International life is not all excitement and adventure. Sometimes you’ve got to do the boring stuff, like laundry and grocery shopping.
And since my mom let me know that she loves it when I post the mundane stuff here, as well as the exciting… Today you get the grocery store, but never fear! When the grocery store is filled with strange items, unfamiliar brands, barely readable labels and grumpy cashiers who want you to hurry up and pay with exact change right now (after taking for freaking ever to ring up your groceries), it can still be a little exciting.
Every trip to the store involves a walk from the hotel, and a game of real-life frogger as I make my way up the parking ramp and try not to get run over by the speeding cars exiting above. I could avoid that by walking an extra two blocks up the hill on the other side and squeezing between the parking gates, but this is closer.
All Brazilian grocery stores seem to have really narrow aisles that are full of boxes and pallets, and other customers who love to browse while they’ve parked their carts right in the middle of those narrow aisles. As I make my way across the parking lot to the doors, I’m always hopeful that I can grab one of the three mini-shopping carts which will make my demolition derby style shopping trip a little bit easier to squeeze through.
I always go in with a list, and I always leave without 20% of the items on my list. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen racks full of a particular item in the store before, when you go back for it a second time it will be gone. I have been shopping here every few days for two months and I have seen avocadoes a grand total of one time. I bought four. Every expat in Brazil learns quickly that if a store has something you like, buy it all!
Unless it’s olive oil. There are always, always, always six hundred bottles of every kind of olive oil imaginable.
The candy aisle is hit-or-miss. Once in a while you’ll come across a Twix, or a Snickers, but most of the time you’ll find cheap Brazilian brands and locally made doces. The doces look like bricks of hardened brown sugar and are usually made out of sweetened condensed milk, sugar and some other flavor like vanilla, chocolate, caramel, banana, etc. They are possibly the only thing on earth that is too sweet even for us.
When you get to the produce section you’ll find all kinds of unrecognizable goodies! At some point, I’m going to buy some of these Pinhao (pinion pine nuts) and roast them up. From what I can tell, it’s not too hard and they can be quite tasty additions to salads or even side dishes on their own, just like the small pine nuts I’ve seen in the US only much bigger!
This monstrosity has been sitting in that crate for at least a month. I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to buy it.
The meat section is different every day. Some days I can find chicken legs but no breasts, some days I can find only breasts with the bones still in them, some days there are only whole chickens. I haven’t ventured too far into the red meat section yet since I only have a microwave here in the hotel to cook it with, although their ground beef is really good. You can watch them trim the fat off and grind it up twice before they package it fresh every day.
There is always a big section full of tripe.
No thank you.
This Extra isn’t too bad. It’s a fairly large store and I can find enough of the things I want that I’ve been able to eat fairly well even with my hotel microwave. It’s cleaner than the store I used to go to in Rio das Ostras, smells better, and even though there are huge pallets full of boxes and crates in most of the aisles, there are almost always employees actually working on putting those items on the shelf.
Yesterday while I was exploring the neighborhood on the other side of the main drag from here? I went into this store:
I had heard they were much better than Extra, but dude! It was like Christmas! They have an international section! They have healthy alternative brands! Their produce is not full of fruit flies! They have organic and gluten free options! Their meat section is huge, and perfectly stocked! The variety of items available blew my mind. I hadn’t realized how I had gotten so used to a very limited set of options in the other store. They must have had ten brands of hot sauce alone, and they had a whole crate full of avocadoes! I had no intention of shopping when I got there, I just wanted to go take a look inside, but I came out with some green tobasco sauce and three avocadoes. I couldn’t help myself!
And even though we’ll be moving a bit too far away from this particular store, we found another Russi store just around the corner from our new apartment. Score!
As much as I always hated to cook, I’m starting to really look forward to being able to make good food in the new place.
Wow. Me. Cooking.
Who am I?