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February 10, 2003

The Museum of Foreign Groceries
Posted by Teresa at 06:25 PM *

As you know, Bob, Patrick is on a mission from God to sample every kind of weird potato chip in the world. The Foreign Groceries Museum has piqued his curiosity with its displays of Calbee Red Pepper and Mustard Chips and Calbee Kim Chee Chips. If any of you happen to run into them at a grocery this side of the International Date Line, please let us know.

(The rest of the Foreign Groceries Museum is interesting too, but I can’t figure out what Habitant French Canadian Pea Soup is doing there. That stuff can’t be foreign; I have two cans of it in my pantry.) (via Geeklog)

Comments on The Museum of Foreign Groceries:
#2 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2003, 07:17 PM:

Well, you can get Pocky (the product, not necessarily the condition) all over New York, and I believe at my favorite Asian superdupermarket (United Noodles). So is it foreign? Is Walker's Shortbread? Or Nutella?

Not that we have a true universality of food. Not till you can get witchetty grubs at McDonald's. (Though given that company's acquisition of outlets -- Pret a Manger, Chipotle -- that it carefully avoids being publicly associated with, Sheila's Grubs may be on the way to a food court near you.)

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2003, 07:49 PM:

{There exists} a class of grocery stores colloquially known as "used food stores."

They are rock-bottom outlets for cheap packaged food: Obscure regional brands, flavors and varieties of national brands that didn't make it in the market, and gray-area items like cereal that is still within its freshness date but has an outdated promo item (e.g., a Christmas music CD, Secrets of Atlantis toy).

In the Portland area, the "Grocery Outlet" chain fills this ecological niche.

I mention Used Food stores here because they often have foreign food items: Mexican cereal, SE Asian canned fish, strange Latin American juices, & etc.

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2003, 09:37 PM:

Google's #1 link for the phrase "used food stores" is a page on Matt Howarth's website describing Bugtown, the setting of the Savage Henry and Those Annoying Post Bros. comics.

#5 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2003, 10:00 PM:

I know this is going to make me sound like a pre-Web saurian, but used-food stores (I know of a local one, glamorously located next to the west-side railroad tracks) are unlikely to have much Web presence, if for no other reason than that their chief customers are not really part of the wired lifestyle. They're not going to have web-friendly ordering (the nature of the stock decides this), and you don't want to pay shipping on stuff whose one and only attraction is that it's cheaper than the compost it is aspiring toward.

The other point is that they don't describe themselves as "used food," they have names like "Bill's Discount Supermarket."

Well, okay, I can imagine there might be sites devoted to -discussions- of this phenomenon -- who would have guessed that the -Wunderkammer- of the future would be constructed in HTML? -- but perhaps this is merely a thingumma waiting for the right Bob.

Hey, wait a minute. I -am- a pre-Web saurian. Darn limbic systems, you can't count on them for anything.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2003, 07:47 AM:

I'm sure he's already tried the Yukon Gold potato chips, but did you know they were developed (the buttery potatos, not the chips made therefrom) at Michigan State? In East Lansing? Where I went to school, and you all lived for a while?

I'll keep an eye out for weird chips.

#7 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2003, 03:58 PM:

My experience is that "used food" tends to show up at odd-lot or 99-cent stores here in NYC, and not at dedicated used-food stores. So I can pick up Brazilian batteries and Dr. Bronner's soap along with my box of Peculiar Crispies. Dilute! Dilute! OK!

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2003, 04:26 PM:

On the West Coast, Dr. Bronner's is too upscale an item to end up in a Used Food store.

The kind of soaps you find in Grocery Outlet includes strange foreign brands (MISTAH SPARKARU!) and "failed" varieties of name-brand soap. Like potpourri Lava, or the controversial Orange version of Irish Spring.


#9 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2003, 09:59 PM:

Have you tried Jungle Jim's in Ohio? I think they have every food ever invented.

#10 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2003, 11:20 PM:

Of course, the best stop for nummy strangeness from foreign lands is a market catering to the appropriate expat community. In my neighborhood, that means a little japanese market that REALLY isn't one of those westerner-friendly asian markets, but rather for the purposes of lonely Japanese businessmen stuck in Manhattan for business long-term (there's a definite convenience-food/bachelor-chow slant in the products), as well as a little shop called Zion II, which is a remarkably crappy kosher butcher, and a remarkably comprehensive Sabrafood shop. Bisli! In all nineteen bizarre flavors! Prigat! In all seven unnatural colors and flavors! Foul instant coffee!

Which brings me to my real point. P. N-H is seeking all bizarre forms of potato chip, but what about chip-substitutes, like the aforementioned Bisli? It's addictive, and gleefully artificial.

#11 ::: Kate Salter ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2003, 01:09 AM:

I could always aske the nice folks in the Japan office to send some to me via inter-office mail. As far as I know there's no rule about sending crisps to each other.

Want me to ask?


#12 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2003, 11:28 AM:

Once in a while, when I need my head expanded, I go into the Chinese market near where I work, (Overland Park, Kansas, which contains roughly equal numbers of Asian immigrants and New York refugees) and browse through the freezer cases. They actually have whale bacon in there.

