Saturday, October 6, 2012

I love grocery stores

I have known people who hate shopping for groceries but I love grocery stores. I have been in dozens of local markets of various ethnicity, size and specialty. It is always interesting.

We have a large Hmong population here in St Paul. They helped the US forces during the Vietnam War and were brought here after being displaced to Laotian refugee camps after the war. In a visit to one of the many Hmong food stores, I found frozen giant bullfrogs. There was an amazing variety of strange and exotic foods that I could only speculate on edibility or use of. 

Whenever I travel, I make a point of going into a local store to check out the different kinds of foods they offer. In 2005, my sister, Karen and I went to Iceland on vacation. We went into a grocery store in Reykjavik. I was looking for Icelandic candy to bring back for co-workers and friends. I was surprised to find most candies contained either cereal or cookie bits, but none with nuts. There was very little chocolate and nuts were non-existent--I suppose because they're expensive to import.

When I was in England some years ago, the grocery store I went into carried a large variety of fish. It was far more than a Minnesota market would carry. The amount of beef was very small and it was incredibly expensive, but that may have been soon after the Mad Cow crisis (1997).

I loved the variety of Cadbury chocolate bars especially the chocolate-covered shortbread cookies. I also discovered that what we call a Snicker candy bar was called a Mars bar. Our version of the Mars bar is different. I went on Google to research it and discovered that the Mars bar actually originated in England. There are now English and American versions of it and also Canadian and Australian!

My daughter Brenda went to a "Eurospring Quarter" at Oxford back in 1980. She fell in love with Lion candy bars and said she ate one every day. They are very hard to find in the US but I discovered that Brit's Pub over in Minneapolis sells them for $2 each. We can also order them online. 


Kittie Howard said...

We'd have fun, Ms Sparrow, in one of those supermarkets! My favorite American candy bar is Snickers. Don't buy them often because they call my name when I pass the little basket in the kitchen, LOL. Plums dipped in chocolate is a Polish delight I can't resist. Hmm, I'm getting hungry. Yep, it's time for dinner. Hope your Sunday is a beautiful day.

The Odd Essay said...

I'm lucky... Bill loves grocery shopping as much as I do. We spent a long time reading labels.. checking out the "local" foods; the ethnic foods; the stuff we've never seen. I ask folks how regional foods are fixed (funny story about lutefisk when we lived in ND)... Candy doesn't excite me much but give me a vegetable or new fruit and I'm happy!

Buttercup said...

My hobby, too. I love groceries around the world and seeing what are indigenous candies. I made a special trip in Madeira to check out the supermarket and almost missed our tour bus, but so worth it. I like the Indian and Chinese groceries in New York City, too.

Linda Starr said...

In California just before we left thousands of Hmongs were relocated; they were given new homes and $100,000 and they didn't know how to use the plumbing in the houses they were put in, many times our government doesn't think about what is is doing to help other countries and their peoples.

I also like shopping in the international section of grocery stores. I make it a point to pick up one item each trip which is out of my norm. That's how I found out about Vietnamese garlic pepper sauce which is wonderful; I used it in the poached pompano I made recently in the fish cooker.

I haven't eaten beef since the early 90s and have cut out all processed or packaged foods from my diet due to celiac disease and ill effects from all the "stuff" they put in food nowadays; now I have to read every label, it is so time consuming.

Gary said he read on the ice cream he got for himself the other day that the chocolate was artificial. I could go on but this is enough of a rant on the food we have at our disposal; no wonder folks gain weight, their bodies tell them they "need" something so they keep eating, they'll never get what they need from most of the foods they eat, sad but true.

Joanna Jenkins said...

We'd have fun too! I love going into grocery stores. When we were in rural Ukraine a few years ago, one of the grocery stores had a self-serve frozen food section-- with NO sneeze guard. You could scoop up everything from frozen peas to chicken nuggets. It cracked me up!

Happy weekend, jj

Linda said...

I think you and I would enjoy trips to supermarkets, Ms Sparrow! I also love supermarkets, and often think of the trips to such markets I took with my parents as a child. Things were much different back then...especially the technology. I can still remember the sounds of the vintage cash registers. Thank you so much for sharing this, I just love your enthusiasm!

