I grew up with Central European cooking. I vividly remember Saturday morning visits to Roseland Delicatessen in Burlington with my parents, where the “treat” given to children while their parents shopped was a German style wiener, handed over with a big smile by the butcher working behind the meat counter. When we got home, Saturday lunch was fresh chewy Brötchen (yeast buns) with unsalted butter, sliced meats and cheeses and tangy pickles. If we were lucky, mom would have made eggy potato salad as a side dish. When we visited my cousin outside Bremen a few years ago, lunch was exactly like that!
At least part of my eagerness to spend an extended period living in Europe (planned for the winter of 2020/2021) is the food.
Living, shopping, and cooking in the American southeast this winter really opened my eyes to how lucky we’ve been to live for most of our lives in an area where each new wave of immigration was embraced for the flavours they contributed. In South Carolina, as was the case when we stayed in Virginia and Florida in other years, we found lots of grocery stores carrying American and Mexican ingredients, but very few independent delis or bakeries, and very few of the fresh or packaged ingredients to allow us to cook foods from other cultures.
When we lived in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area, in Ontario) there was an embarrassment of riches when it came to being able to find imported European delicacies and ingredients, but since the GTA is so diverse it also has wonderful international foods from the rest of the world. Asian, Middle Eastern, West Indian, Russian and South American grocery stores and delis are all easy to find.
In Collingwood, the two largest grocery chains (Loblaws and Metro) have expanded their in-store deli counters and carry lots of international foods, but I have to admit to missing my “authentic” delis.
Whether it was Denningers in Burlington, La Rose in Milton, or Starsky’s in Mississauga, I knew that I could pick up freshly sliced Polish Edamski, plain or smoked Provolone, some buttery Buratta, a hunk of fresh Parmesan cut off a huge wheel, or some fresh tangy feta any time I wanted. Those delis also carry in one convenient location all the ingredients I need to replicate my favourite dishes: sweet Hungarian paprika; Hengstenberg potato dumpling kits and Mildessa sauerkraut from Germany; the European varieties of Knorr sauces; ground poppyseed paste, Pflumli plum jam, quark (a sweet semi-dry cottage cheese), and Oetker vanillin sugars and pudding bases.
Add to that at least 2 dozen kinds of breads and rolls baked fresh every day and a literal wall of dried and cured meats ready to be sliced to order, and the makings for a sandwich… or a cold feast for company … were always at hand. Don’t even get me started on the varieties of fresh fish, smoked salmon, and pickled herring! Oh….. and fresh European style cakes and pastries! Are you drooling along with me yet?
I’d love to hear about your favourite food and deli finds – anywhere in the world. Right now, I’m grabbing a couple of insulated bags for a day trip to Mississauga to visit a dear friend AND Go to Starsky’s to stock my pantry for our 6 month stay back in Collingwood.