#13 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2003, 12:43 PM:

In my collection of Food Packaging That Proves The UK Uses Americanism To Sell Product Even Though They Claim To Be Better Than Us (which includes a package of American rice with the Twin Towers on it - needless to say, Tesco's has quietly phased that one out), I have a bag of Roysters Bubbled Chips: T-Bone Steak Flavor [sic]. They are, depending on who you ask, 'lighter, crispier and bursting with real American flavour [sic]' (the back of the package) or 'really nasty' (me). There are other weird flavo[u]rs over here, though I think hedgehog ones have been removed from the shelves. I have finally taught myself that prawn flavor is Not Right.

I would be more than happy to exchange a box of random British chips for a random assortment of peanut butter cups, Sweet Tarts, etc. If Patrick's interested, my e-mail's

#14 ::: BD ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2003, 12:07 AM:

Did the Foreign Groceries Museum have Yassar Arafat Chips?


#15 ::: Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2003, 03:14 AM:

I'll second Dorothy Rothschild's comments about the unpleasantness of Roysters T-Bone Steak flavour. The strangeness doesn't stop there, though: I saw yesterday that Walkers have added to their range of crisps/chips flavoured with the ur-tastes of British domesticity. In addition to Marmite flavour (ugh! Marmite!) and Cheddar and Branston Pickle flavour (pretty addictive), we also now have (Heinz) Baked Bean flavour. I don't dare try them - has anyone else? And does Patrick want any samples?

#16 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2003, 05:04 AM:

Marmite. And they wonder why they no longer have an Empire.

I haven't tried the Baked Bean variety but I may have to. Pickled onion is another Brit fave, and those rank just below T-Bone steak in my book.

(I'm serious about swapping care packages, btw - as an ex-pat graduate student, I can't afford to go home often, and I love getting mail from Back Home.)

#17 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2003, 11:05 AM:

I liked the fish & chips crisps I found at Boots in York. Confected from potatoes, I believe, but wrought by the cleverness of man into wee small fishies (with fishy flavor, of course) and chips.

As far as recent stuff around here, the Kim Milling Grocery, which carries many Korean and other Asian delicacies, had a snack called "Two Cops" that was part corn, part wheat (I could be wrong about the wheat), and looks like Crispix, only it's sweetened with vanilla flavor. Maybe even vanillin flavor, these days. It came with a plastic hologram (embossed so that the thicknesses of plastic make it look like a photo when you hold it up to light) of a member of a hot Korean pop group called God. So the package I first saw was promising "Two Cops with God!" The wrapper's in a drawer at work, along with a package of calcium stearate "Y2Kandy" chips, dating from Guess When.

#18 ::: Damien Warman ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2003, 02:12 PM:

My partner Juliette greatly misses Pickled Onion Monster Munch. We pick some up whenever we're in the UK.

#19 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2003, 04:45 PM:

Desperate UK Marketing PLC (a division of Saatchi & Gladstone) offer The Lord of the Rings Collection:

Peek Freans Lembas
Walker's Spicy Bar-B-Rog Flavour Crisps
Cadbury's Old Rivendell Bar
and of course Weetaorx

#20 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 08:31 AM:

John M. Ford noted:

Desperate UK Marketing PLC (a division of Saatchi & Gladstone) offer The Lord of the Rings Collection:

To which I have to say that the confectioners, Bassett's, are offering packs of fruit gum-type sweets in the shape of One Rings, leaves of Lorien, something hobbit-related and other things that I now forget. I was disappointed to discover that there was more than One Ring in each packet, but only mildly surprised to discover that all of them tasted cheap and vile. I haven't had so much 'fun' since I ate the horse-radish flavoured Harry Potter jellybean.


#21 ::: Maureen Speller ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 08:34 AM:

I see no one has yet mentioned the baked-bean flavoured bread that I have seen made into sandwiches, on sale at motorway service areas in the UK. Personally, I cannot bring myself to even contemplate trying such a thing, though Paul Kincaid has tried it and says 'well, it was okay'. Baked beans are meant to sit on the toast, not to be incorporated into the bread. (For that matter, much as I like Marmite, I believe it should be put on toast, not turned into a crisp flavour; I've even given up Twiglets in recent years.)

#22 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 01:30 PM:

The Marmite mention reminded me that non-foreign food can become amusing when taken out of its normal context. There's a UK company that makes Skippy peanut butter, which as far as I can tell is the same stuff as back home, except that the label helpfully lists several things to combine it with, one of them being Marmite. Ugh!!! Most British people I know won't touch peanut butter in any form, Marmitised or not.

#23 ::: Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2003, 02:09 PM:

I saw some Lord of the Rings (and Buffy) chocolate bars in Forbidden Planet on Friday - something extortionate like a31.15 for 60g. But I guess that's not unique to the UK.

Baked bean flavour bread? That had passed me by, and I think on the whole I'm glad that it did. An office I once inherited had (for complex reasons) stacks of reference books on "food science" - detailed chemical properties of flavourings and preservatives etc. It's been branded on my brain ever since how little contact "Chicken flavour crisps" will have had with real chicken. However, the upside of that is that a veggie friend of mine will occasionally eat bacon flavour crisps which, he assures me, contain no meat at all but satisfy his cravings for bacon sandwiches.

#24 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2003, 08:40 AM:

The LOTR fruit gums (shortly appearing in a Plokta near you I should think) are called "Fruits of the Shire". With a nice picture of Frodo and Sam looking moony in case you were left in any doubt.

#25 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2003, 09:17 AM:

I got an article about fish ice cream in my spam today. Here's the link if anyone's feeling daring:

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