Espiner's Berlin : The London and Berlin supermarket war

Mark Espiner is missing Marmite, is concerned about supermarket class warfare in London and fears that the Asparagus secret police might lock him up.

Limited choice in German supermarkets doesn't really satisfy Mark Espiner.
Limited choice in German supermarkets doesn't really satisfy Mark Espiner.Foto: dpa

If there's one thing that unites our two countries, it's the fact that the rest of the world laughs at our respective cuisines. It seems cruel that Britain's greatest culinary contribution, the chip, was stolen by the neighbour we both love to hate and renamed the French Fry. Typical.

You, on the other hand, have to endure the wurst jokes. And while we Brits introduced the potato to Europe, no one embraced it as enthusiastically as you Krauts - sorry, I'm being affectionate, of course, whilst simultaneously alluding to another of your (and only your) favourite foods.

You also have a kind of culinary patriotism. It feels like Berlin's asparagus secret police (the Spargi?) are ready to lock up anyone not enthusiastically scoffing it every day it's in season. And I'm worried I could start a fight if I say boulette meat balls aren't fit to be on the same plate as a good quality döner - even though the latter was invented in Kreuzberg.

Shopping for food in Berlin brings other things to the surface. In the UK, supermarkets are a sensitive gauge of a calibrated class system. In descending order of poshness (and according to internet consensus) they are: Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Co-Op, Morrison's, Iceland, Lidl and Aldi. It's not personal that you Germans are at the bottom. You might win with cars, but we beat you with supermarkets. There's a joke, not a very nice one, that illustrates the pernicious snobbery at work in UK food shopping: "What's the best thing about Sainsbury's? It keeps the scum out of Waitrose."

Does the same thing apply here in Berlin, or is it a classless society when it comes to groceries? Does supermarket snobbery exist? Is Lidl keeping the tasteless hordes out of Aldi (or vice versa)? Or do Aldi and Lidl (which I will now refer to as Aldiddle) keep the scum out of Rewe? I've heard that there's a trend among the well-off to shop in Aldiddle in a united "geizig" spirit. And there's a persistent rumour that the quality of Aldiddle goods is top-notch. Really?