I know it’s not everyone’s idea of fun but grocery shopping is one of mine. And grocery shopping in a foreign county is even funner. On the other hand when you are going to make something like, say, green chicken chili and it requires mild green chiles, finding them in a German grocery store can be something of a challenge because beyond my inability to understand what I am looking at, these are not something most Germans even know about and while between my broken German and the store clerk’s broken English I was able to communicate something that I hope sounded like “green vegetable mexican,” what he came up with was fresh jalapeños which was a great guess but not really what I wanted at all obviously. He was very proud to have, he thought, found what I wanted but clearly they were not at all what I’d wanted and then I had to explain to him in my broken German which, I hope, did not sound like “Are you out of your mind? Not this!” Just kidding, I would never be able to say that in German.
I ended up making red chicken chili. Except that it was nothing at all like chili. Even though I’d brought a pound of Spice House chili powder from the US. More on that catastrophe as we continue.
Not everyone’s idea of fun activities but something I prefer to waltzing around museums looking at art. I’d rather go grocery shopping than visit, say, the Munch Museum. Oh sure art is dandy but getting out there with the natives and then fetching, and making, your victuals is, to me, more compelling than looking at some guy screaming in a painting, I’ll buy I calendar if I need to see that. Besides, I like to grocery shop and I love to cook. You can tell a lot about people by how they shop and what they shop for. For instance, in Norway they have the mayonnaise in the dairy cooler, some eggs are refrigerated but others are not (they are not in France) and there’s not much in the cracker department, mostly thick, dark, deeply-crisp, seeded things with names like Sløtso. As far as the meaning of all these weirdnesses goes, I haven’t a clue but I’m guessing that Munch’s iconic painting of The Scream had something to do someone trying to locate mayonnaise in the condiment aisle or finding anything like a Triscuit.
Family was coming in for our not-wedding and I made dinner, the shopping was just the beginning of the fun. Cooking without my familiar accoutrements is like camping. It’s not that the Royal Indian Mounted Food Control is without a broad selection of kitchen equipment (see below for an abbreviated glimpse of the available cookware). It’s that the equipment is unfamiliar and locating things like baking soda (which is called bakepulver in Norwegian and it is an unfamiliar container, and, yes, one might jump to the conclusion that it’s baking soda but it may just as well be fish paste for all one knows of this odd language and these odd, largely fish-eating people) or flour (The Royal Mounted Indian Food Control Police has many containers of various flour colored powders) is a challenge among many others. And so making a meal becomes an adventure and one I like having in a foreign land.
Dinner was pot roast, a concept I had a hard time explaining to the butcher, but we got through it and when he saw me the next day he smiled and proudly said “pot roast!” Dinner was served, along with a great deal of vodka, red and white wine, and aquavit (a rye bread or possibly cracker flavored liquor).
I did make it to the National Museum, FYI, The Scream is housed there not in the Munch Museum after all. Ida made us proud by insisting on posing next to it, something I imagine has never been done before.
I’m not sure when this store opened. And I don’t really know who knows its open, there weren’t a whole lot of people in it. I don’t see advertising for it, but then I don’t see a lot of advertising anyway.
But it is GINORMOUS and fabulous. It was like shopping in Oz. Huge aisles filled to overflowing with all sorts of glorious things. And Munchkins laboring fastidiously over it all. Or maybe they were Mexicans.
The produce section, replete with asian, mexican, and other weird and exotic fruits and vegetables was the size of an average Pick n Save. They make their own tortillas. They have a taco bar. Sandwiches. Coffee shop. A massive cheese selection.
But there was no one there. Or maybe it seems that way since it’s so huge. What happens to all that produce? Meat? Things that spoil? They can’t possibly sell all of it.
And what about all the small stores it’s replacing? I love El Rey. There is no way El Rey could compete with this selection and the cheap prices. It’s like a food Walmart. Except that Walmart is crowded, filthy, disorganized and confusing. And Cermak was hyper-organized, clean and seems to be to be more like a vacation destination than a grocery store.
I no longer have my apartment in France. But I think of it all the time, as you might imagine. I can’t say I miss it all that much, but like I said, I do think about it. I miss the way the food is there. I wish we could have it like that here in the US. But we don’t. We do have good grocery shopping in Milwaukee. As good as anywhere in the US. It’s just not as good as it is in France.