Tag Archives: Publix

Firm favourite makes a welcome return to the menu at the Sad Bastard Café

By Calvin Palmer

A staple dish at the Sad Bastard Café made a welcome return this evening.  Chilli Con Pollo is a house specialty. It is based on Chilli Con Carne but substitutes chicken for minced beef, or ground beef as the Americans call it.

The café has undergone many changes since its relocation. The wait staff, Brandy, has gone. When I say wait staff, Brandy used to wait at the table looking up at me with those doleful brown eyes waiting for a tidbit or two, which she got at the end of the meal and more often than not before the meal was finished. Brandy is a Chihuahua dog.

Under new quarantine regulations, she could have come with me to the UK but I did not know that I was going to have to extend my stay in the UK to undergo medical treatment. I parted from Brandy with a heavy heart. I still feel sad when I think of her, especially with the knowledge that I prbably will never see her again. I’m filling up.

Desserts have proved something of a challenge. The Publix brand Roadrunner Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt, which was a firm favourite at the café has disappeared. English strawberries have formed one replacement, along with Wall’s classic cornettos. Tonight, another favourite from years gone by was resurrected, Greek yoghurt and Rowse’s Greek honey. The latter proved just as impossible to find in the United States as Roadrunner Raspberry is in the UK.

In this age of the global economy and the Internet, I am surprised British and US supermarkets haven’t linked up to offer a range of foodstuffs and household items from both countries. Why is it Swiffer products, for instance, are the sole preserve of the United States? It does appear as if I may be able to buy the dusters on Amazon.co.uk but will pay a heavy premium.

But it is not all bad news. I did track down tortilla chips and salsa dip at M&S the other week and both products were every bit as good as those on sale in the United States.

But back to the Chilli Con Pollo. I started to cook it as I have done in the past, even to the extent of using Tefal saucepans and frying pans, but as I placed the chicken in the frying pan, something seemed to be missing. I sprinkled some Italian seasoning, a replacement for the Herbs of Provence, but I felt sure something else used to be added at this stage. Pepper sprang to mind so I used the pepper mill to add some. I have struggled to find any cans of ground black pepper. A little paprika was added and yet still something kept nagging at me. What was missing?

It was only when I sat down to eat the meal that it came to me – garlic salt. No wonder the meal tasted a bit bland and ASDA’s hot chilli powder was a poor substitute for McCormick’s hot Mexican-style chilli powder. Perhaps I should get in touch with Brandy and see if she can send me some of the latter.

So life at the Sad Bastard Café goes on after a fashion. It isn’t quite the same but it passes muster. I have also come to realize just how Americanized I have become.  In the months ahead, I am just going to have to use my initiative and improvise to overcome those ingredients and items that are unavailable and in other cases settle for second best. You would think a can of red kidney beans would be the same the world over. Not so, Bush’s dark red kidney beans are far superior to anything I have managed to buy in the UK.

Failing that, I could have a week back in the USA and stock up with all those items that are proving impossible to find in the UK. I wonder what the import duty is on Mexican-style chilli powder?

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Publix adopts Tea Party style of customer care

By Calvin Palmer

“Publix would prefer you took your custom elsewhere.”

That remark was directed at me this morning by the manager of the fresh produce section of the Publix store at the Roosevelt Square Shopping Center, on Jacksonville’s Westside, after I had voiced some criticism of his department.

Since when has a lowly manager become the arbiter of who may or may not shop at Publix?

The remark came after he said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

I guess the interpretation of “around” is pretty loose but my with my English accent, it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t born in the United States. However, I have resided in the country for 12 years and for the last five years in Jacksonville, Florida.

When I replied in the negative, the fresh produce manager issued his appalling statement. Talk about a redneck mentality.

This altercation all started when I noticed one of the plastic-bag dispensers was empty, forcing me to go back and forth to a dispenser that did have bags.

I noticed an assistant filling shelves close by and wondered how many times he had passed the empty dispenser without giving a moment’s thought to replenishing the plastic bags.

It was then I noticed someone else filling one of the display stands. He was not wearing a green Publix T-shirt, so I figured he was more than likely a manager and wearing a shirt of his own choosing was probably one of the perks of the job.

When I pointed out the empty dispenser, he said that he could replenish it or I could use the other one, which had plenty of bags.

I said, “That’s a marvellous attitude, isn’t it? I am expected to traipse back and forth to get a plastic bag.”

