Many of the questions we get about our new life are about groceries. Of course, that’s because we are American. Did you know that, compared to the rest of the free world, Americans are really, really obsessed with food?
So, let’s go shopping together at an Italian grocery store. Because Mel should never shop in a foreign country alone. You will soon see why.
Got your grocery totes? Good! Because we’ve got a lot of totin’ to do!
Okay, let’s find the nearest store. WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? Don’t search Google Maps for “grocery store”!! You will get one in Richmond, Virginia. Thanks a lot, Google. Search for “supermercati” instead. In Europe, at least one grocery store chain in each country has a name that starts with the letter “C.” Great! Found a Conad!
After a long dinghy ride/taxi/bus/bike ride, we have made it to the Conad. It looks totally different from the last Conad Mel was in. Yep. Where are the carts? Inside? Outside? Look around, or better yet, follow someone coming out with one. In a non-creepy way.
Get out your Euro coin. Yes, it’s a whole Euro and it’s a coin. Yes, that’s cool they have such big coins but where do you keep all of those heavy coins and is that why all of the guys here seem to have fanny packs or man purses??? Yes. Get over it. Put the coin in the slot so we can get a cart. Three out of four wheels will roll. Like, on every cart. Deal.
Here’s where the two people come in. One person pushes the cart, and the other stands right in front, fends off crowds, and pulls the cart so it goes straight down the narrow aisles. So here we go.
Oh look! Wine samples! Don’t mind if I do!
Okay, beeline to the right side of the store because you are used to starting in that direction. But don’t expect produce to be there. Anything could be there. Anything. Like 130 feet of yogurt.(That’s what happened in Portugal, anyway.)
Okay, let’s check our list. First thing: 2 pounds ground beef. Google Translate says “beef” in Italian is “manzo.” Should be easy enough. Pick up that package of ground stuff. After some effort, you determine the label just says: “Machined.” What the hell? It looks okay, though. Buy it. Well, buy three packages of 0.347 kg and hope it’s not ground pork. Just cook the shit out of it and you should be fine.
Walk past the rest of the “beef.” They like to, uh, “feather” cows or something here. Didn’t know you could slice beef that thin. Mel would overcook it if she looked at it hard after this shopping trip. So skip it. Try not to notice that NONE of the beef is labelled, “manzo.”
Oh, you see “ham,” do you? Buy it if you like only the white parts of ham. In other words, only if you don’t like the ham part of ham.
Oh Christ! Bacon is on the list?! Look around! Every part of the pig has been microtomed into wafer-thin slices and packaged 5 slices at a time into antipasti. There is nothing left for BACON, you fool!
You go over and comfort yourself by buying one of 24 different types of salami. I’m sure they’re all good.
Okay. Produce section. Mel just needs a few sprigs of cilantro, but since it is packaged by the bushel, well, clear some room in the cart!
Okay, yes, those are some of the most perfect tomatoes I have ever seen…
Go weigh that gigantic beautiful green pepper and put the sticker that comes out of the machine on it so it can just be scanned at checkout. Yes, that does seem an efficient way to do it. Yes, that is surprising.
Hello, I’m back. Just tried another wine sample. Because we are about to hit the baking section.
Where the F is the goddamn baking powder? Google says it is “lievito in polvere.” So where is it??? How many different kinds of “farina” does one country need? How do these people make their pancakes, anyway?? Can they at least put a picture of corn on their cornstarch? Or is this cornmeal? Google Translate is telling me it is “wheat of pursed lips.” Okay, think. Look, there is a picture of a muffin on it. Can you make muffins with cornstarch?
Let’s go try some more wine!
I might cry! We finally have something easy to do! The next thing on our list is “pasta.” We go to the entire aisle dedicated to pasta. It is easy to find. Recognize something?? Did you know they ship the Barilla brand pasta from America all the way to here? Oh wait…it’s the other way around…epiphany noises. We don’t buy Barilla because we are all political, so just get the fresh pasta instead. Yum!
Try to suppress twisting a quote that’s been bubbling up in your head for the last few weeks, ala Chevy Chase in The Three Amigos: “Got anything besides…Italian food?”
No, your glasses don’t need adjusting. That little thing the size of your foot is indeed the biggest loaf of sliced bread they make. You see, they don’t eat sandwiches here. They eat panini. Because they are fancy.
As we wander the aisles, we wistfully dream of the following: paper towels that don’t fall apart, plastic baggies that don’t fall apart, and garbage bags that don’t fall apart. Also, deodorant that isn’t a roll-on. Then we buy what they have instead. But those napkins do have a nice heft to them, don’t they?
Finally, the wine section! Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of any of the wines or grapes. For $4 a bottle, you can afford to make a mistake. Make lots of them. Note that we still haven’t made one – the wine is excellent!
Whew! Done! The checkout process, basically a long, slow line ending in bagging your own stuff while the card goes through, is comfortably familiar, and while looking at the display of Tic Tacs, available the world over, you finally relax.
Now let’s go home and eat up our mistakes!