Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Much Anticipated Food Blog!

Sunday, October 2, 2011
The Much Anticipated Food Blog

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what we are eating over here. It’s probably because people know I am one picky eater. Seriously. At home there are very few restaurants I will eat meat from and I will only eat salad from 3 or 4 restaurants.  I’ve had one too many cases of food poisoning than I care to experience again and since being super cautious I rarely get sick from food anymore. So, it stands to reason that my friends are asking about food because they know I am really picky when it comes down to it.

The first week we arrived in this city (from the Capitol) Brian and I ate McDonald’s every day. If you know me, you know I don’t eat stuff like that at home. But it was familiar and convenient. Well, one’s stomach can only take so much McDonald’s before you never want to see another one and I reached that point pretty quickly.

When we were delivered to our apartment we were told “the” market is across the street. Well “that” market is very small. It sells not very much and the meat department was questionable at best. So, McDonald’s seemed like the better choice. Then you hit this feeling that – if you don’t eat “real” food you might shrivel up and die. My body was craving nutrients – specifically fruits and vegetables. I knew from reading the blogs of other families that have been over here that there is a supermarket chain called Billa (they actually have stores located in 10 different European countries.) As result of my nutrient deprivation, I Googled Billa and prayed there would be one in our city. And there was. The next day Brian and I set out to find it; and, we failed. On Wednesday, we called our driver and asked him to drive us there so we would know the way. When we got there it was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert (okay probably not THAT good but it was close.) Aside from the European atmosphere and set up – it is just like a Publix. We bought a few days worth of groceries and headed back.

This is the market across the street from our apartment.

On an outing to the mall the other day we discovered a THIRD market – underneath the mall. From the outside it looked big and clean and Billa-like and we vowed to go back when we didn’t have any bags with us (ALL stores here have lockers – you put any bags you are carrying into the lockers and take the key with you as you shop. However, at this market they have a bag check instead of lockers.)
Yes, there is a supermarket under this mall...

Today was the day we went back to the EkoMarket. It was okay. We found a lot of stuff that Billa had but the meat department was as sketchy as the market next to us and the bakery didn’t have the bread we know we like. We did some shopping there and then dropped off our purchases at “home” and headed to walk to Billa. That walk took us about 20 minutes. Not horrible – despite the fact that it was cold and windy and neither of us had brought our jackets.

We arrived at Billa – put our shopping bags into a locker (you bring your own bags or they charge you) and finished our shopping for the week. That’s right. We won’t need to go back to the market for a week! YAY! We will need water for sure – but we won’t need to shop for a week. And, we can now enjoy the advantages of cooking at “home.” On a side note: Brian and I fell in LOVE with this pizza place in the Capitol called Celentano’s Pizza. Well, on our way back from Billa today we stumbled across one!!! We are thrilled to find one in our city! We have made a plan to go there on Sundays. We can get a pizza for about $5 – and it is a real pizza not like a nasty Domino’s $5 pizza. So yummy and so cheap!

Brian got a beer at Celentano's. 0.5 Litres for what amounts to $1.38.

Brian loves Celentano's!

Here are a few of things we have eaten for dinner since we discovered the good market and have ditched McDonald’s.

French Toast (they don’t sell syrup here so we had to eat it with Strawberry Jelly)
Potato Soup
Grilled Cheese/Grilled Ham and Cheese
Pasta with Olive Oil, Garlic, Tomatoes, Onions and Chicken (yum)
Ramen (sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking)
Pasta with Red Sauce (Brian ate this – I won’t touch the red sauce here. It’s weird…)
Hawaiian Rice with Sauteed Chicken Breasts

That’s a sampling. I bought stuff to make homemade Chicken Noodle Soup this week (as homemade as I can get here…) and I made potato soup tonight. I tried to make banana bread but we can’t figure out the oven so that was a fail. L

The potato soup I made for dinner (I can't figure out how to rotate the picture...)

I’ve also been asked how the meat and produce are. The answer is FRESH. Another answer is dirty. The potatoes I bought for the soup hadn’t been cleaned at all. They were still covered in dirt from the farm (don’t worry they got scrubbed really well before being diced and boiled).

The carrots are black also. Anything that comes from the ground needs a good scrubbing. The tomatoes are amazing – all are vine ripe. The produce here is very inexpensive (see prior blog for prices.) Shopping here is…different.

The produce section looks the same as it does at your store but instead of putting it in a bag and throwing it in your cart for the cashier to ring up – you ring it up on your own. That varies by store. Some stores (the EkoMart for example) have a lady who stands and weighs everything and then puts a sticker on it with the price and amount. Other stores (like Billa) you do all of this yourself. At Billa they have touchscreen computers that do this. You walk up to the computer, put your bag of produce on the scale, find the corresponding number (potatoes are 58) and touch the number. The computer then spits out the sticker and you stick it on your bag. It is very efficient and saves lots of time at the checkout stand because the lady only has to check the label (to make sure it is what you say it is) and scan it.

Other things are sold in a similar fashion – from bulk barrels. Flour, sugar, couscous, rice, grains, some cookies, pretzels, snack foods, raisins, dried fruit and nuts are all examples of this.

My favorite foods here so far: the yogurt and the kefir, jelly filled croissants, the juice, the seashell cookies

Brian's favorite foods here so far: the ham, Celentano's pizza (hey it's what he said!), the fresh bread, the pretzels sold in bulk

 Some interesting things about the markets here:

 They have rows upon rows of liquor (seriously...everyone here drinks and smokes...)

They have rows upon rows of chocolate and candies

The bakery really is a bakery – buying premade and prepackaged bread is unheard of (although the bread Brian and I like is indeed prepackaged)

They have fish tanks in the stores where you can choose your own fish from the tank

At Billa they have a keg in the middle of the store and a beer lady that will bottle it for you straight from the keg (I so should have gotten a picture of this – it is quite odd)

You bring your own bags or you pay (instead of if you bring your bags you get money off)

Markets don’t sell toiletries (some have an attached section that does but they don’t sell toiletries in the market itself.)

The drinks here are made with REAL sugar and NOT corn syrup. That means that coke, juice and tea all taste better! YUM! (Jelly/Jam too! Real sugar not corn syrup!)

Just because a brand is familiar to you doesn’t mean it tastes the same (For example: the ketchup at McDonald’s is Heinz but tastes different. The Nesquick chocolate milk isn’t milk – its chocolate water – think YooHoo!)

Sour cream and milk are not the sour cream and milk you are used to. Trust me on that one.

They have a candy for everything...see the Starbursts we bought today to bring home to people! (Mojito, Banana-Milk, Tropical Sunrise and Cherry Cola Starbursts all in one package...odd!)

I’m sure I’ll think of other eccentricities later but that is it for now. If you have any questions about the markets or the food just ask!

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