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.
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?