He went to fill up the dispenser.

A little later, I passed him again and said that I was not complaining out of ignorance. I told him that I grew up in a grocery store and knew how to treat customers and present fresh produce for sale

He replied, “Publix is the best store there is.”

I said, “Not quite. Many times you have rotting fruit and veg on display and ask top dollar for it.”

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”


“Publix would prefer it if you took your custom elsewhere.”

“We will see what the store manager has to say about that.”

“Go ahead. The name is…” He gave his name.

After completing my shopping and checking out at the till, I said to the assistant that I wanted to see the manager.

The manager duly came and I recounted the incident with his fresh produce manager who seems to have an attitude problem.

The manager assured me that he would have a word. I said I think it needs something stronger than a word, with an attitude like that he probably needs to be fired.

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” the manager replied.

What I found appalling was the fact that not being American was followed by the suggestion to shop elsewhere.

It struck me as being like the Tea Party approach to customer care.

Perhaps Publix should incorporate this rhyme in its advertising material:

If you are red, white and blue, we are here to serve you.                                                                                                                                                             If you belong to the stars and stripes, we will listen to all your gripes.                                                                                                                                 But if you are not true to Uncle Sam then frankly we don’t give a damn!

It always amazes me that people who cannot deal with the public end up in jobs dealing with the public. Appointing this guy to the position of fresh produce manager does not say much for the recruitment and selection process adopted by Publix.

Then again political donations given by Publix in the past eight years clearly point to how a person holding such bigoted views is able to reach the position he has within the company.

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Railway station buffet brings back taste of Branston Pickle

By Calvin Palmer

The taste of Branston Pickle, as in a cheese and pickle sandwich, had been a fading memory for the past 11 years. I knew when I moved to America that I would have to forego certain British delights – oatcakes with Lyle’s Golden Syrup, McVitie’s Dundee cake, John West Skippers and smoked mackerel to name but a few.

Branston Pickle. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Branston Pickle was first produced in 1922 by Crosse &  Blackwell at Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire. It takes its name from the nearby village of Branston.

In 2004, production moved from East Staffordshire to Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, where 28 million jars are produced annually. It is estimated one-in-three UK households purchase Branston Pickle.

Such is its popularity that it now boasts its own web page and can even be found on Facebook.

After attending my father’s funeral in Stoke-on-Trent, I found myself with an hour to kill before catching the train back to London. Feeling a little peckish, I made for the railway station buffet.

Instead of the drab and dingy establishment I remembered from the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was faced by bright and airy surroundings.  Gone were curled up ham sandwiches on the counter beneath a glass lid and a pile of Eccles cakes that could easily have served as hard core for anyone laying a concrete driveway.

The buffet’s food was arranged in well-stocked display units, one of which contained a wide selection of fresh and pre-packaged sandwiches.

But what to choose? The cholesterol-friendly chicken salad seemed a likely candidate until I spotted ham, cheese and pickle on wholewheat bread. My mouth began to water at the thought of Branston Pickle and my indecision was over.

Sometimes when a thing is eagerly anticipated, the reality does not meet the expectation. It was not the case here. Taking my first bite, I immediately reconnected with my English roots. The tangy pickle tasted exactly how I remembered it.

Could I go another 11 years without ever sampling this peculiarly British delicacy? No.

Some months ago, my branch of the Publix supermarket chain began stocking a small selection of British food, albeit at grossly inflated prices. Hartley’s blackcurrant jam can be had for $3.99. Even Lyle’s Golden Syrup is available but without Potteries’ oatcakes, it holds little appeal. And yes, Branston Pickle also has its place.

When grocery shopping, I always paused by the British food and looked fondly at packets of Maltesers, Aeros, McVitie’s Digestive biscuits, Heinz Baked Beans and other assorted goodies. Many a time, I actually picked up a jar of Branston Pickle and then placed it back on the shelf, saying to myself that it was an indulgence I could not afford.

But with my taste for the pickle rekindled by my UK trip, $4.99 for a jar seemed a small price to pay to excite my tastebuds. On the first grocery shopping trip on my return to Florida, a jar was duly purchased.

Cheese and pickle sandwiches, albeit Swiss rather than English Cheddar, now accompany my late-night viewing of the Turner Classic Movie channel on a Saturday night. It is my little treat for the week.

If only American bakeries could come up with Hovis bread, I would truly be in seventh heaven on this side of the Atlantic.

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