involved selecting photos for what seems a very interesting offer from Vistaprint for make-your-own calendars. I haven't checked exactly what the terms are, and I don't yet know what the software's like, but it seems worth a look.

This seems to have turned into a consumer blog...


Catalyst said...

. . . but a fascinating one.

Zhoen said...

I've so ranted about Trader Joe's. Miss that place so. sniff.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is all very entertaining and certainly perked me out of a low mood today! The memory of Lubeck marzipan is now making me hungry. I still think you should scan some of your favourite product labels, heh.

Granny J said...

I don't mind one little bit -- always curious about how other people live in other places, especially the everyday stuff! I only get a Trader Joe fix (yum) when a visitor comes up from Phoenix -- once or twice a year at best... However, the chain you write about sounds somewhat like Costco or Sam's Club.

christopher said...

Thanks for your visit and for placing me on your list of links.

Bee said...

I think that all grocery stores must be better in France . . . because our Lidl is a horrid place! I can't imagine being able to find there any of the good things you describe.

On a bouillon note, have you ever tried Swiss Marigold powder? It is nice even for drinking!

And a question: Do you do a weekly shop in an organized way, or do you pick up bits and pieces as you want/need them?

Lee said...

Sounds a bit like Australians and Vegemite!

vicki johnson said...

Oh my!! i even read the post originally...then totally forgot! How glad i am that it came up again...because now is the perfect weather for it.

i am totally enjoying this bit of wandering into tasty conversations about easy to digest food that's just a cube and a cup of hot water away...just the ticket for the "aftermath" exhaustion. made me salivate again...Lubec marzipan...Oh happy days! With the holidays approaching, the German deli down the road will have a fresh supply!...i can hardly wait.

vicki johnson said...

Chocolate covered, of course.
The Lubec marzipan.
aahhhh, yes.

Roderick Robinson said...

Having decided I really must stop grabbing you by the lapels for at least 24 hours, I find you mentioning Wuppertal. Astonishing. I spent a fortnight's exchange holiday near there in the early fifties. Quite poignant. Germany still emerging from the war (especially in that area) and a family trying hard to be normal again. The house, surrounded by ruins, was on Drosselweg - Thrush Street.

Meanwhile, during the two years I spent cooking the weekday evening meal, waiting impatiently for my wife to join me in retirement, I did one or two experiments with another famously branded product, Lea & Perrins. All were failures, since the end-products simply tasted of L&P. Does this over-sentimentalised sauce have any culinary value?

Lucy said...

Thanks all, again, this has proved quite popular!

I thought about Trader Joe's while writing, which is one of those things I've learned about only through blogging, as it is mentioned round and about.

Vegemite/Marmite/Bovril. Bovvy, as we call it, also exists in spreadable form in a jar, and I have known people make a drink of Marmite, but it's a bit harsh to my mind. I like Marmite and enjoy it if it comes my way, but don't especially hanker for it. It's available here but pricey.

I have heard extolled the virtues of Marigold powder, but have never seen it. It sounds attractive and is quite low salt, I believe.

The Lubeck Marzipan is generally rather seasonal, but I'm sure you can get it in UK Lidl; brave the grottiness, UK readers, and try. Their tinned fish is also good...

We tend to do a weekly shop and I do a Lidl one perhaps every two weeks when I'm either teaching in Lamballe or visiting for the market or something. Any shopping requires a drive here, so I try to keep the trips down, saves money too. The more you go to the shops the more you spend.

The cock-a-leekie recipe was a 30 word post, so somewhat terse. The principle is, to cook the chicken and make the broth in one stage, and to cut up the former, skim the latter, add leeks and put the whole back together in another. The addition of stock cubes or prunes is a detail; apparently many auld-fashioned Scots reject the prunes.

Glad someone picked up the Wuppertal reference. I have never actually been there, but did a summer with German students in a language school in Dorset. The Wuppertal kids had a reputation for being the wildest, naughtiest and generally most indisciplined of any. I understand however that it is quite a nice place, I chose it at random as an example of a typical but not particularly well-known German industrial town.

I love that German word 'drossel', reminds me of the 'throssel with his note so true' in A Midsummer Night's Dream. What's the German for blackbird, anything like ouzel?

Unknown said...

Buttered cream crackers spread with Bovril are good.

Das Amsel by the way.

Anil P said...

It's been fun reading the post and the comments though I've never experienced the brands you mention.

Rosie said...

you should start a Lidl fan club with Mysweet. He is drawn towards it like an iron filing to a magnet. Their choccie puds arent bad though I have to admit.

Unknown said...


Die Amsel!