A Non Shrink-Wrapped Life


January 22, 2013 by ebostick1212

Before departing for a year at university in France, I had this dream that I was going to do all my grocery shopping at the local market, finding the freshest of ingredients and mixing in with the locals.  When I arrived in Amiens, I realized that there were two problems with this idea.  Problem number one: I lived in a 12 by 12 foot room in residence hall where all forty students on the floor shared one kitchen.  This prevented any type of extravagant cooking on my part.  Problem number two:  I lived a half an hour bus ride away from any sort of bakery, fruit shop, or butcher.  Right across from my residence was a huge supermarket.  My dreams of eating locally in France were dashed.

I left France feeling as though modern life had caught up with everyone in the world, even the most traditional of French grandmothers.  It bummed me out.  I thought I was destined for a life sorting through shrink wrapped chicken parts or mealy apples at the supermarket in my town.

Then I moved to Spain.  Honestly, I was not expecting the Spanish to be any different than the French.  Our American shopping ways had spread across the ocean choked away the old market traditions with its own sterilized hands.  It was a complete surprise to see bakeries and local shops on every corner.

‘This can’t be right’, I thought to myself. ‘We killed off local shops years ago!’.

Yet here, my dream has come true.  I make the shopping rounds every weekend.  From the frutería in Ciudad Aljarafe, that always supplies me with the perfect oranges, direct from the local countryside, to the Hnos. Calvo bakery that is steps away from my apartment.

The Neighborhood Bakery

The Neighborhood Bakery

The Neighborhood Frutería

The Neighborhood Frutería

While I might not be best friends with the baker yet, but I still love the fact that these people are genuinely excited about selling their products.  More than once, I’ve asked for something at the frutería, and the woman at the counter has said ‘oh no, hija, wait a couple of weeks for those, they aren’t ready yet…try the mandarins/chirimoyas/green apples instead.’  (This also proves that I am clueless about seasonal eating around here.)

The one place I haven’t ventured is the butcher.  Not that I have an aversion to meat, I mean, I don’t think I’d ever be able to give up jamón.  It is more the fact that I cannot successfully cook meat, nor can I really afford to screw it up and eat a plate of charred remains.

A few years ago, I honestly thought that I would never experience old time market culture.  Like dinosaurs and Liza Minelli’s career, it was extinct.  I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten a chance to do my shopping in such a manner.  With so much globalization, and Wal-Mart’s quest to take over the world…who knows how long it will last?

8 thoughts on “A Non Shrink-Wrapped Life

  1. blogyear says:

    I love an open market… something very relaxing about picking fruits and veggies early morning, people seem less cranky too 😛
    I live in Pune (India) and the malls are killing those cute little fruit shops! I wish they find a balance between the two.

  2. ebostick1212 says:

    In Bormujos and Castilleja you can go to local supermarkets too: it´s like a ‘plazoleta’ when you can make the groceries from fruits ’till meat & fish. My grandad used to supply some with ‘higos’, the fruit he grew in his countryside.
    I love ya!

  3. izzih says:

    Ah you have made me miss the fruterias in my exAndalucian pueblo! Here in Madrid, things just don’t seem quite as fresh. I can’t quite summon the nerve to go to the butchers either, I just feel like they are going to put me on the spot and question my limited meat knowledge! R

    • ebostick1212 says:

      Haha, I have very limited meat knowledge…even in English. I can’t even distinguish between different cuts, really. I am, however, becoming an expert at Andalusian fruits! I had never even seen a chirimoya or a kaki before coming here. I might be moving up to Madrid next year, so I should prepare myself for non-freshness…boo!

  4. Living in France at the moment and surprised at how popular chain restaurants are. I think if you’d tried cooking any extravagant you would have been looked at funny.

  5. ebostick1212 says:

    It is very true. There are McDonalds everywhere. Here too, but luckily the little neighborhood shops are staying strong!

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