It’s been ten years since I’ve been shopping in an ASDA, and it’s not like WalMart, it is WalMart – they own it. Why it’s got a different name in the UK eludes me but never mind the point remains, it’s WalMart. We have one in The Mom’s town and I’ve been exactly once, just to have a look see, and I did not like what I saw. It reeked of plastic, and not in a happy new plastic toy kind of way, more in the way of the dead souls of the people who made all that crap.
It has to be said, of course, that I’m not that politically minded when I shop. I go in for convenience above pretty much all else, though that said, I’ve still never eaten a Big Mac, never worn anything Nike has made, and I’m quite proud of those two random facts.
Anyhow, back at the ASDA. It’s one of those massive great big super mega stores with a car park as big as one might find for a small regional airport. And when you go in, to the GROCERY store, mind, the first thing you see are clothes and flat screen TVs. Which is not helpful if you want to make a roast dinner, assuming you’re already dressed. If, somehow, you accidentally arrived at the ASDA naked, then fair play and thank goodness.
I shuffled around and tried not to get squeamish about things. When I first encountered an ASDA it was under trying circumstances: I had literally that morning just landed in the UK, and had been driven down, with a bunch of other international students from Hong Kong, Japan, and South East Asia, and when we were deposited at our halls of residence, we noted that there was no food. Delerious and starving, we were corralled back into the minivan and driven to the ASDA. Now, I find travelling difficult at the best of times, but when forced to scour the aisles of a weird massive supermarket, confused, knowing zero people, and starving and worried about the Crohn’s, a good result was not in the offing. One of my (now) best friends here, and I met that day, at Heathrow, and we both turned up at the checkout with the same things: a bag of potato chips and four cans of beer. There are some things that will always translate.
When we got back to halls, she and I bonded over how weird and gross the supermarket was. I have held these same opinions since that day.
So when I found that my nearest reasonably sized (by that I mean, not a Tesco Express which is a convenience store that sells convenience store things and rotting fruit) was an ASDA, I was crushed. The branding and packaging looks weird and shifty. It doesn’t feel clean, as a shop. The produce wasn’t as nice – to wit, I had been buying British strawberries at my previously local Sainsbury’s but at ASDA they only had imported ones and they’re okay but not as good as local – and all the pre-prepared veggies (that I sometimes buy if only because my arthritic hands can’t be counted on to quarter a squash when needed) looked slimy and gross. And I don’t like their own-brand soy milk. And their range of foods for delicate souls (i.e. the Free From section) is inadequate.
But there were a couple of good things: their selection of ‘international’ fruit and veg (once I found it) was quite good. And there were other immigrants like me so I heard lots of chattering in not English which I always find comforting, it reminds me of home.
Though, having said that, there is an excellent Chinese grocery store right around the corner from me. I’ve already started popping in and wandering around inspecting things and I think they already think i’m nuts. Perfect.
So that’s it. I shop at ASDA now. Unless I want to walk half-an-hour up a massive big hill to go to my old Sainsbury’s… which I might, actually. It’s near two quality health food stores where I can get more different kinds of salt than either L’il Sis and Crazy D combined have ever seen. Or I could always go to the Waitrose near work at lunch.