I was very happy to see a flyer from Lidl on Sunday morning advertising their Italian week. Not even storm Doris was going to stop me from making the 2 mile round walk to go on my raid!
Back in my previous life, one of the Milanese Lidl stores was just down the road from my flat. I was always very excited when British week rolled around – I’d never been so hyped about buying potato waffles before in my life! I’d stock up on cheddar (and you’d have to get it quick before it all vanished!), frozen roast potatoes, fish and chips… And blackcurrant squash! Oh, my joy at being able to drink that in Italy. Things that Brits back in the motherland don’t think twice about buying at the supermarket, but were hard to get hold of in Italy. It was a wonderful feeling having a taste of home so far away, and to see a supermarket advertising products that I’d grown up with.
Any Italian living in the UK will tell you that getting hold of decent, and especially authentic, Italian products isn’t always easy. A few weeks ago I tried Dolmio’s tomato and basil Ragù sauce, which was full of herbs and spices and God only knows what else. It really was bizarre. Tesco do a pretty decent fresh tomato and basil sauce (I haven’t tried the meat-based ones on account of being vegetarian), it’s a bit too pulpy for my picky taste, but it’s pretty close to the genuine article. They also stock Barilla products; as they’re imported they’re not cheap, but I always pick up a jar of sauce when they’re on offer at half price.
As for Lidl, I was most excited about the cornetti alla crema that I saw in the leaflet. For many, many weekends the brioche (as they’re called oop North) alla crema was my breakfast, along with a cappuccino. In a country of Nutella-filled and Nutella-covered everything, the brioche alla crema was my absolute favourite breakfast. But here, or at least in my small hometown, they just don’t exist. There are plenty of your bog-standard empty croissants, or chocolate ones, but none of the ones with cream that I love so much.
So I bought two packets. It actually took me a while to find them amongst the Italian week products, but there they were, stacked lengthways, and untouched. I also bought some Fontina cheese, some non-alcoholic aperitivo drinks, a chocolate tartufo dessert, gnocchi (even though these are also easy to get hold of, for 99p I couldn’t resist) and a tin of minestrone. By then, my basket was full.
At the check-out I got talking to a lady who asked me what was in the croissants, and I mentioned how I used to live in Italy and how I couldn’t get hold of them here. It reminded me of one time when I was at Lidl in Milan for British week, when a little old lady asked me what brown sauce was made out of, and I told her I was British and happy to see British products at the supermarket. It was a very strange feeling, making that comparison.
I walked back home with my haul in two full and heavy fabric bags, battling the wind, smiling all the way.
And yes, I know people are going to say, ‘It’s Lidl, that’s not Italian!’. Well, everything I bought was produced in Italy. Trust me, I checked!