The Owl Wood said...

I remember when we lived on the Isle of Lewis when I was a sprogling, the only chance I got to spend my two shillings and sixpence pocket-money was when the parents took us into Stornoway on saturdays. I'd stock up on sweets for the week from Woolworths pik'n'mix counter! Luxury, sheer luxury.

Elaine said...

That was such fun, I feel as though I have been on a world tour via grocery stores and candy bars! You have had my taste buds working overtime as I read, although they were strangely silent as I read about the frozen giant bullfrogs!

Did you try the Icelandic dried fish - straight from the packet, with a little butter to help you chew it? It sounds disgusting, but our local guide introduced us to was much nicer than it sounds. Icelandic candy!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

This is a great post! I'm not at my best in grocery stores. Case in point: I wanted to pick up some chicory coffee in New Orleans. I came home with Chock Full O' Nuts, containing no chicory at all. Sheesh.

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow! I felt kinda dumb about finally posting this one, so I'm tickled pink that so many people responded!

Kittie: Snickers are a terrible addiction aren't they? The plums (or prunes?) dipped in chocolate sound wonderful. In Iceland, they sold licorice covered in chocolate.

Essay: You two must have had a lot of grocery adventures! I remember all the neat produce you bought in Costa Rica. (Did you actually make some lutefisk?)

Buttercup: I'm not aware of any grocery stores that are exclusively Indian or Chinese but there are lots of Asian markets so that might cover those other ethnicities.

Linda S: When the Hmong were settled in St Paul, many churches and service organizations sponsored and mentored the immigrants to help them adjust. One thing the newcomers had a hard time with was the huge number of choices at the grocery store. I love Vietnamese food and the garlic pepper sauce sounds good. My sister quit eating beef after the Mad Cow scare and I eat very little. I do get hungry for a burger once in a while!

Joanne: It makes you thankful for our public health laws, doesn't it!

Linda: I remember going to an old-fashioned mercantile store as a kid. They sold soda crackers in big sheets out of a cardboard box and cookies too. You just put your stuff in a paper bag and they would weigh it for you. In the summer, the humidity would make the crackers and cookies soggy and they didn't taste very good.

Owl: Oh yeah! Heading for town with twenty five cents on Saturday night! That would buy a 15 cent movie and 5 cent popcorn or a 10 cent comic book--tough choices had to be made!

Elaine: Dried, buttered fish? Our guide never tempted us with that delight! Since I don't eat fish unless it's deep-fat fried in batter and covered in tartar sauce, I would have declined!

Blissed: I have never tasted chicory but since I'm a die-hard Butternut coffee drinker, I'm thinking it probably wouldn't appeal to me. I hear it's bitter compared to coffee. Picking up the wrong thing at the grocery is something I can identify with! That is a good item to set aside for the Post Office annual food shelf drive.

Bea said...

Mars and Snickers were my favourites when I was in my 20ties, nowadays I make a big detour around it. They were tastier in these days too. I hate that they put highfructose syrup in everything nowadays.

I tried the dried Islandic fish bits in Norway - and liked it.
And the chocolate covered cookies (like twist) is a MUST if you go hiking in the mountains!:)) It's called "kvikk lunsj" = quick lunch. Our Norwegian friends had it in their luggage when they came visiting us in June. It didn't last long, I can tell you!
No goodies survive in my house. Therefor, no goodies around - no temptation.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I like small grocery stores too, I used to enjoy the variety of little shops in Malawi, when I lived over there. Edinburgh is lucky in having a lot of small shops too.

Snickers bars over here used to be Marathon bars I think, Mars bars are different.

Pearl said...

If you go to the Hmong market in St. Paul -- the big one, by the capital -- they have sow belly so crispy and delicious it will make you cry.



Barbara Blundell said...

Hi Ms Sparrow. Also a supermarket junkie ! Just love food shopping
I have a recipe for Chocolate Crunchies made with melted Mars bars and Rice Crispies. Yummy !!

Anonymous said...

I love grocery stores and make a beeline for one anytime I travel. When I first went to one in San Antonio it had cabrito (young goat) halves in the meat section.

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