Exeter offers a variety of different food outlets and, with so many to choose from, an average university student will often turn to the ones most popular, usually Sainsbury’s or Coop. While it seems to be the easiest and least time-consuming option, many underestimate the luxury of being able to immerse yourself in a different culture through the language of food. Instead of the well-known comfort food that is found at every corner and that you grew up with, trying something that you have never seen before might bring unexpected joy. International shops are easy to find in Exeter, walking around the city, some of them might bring more attention than others. But the one that I recomend to anyone that is feeling more adventurous is Fresh Market, also known as Food Plus- a place that specialises in selling Polish food.
Located at the end of the infamous Sidwell Street, it is a paradise, waiting to be discovered. Entering through an automatic door into a spacious, welcoming, local shop, you can immediately see colourful fruits and vegetables, labelled in both Polish and English. The bakery section is often filled with fresh bread and traditional pastries, straight from a Polish bakery. The shop keeps track of all of the important traditions during the year, for example the celebration of Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday) that happens before Ash Wednesday, when ‘pączki’ (traditional Polish doughnuts) are available to buy there. But on a regular day, the bakery offers ‘drożdżówka’ (a sweet yeast pastry I would die for). Another part of the shop that me and my friends admire is the meat section. Kiełbasa (sausage) and kabanosy (smaller sausages that are perfect as a middday snack) are on my list of things that I always bring as a party offering. But if you are a beginner in Polish food, I recommend you check out the fridges and try some ‘pierogi’ (Polish dumplings) so that you can get the experience of true Polish dining. The ready-made pierogi are almost as good as the ones you would eat at the house of your ‘babcia’ (Polish grandma).
If you are a beginner in Polish food, I recommend you check out the fridges and try some ‘pierogi’
Another function that the shop plays in the Polish community in Exeter is that it promotes local events, such as celebrations of traditional festivities that are advertised in the shop window. It also has a shelf dedicated to books in Polish which helps the Poles that have permanently resided in the United Kingdom to practice their language skills or teach Polish to children that were born away from Poland. There is also a section of the shop that has other international food, products from Romania have recently been added to the offer. All of the recent information about the shop can be found on their Facebook page.
Coming from a Polish background myself, I have found a place that lets me recconect with my heritage and fill my stomach with food that reminds me of my childhood. I also find joy in being able to share such an important part of my life with my friends, and there is no better way to do it than to discuss the newest gossip over a warm plate of ‘bigos’ (hunter’s stew). Trying new food is an amazing opportunity to add some diversity in your life, and, who knows, maybe you are going to discover your new favourite dish by accident!