One of my favourite things to do in a new city or town is explore the local supermarket.
For me it’s the heart and soul of a country, culture and cuisine. What could be more insightful than a look at what people eat every day? That’s why it was a no brainer for my list of 6 steps to scoping out a city like a true foodie.
Bear in mind that this is written by someone who gets a thrill from visiting even her own local supermarket. From a young age, mum would always take me on her weekly Thursday night shopping trips and I LOVED to pour over the shelves, suggest new products (sometimes even helpfully throwing items straight in the trolley) and help her unpack.
The best part about foreign supermarkets is the potential for quirky and unusual items that I may never have seen or been able to get my hands on before.
This is how I discovered some of my favourite supermarket finds, like mini marzipan carrots from Switzerland (perfect for decorating carrot cakes) and frappé sachets from Greece (because real Greek frappés must have Greek Nescafé in them).
Then there are the items that stop me in my tracks and have me asking how, or ever why?
1. Like the black water I came across in Mexico City. Otherwise known as ‘Alkaline Fulvic Trace Mineral Infused Water’ and supposedly containing superior minerals to assist better hydration than normal water. I’m not sure how water can become more hydrating but ten points to the manufacturers for being attention grabbing.
2. I’ve already told you about my discovery of crap in Romania but it surely deserves another mention. I don’t think anything else has ever stopped me in my tracks quite as quickly as this towering collection – holy crap I thought! Even though I now know that crap means carp in Romanian, it still makes me smile.
3. Another thing I noticed in Romanian supermarkets is how they love to use English names to brand everyday products. This is how I came across chocolate called ‘Big Ben’, ‘Laura’ and ‘Clever’. It was a marketing ploy that worked on me – I bought one of each.
4. When it comes to clever branding, the Swiss are ahead of the game. What other country would brand eggs with their national flag? I discovered these around Swiss National Day on the 1st August which celebrates the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy. Around this date practically everything is coated in red and the distinctive white equilateral cross – eggs included.
5. Branded red eggs I have no problem eating. Spam flavoured macadamia nuts? Not a chance. Spam is massive in Hawaii, with a yearly festival devoted to the stuff (called the Spam Jam, of course). Obama even orders it when he goes home. I guess it’s the Aussie equivalent to chicken salt.
6. Finnish canned bear was also a step too far. Partly because of the obscene cost of €20 a can and partly because I am suspicious of any product that claims to be 100% pure on the packaging and then 90% in the ingredients list. If I can’t have 100% pure bear then I don’t want any at all thank you.
7. A Swiss discovery that truly had me stumped were these gold foil covered, slightly roundish shapes. They reminded me of some Greek sweets that come wrapped in coloured foil. But I was in the fruit and veg section so that didn’t make any sense.
I had no choice but to unwrap one and see what was hiding underneath, much to the distaste of the eagle-eyed floor manager. Folienkartoffel translates to baked potato so I assume these babies were designed for baking.
8. This beauty has already received an honourable mention in my post about Estonian food but it surely deserves a place on this list too. Cabbage juice is still too difficult for me to digest as a concept, let alone as a beverage. Think of the pungency of just a little bit of fresh cabbage, multiply this by hundreds and condense it into a bottle. No thanks.
9. My final, favourite random find was surprisingly discovered on home ground. There’s nothing offensive or outrageous about the Flexi Lexi, but it was a special find, simply because it felt aimed right at me (Lexy is a nickname and part of my email address). The fact that is tasted pretty good too was a nice bonus.
Now I’m putting it out there – does anyone have a random supermarket find they can add to my list?