I was reading an article in a food blog the other day called “How to shop like a Parisian” where the author went on like crazy about the benefits of grocery shopping in France. You walk to place to place, more exercise! It’s charming going to the vegetable people and then the butcher’s and the baker’s! People shop more often instead of once a week and have fresh produce!
It sounds so romantic compared to grocery shopping in the states. Florescent lights, fighting your way through the mob of soccer moms at Central Market with your grocery cart (if you’re lucky) or uninspiring choices at Kroger’s.
In the states I think we place so much value on being time efficient because we have so little of it. I vaguely remember the days of leaving for the office at 7:30 am and getting back to the apartment at 9:00 pm with 30 minute lunches at my desk. How am I going to go back to that after 2 hour lunches cooked at home???
I’ve never been, but I’ve heard that Paris is set up in a more pedestrian way with more businesses that are accessible to where people live. Here we shop like that also, probably because time is what people have MOST of and because there is at least one if not 3 despensas on every block. There is always time, tranquilo. And even if you are a little late to your next engagement, it’s all good.
Here I have time to go to the vegetable stands and the butcher’s and to the fancy despensa that carries sandwich cheese slices and baking powder if I need something packaged like rice, lentils, pasta or milk. They all know me and I know them. If I’m short on money, that’s OK and I pay next time. We wave to each other when I bike or walk by. It IS nice to have a bunch of small businesses like this and the ability to get to know your vendors. But I will say, Kroger’s is convenient if you need veggies, advil, shampoo and ground beef all at the same time.
Living here has also changed the way I shop. In the states, I would usually have some sort of “game plan” before I went to the store. A list of what I was going to eat for the week. Here, I just show up needing FOOD. I might want to make a cucumber salad but there may not be cucumbers that day. The cucumber man may have been too busy to drop by. The cucumbers may look sickly and sad. They may be too expensive. I shop for food probably 3 or 4 times more often than I did in the states and what I get is determined on what is there and how good it looks (there were many weeks of sad, sad looking tomatoes this summer). Then I go home and figure out what it’s going to turn into. I plan meals here much less than I did before. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment!
But it works. My city runs mostly on the small businesses so it’s a good thing supermarkets haven’t made it here yet. I’m sure they will within the next 10 years though.
So, I’ve decided to start a little series of pictures/short bios of my despensa people. They are the people I interact with on a daily basis and some I consider friends.