It’s about time I made another confession. And it’s not that I still haven’t started “On the Road” (although I haven’t. So I guess I ought to confess to that too). No, what I have to confess is that I love supermarkets. In other countries. I get excited by rows and rows of products I haven’t seen before, and layouts I don’t understand, and measuring systems that the rest of the world believes to be outdated (America, seriously. The metric system follows actual rules.) Anyhow, I believe it’s time I shared some of my love of supermarkets, and the products they stock, with you.
Walmart is pretty much your stock standard store. It’s the Safeway of America, with the scale of Aldi, and cool-level of say, IGA (which is of course to say, non-existent). There are a lot of derogatory comments made about the stereotypical person who shops at Walmart. It doesn’t matter though, because Walmart is so freaking huge that it’s impossible for it to be boring. If you want to buy something, you can find it at Walmart. You practically need a map to get around, and if you’re on a schedule, I’m the last person you want with you. I get distracted by everything, from cereals, to biscuits, to soup, to lollies.
It’s really odd to go into a supermarket, a familiar place, and realise you’re out of your depth. You don’t recognise the brands, or the names of the products. And then Americans like to make everything more difficult by calling the food itself by a different name. Lollies are candy, biscuits are crackers (and scones are sometimes biscuits and sometimes scones), jam is jelly, and jelly is jell-o. But it doesn’t stop there. I mean, hard enough that the pronunciation for basil is “baysil,” without capsicums being peppers and coriander becoming cilantro.
I forgive them all this, though, because it is just so much fun. The poptarts are some of my favourites, because of all the flavours. In fact, everything comes in multiple flavours, because Americans are all about choice. Size, definitely, and choice. The ice-cream section seems to run for miles, and even the pasta aisle is overwhelming. It makes it extremely hard to be me, because obviously I want to know what cinnamon and raisin peanut butter tastes like (excellent, if you were wondering. Especially on apples. I’m bringing some home).
With all of the wonder of Walmart before me, you might question why I’d ever want to visit another supermarket. You have not, in this case, heard of Whole Foods. This particular grocery-heaven has no equivalent in Australia. It is in a class all of its own. It is a supermarket dedicated to organic food. You won’t find your poptarts here. Instead, you grind the peanut butter yourself, and buy plastic cutlery that’s recyclable. The best part about Whole Foods though, is that they basically have an entire food court inside the store. Feeling like sushi? Restaurant quality pizza? Curry? There’s a bakery to supply all your cupcake longings, and a cheese department to make most French supermarchés proud.
The best of this, though, is the salad bar. I’m not talking your average garden salad. I’m talking “quinoa and mango” or “Mediterranean vegetable” or “Tuscan pasta.” And if absolutely nothing takes your fancy, there’s another whole bar of just ingredients for you to create your own. I had salad for dinner the other night, and I actually think it would have been quicker for me to just go home and cook something because of how long it took me to choose the salads I wanted (so worth it, though. So, so worth it).
I can’t finish this post without mentioning my favourite discovery so far. My heartfelt thanks go out to Clare and Eugene, because without them I would not have sampled the delights of granola.
Granola is not muesli. I like muesli. It’s healthy, and you can mix nice stuff with it. But it’s not granola. Granola is crunchy, and while that difference may be small, it is important. Granola with yoghurt is the best way to start off the day, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. You can get it with as many flavours as any other American product (and yes, I may have a slight fixation with cinnamon and raisin) and it tastes excellent with fresh fruit, particularly blueberries. I don’t know if it’s possible to buy it in Australia, but if I can’t find it anywhere I am going to learn how to make it.
I have my priorities in order.