Grocery shopping overwhelms me. At home in the U.S., the size of the stores and the selection of goods can paralyze me with indecision and it can take me hours to shop if I’m not well prepared. I much prefer smaller stores and a choice between just two to three types of items. I have friends that love shopping and envision the delicious meals that lie ahead. I don’t enjoy cooking, so I don’t shop with the anticipation of preparing any meals. Even though I don’t like to cook, I try to stay away from processed foods and prepare meals from fresh ingredients.
When travelling I like to shop at local produce markets and corner stores. I feel that where I spend my money matters, so I would much prefer to support a local family business with my patronage than a giant corporation. In Ecuador I went to Supermaxi, the big American style grocery store, only three times. It wasn’t nearly as big as an H.E.B or Kroger back home, but it was the closest thing to it. I only bought the staple items at Supermaxi and left fresh fruits and veggies to the local vendors.
There is an immense variety of fruit and vegetables in Ecuador including many that were brand new to me. I had never heard of tree tomatoes, rambutan (achotillo), jocote, ground cherry (uvilla), naranjilla, or chirimoya. There were many other fruits I had tasted or seen at the grocery store before, but wasn’t very familiar with, like sapote, dragonfruit (pitihaya), loquat (nispero), soursop (guanabana), and passionfruit (granadilla). Going to the market in Ecuador was always interesting and pleasurable; there were brightly colored arrangements, the haggling to get the best deal, and oftentimes the vendors often let you try the fruit, or they would give the kids a handful of their favorites to snack on. The prices of produce in Ecuador made it easy to eat a fresh and healthy diet.
We are now in the middle of a city with a million inhabitants in Argentina. Yesterday we walked around quite a bit exploring the area. We had trouble figuring out the shopping hours here, since many places were closed. There was a small grocer about ten blocks away, but when we passed by at 5:30 they were closed, we were told they opened at 6 p.m. So we decided to go to the Jumbo supermarket that’s only two blocks away from our apartment.Well, Jumbo is not only the name, but a fitting description of the place, it was huge! It was like walking into a nice Wal-Mart Supercenter. They sell everything there from washing machines, to toys, to tools, to liquor (the wine selection was enormous!).
Immediately, my grocery shopping anxiety was back. To add to my indecision, I now have to figure out the cost of things, since I still don’t have a good grasp of the value of the Argentinian peso. Once again, I had to decide between 30 different types and brands of pasta, laundry soap, and milk, yet surprisingly, I could find no plain yogurt even though they had an entire aisle dedicated solely to yogurt. Just like an American style grocery store the choice of processed foods was enormous, but the produce selection was tiny. Sadly our large, interesting selection of fruits and veggies stayed in Ecuador. Instead of mangoes, passionfruit, and pineapples, we’re back to apples, pears, and grapes. On the plus side, the wine is abundant and inexpensive!