Monday, July 03, 2006

Gotta run to the grocery store

I've noticed that I've been blogging more about books than about Poland. I've been reading too many lit blogs, perhaps? I really like lit blogs and I really like books and reading, but I don't want my blog to be exclusively about those things. I want to write about living in Poland.

This is how it is. When I'm not living in Poland, I think about Poland a lot, and about what it's like, and I miss it.

When I'm living in Poland, I'm just living in Poland. I forget that the things I do and see are not typical, and that I wanted to use this blog to share a little bit of what it's like to live here.

So I went to the grocery store. When I first came to Poland, they didn't have large western-style stores anywhere, but now they do. They are so similar to the stores I shopped in while I was in the states that I really have to think about what would seem odd to a visitor. These things might catch your attention:

The products are priced in Polish złoty, of course. The meat is weighed by the kilogram, not the pound. The cereal is packaged in cellophane bags instead of boxes (and they are a real pain in the neck to store and use, too). Make sure you have your produce weighed and priced in that department before you check out, because the cashiers do not have scales. Turkey is cut up and sold the same way chicken is, so you can buy turkey legs, turkey thighs, turkey wings, and boneless, skinless turkey breast. There are more pork products than any other kind of meat. None of the beef is cut into a recognizable form except the hamburger. In the meat department, you can buy beef kidneys, hearts and liver, AND pork kidneys, hearts, and liver. And chicken feet. Jello comes in flavors like gooseberry and apricot. If you want plain apple juice or plain orange juice, you are really going to have to hunt on the shelves among the boxes (one- or two-liter sized, of course) of black current and carrot-raspberry juice. Eggs are brown. You can look high and low, but you will not be able to find brown sugar or chocolate chips. You will find little paper packets of baking powder and "vanilla sugar." Flour and sugar and rice are sold in one-kilogram bags (only 2.3 pounds). The large fish/sea-food section sells live carp.

Okay, when I really think about it, shopping here is a bit of a different experience than it is in America. I still fill my cart full of groceries, wait in line for the cashier to scan my purchases, and wince at the total.


At 12:22 AM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

Grin...some of your Polish experiences don't sound that different from Canada. I buy things by the kg bag too...but at least our cereal does come in boxes.

Is your vanilla sugar Dr. Oetker's? That's a familiar brand around here.

I always think about your family when I see the photos of the Polish supermarket in our Hungry Planet book...and the Beehive family when I look at the Texas page.

At 12:30 PM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

Among other brands, yes, you can buy Dr. Oetker's vanilla sugar. There are tons of other things under this label, from whipped topping to fancy cake mixes to almond flavoring. I wonder what "Polish" supermarket they show in your book? I forgot to mention that all our big western stores are either French or German chainstores, plus one British. I usually shop at Geant (French) or Real (German), but Tesco (British) is too far from my house to be convenient.

At 3:55 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

Yes, you can get all kinds of Dr. Oetker mixes and things here (but they're not usually on our shopping list).

The supermarket in the book is the Auchan hypermarket in Warsaw. The book says "The huge new supermarket is near a big intersection that serves four or five other bedroom communities....The store is a sign of the rapid economic development of the Polish countryside, which two decades ago was dominated by Communist-era collective farms."

At 10:17 PM , Blogger The Apprentice said...

That gooseberry and apricot Jello sounds delicious. Is it?

At 1:44 AM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

I should have said I buy things like rice by the kg bag...but our flour and sugar usually come in 2.5 kg bags (about 5 pounds). You can buy bigger sacks, but those are kind of your average grocery store size.

At 9:48 AM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

I don't know about those jello flavors...I've never tried them!

(In my defense, I only eat sugar-free jello, and they don't come sugar-free.)

At 8:59 AM , Blogger Phyllis said...

Your post made me think. We recently saw the first Western-style grocery store open here, right in our neighborhood! What would American shoppers think is strange about this wonderful store? Do you all have lockers at the entrances of grocery stores to leave your belongings (especially bags) before going in? Are there men in suits standing around watching over everything there in Polish stores, too? Do you have to provide your own bags for small purchases? (Our store only gives bags if you spend over 100 rubles.)

At 3:42 AM , Blogger Valerie said...

I purchased Dr.Oetker product written in Polish and my husband who came from Poland does not understand the receipe.
The package says Sernik Na Zimmo
the picture shows a cake with a cookie base and cheese (some sort of cheesecake)with a layer of red jello that has been made with different types of berrier. If anyone knows this type of cake, please let me know.


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