The simple act of grocery shopping

No more getting a seat at the dinner table and being served.  We now have to go grocery shopping if we don’t want to starve.  A hundred years ago, it was “you eat what you kill”, it has become “you eat what you buy”.  I love grocery shopping in a foreign country, it’s like a live scavenger hunt, but it’s exhausting and you get a lesson in humility!  Put a J.D. and a Ph.D. in an Indian grocery store, and they will be as confused as, well, two Americans who recently moved to India!

There are so many aspects of shopping we take for granted, such as relying on packaging to identify a product.  In India, cooking oil doesn’t always come in a plastic bottle, but in a plastic pouch.  Milk comes in bricks (like in France actually, UHT milk).  Vegetables have shapes I have never seen before, and names I have never heard of.  Heads of garlic are a bit smaller than back home.  Most herbs, such as coriander, are sold with the root still attached.  A lot of the products are European, which is lucky for me since I recognize the brands, not so lucky for my 100% U.S. bred husband.  We had a near miss with a box of Ariel (laundry detergent) that was mistaken for dishwashing powder since the packaging for both products are similar.  Crisis averted!

Most American and European stores have long parallel aisles.  Here?  No.  They have aisles but shorter and often at an angle.  You don’t see one long aisle with all the shampoos for instance, but have to look for shampoo in several aisles in the same section.

They don’t always have what you want.  It’s not unusual to see the entire section of Tide laundry powder completely empty.  There was probably an expat who bought the whole stock out of frustration!

Sugar.  I was looking for sugar.  I am sure they had some, I just couldn’t find it.  I had already asked several people for several items and was tired of looking like an idiot!  People in the store were staring at us from a distance, smiling, coming to our rescue when we stood in place for too long.  They even brought us a cart (called trolley here) when they noticed we were hauling around a basket that was getting a bit overloaded!  Organization of a store is also something we have engrained in our minds without much thought for it.  Sugar should be with baking needs.  It’s been over a month now and I still have never seen flour.  I have seen sugar before, but today at Big Bazaar, it eluded me.

Comes to the rescue! When you have spent so much time looking for the obvious, being stared at, while being hungry (no more nibbling on a box of cookies or a bagel while shopping) and becoming slightly frustrated in a fun way, you go home, get on your computer and place an order for grocery delivery on  The prices are pretty similar to what you find in a store, but more expensive than the local market of course.  The main advantage to me is that they know what you’re looking for.  I need fenugreek for a recipe but have no clue what fenugreek looks like.  I have bought dried fenugreek at a fancy frou-frou store back home, but have never seen the non-dehydrated kind.

Tomorrow night, I will know what fresh fenugreek looks like!


Some things you just can’t make up.

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