Sunday Morning

I have a Sunday morning routine. I go for a walk...if it's nice out I go about a mile and half for exercise. If it's cold (like today), I just stop at the one-stop to pick up a copy of The Observer and some tomato juice and other necessaries for breakfast/coffee, and then I sit down and read the paper. About 945 or 10, I take my grocery list and I head to the MK Food Centre to do my shopping for the week. (Yes, Milton Keynes has a Food Centre with three main groceries...the NewCity planned ahead; if one store doesn't have something, you are next door to a store that might.)

The store opens at 10, so I'm usually one of the first there. This is my preference, since I hate crowds and REALLY hate crowded grocery stores since I've become a label reader. Anyway, I work my way through the store with my cart, stocking up on whatever I need for my week's recipes, and of course I grab a luxury impulse item or two. I can usually get out of there by 11, home in time for most of the Hollyoaks Omnibus.

I always go in my sneakers, yoga pants, and fleece. Usually I don't shower first, so I have crazy hair (though I picked up a baseball cap this week that helped me out today.) I'm definitely not wearing any makeup. In the US, this sort of attire on a weekend morning would be just fine at pretty much any grocer in town. In fact, you'd be one of the only ones if you were actually dressed up, at least until around noon when the church folk start stopping by. Not so in England. Mind you, no one is in church-going attire. But they've definitely prepared themselves for public viewing. They have hairdos. They are wearing lipstick. They're even in fashionable outfits and high heels. (The women, we're talking here. Men just wear jeans.)

For the life of me, I can't understand this. I feel so inadequate. I just don't see the point of looking all fashionable when all you're doing is picking out clementines and prawns. It's Sunday for pete's sake. It's a day of rest, for both you and your pores.

I'm getting used to British supermarkets. Don't look for tortillas in the cold case. They're in the main mexican aisle with lots of preservatives. If you really want pretzels or peanut butter or salsa, ask someone for "american style"-whatever, and someone will direct you to a very low shelf where they've tucked a little row of familiar products. The package will cost three times what it would at home for 1/3 the amount, but it will provide a bit of comfort. If you really miss home, you can effectively create tater tot hotdish. I've let go of my expectations of sausage and pickles. The versions they have here are catering to British tastebuds, and there is no way I will find something I like here. (I'm now dreaming of Penzey's sausage seasonings, thinking I can mix it with a bit of mince and get something close to my expectations. I fear that shipping spices might have legal problems, though, so I'm checking into it.) If you really want pizza, you are best to just have a cheese/tomato with a thin crust, and you do just as well with the freshcase ones as ordering in. (Unless you call dominos or pizza hut, which is the same bad pizza you get at home.) If you step out of bounds with pizza, you're apt to get tuna and sweetcorn or chicken tikka or something without expecting it, and the sausage will inevitably be cumberland (the local sausage I dislike.)

On the other hand, I've been pleasantly surprised by some of my impulse buys. There are some great Weight Watchers cookies that are ginger snaps with chewy bits of lemon peel, the Apple-sultana "Go-Aheads" are like very thin digestive biscuit cookie sandwiches with a thin layer of dried apple and raisin, with a sprinkling of cinammon sugar on top. And, they sell Skinny Cow ice cream bars here, which I would never have found were it not for an ice cream impulse.

Now that I'm establishing a routine for food, it's making mealtime more enjoyable. I am cooking a lot, trying new recipes, and in a pinch I can whip up something familiar that makes the rest of my unfamiliar life fade away. There's nothing like tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich to remind you of home.

Note to Dad: I come home for lunch everyday. I usually have leftovers or soup, and I read The Guardian until it's time to head back to the office. Not only have I officially become my mother, I'm becoming you, too.


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