Trouble in store

The Special One and I have just made our way back from the supermarket, or the grocery store as I now apparently have to call it (though always through gritted teeth, and with two fingers crossed behind my back). And even though I’ve now been living here for almost three months, the trip to do the family food shopping only seems to get more bewildering by the week.

See, I’ve been happily making my way round Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Waitrose for many a year, happily taking my pick from their extensive ranges of Slightly Too Small Gourmet Dinners For Sad Single Men, or Microwaveable Midnight Munchies (Sad Single Men-size). I know exactly which kind of crackers I like for cheese (Carr’s Water Biscuits if you must know, although I have been known to go through a pack of Cheddar’s in a single twenty minute session), and I even have a clear favourite when it comes to making sure that my whites stay white, rather than grey or yellow.

When it comes down to it, I’ve always been able to do a weekly shop in about ten minutes flat, because I know what everything looks like. Even if I moved house, the supermarket experience was always pretty generic, with baked beans looking the same wherever you went. Although, as my waistline will readily testify, they always had a better range of pies in South-West London…

Now I’ve moved countries, walking into a grocery store is like taking a long stroll in the dark. Sure, the fruit and veg are at the front of the shop in an attempt to convince you that everything within the building is fresh. But the apples and carrots are essentially where my brand recognition ends. From salad dressings to bintrash bags, nothing is the same. Where tins of sardines were once kept by the frozen food, they’re now by the taco supplies, and don’t even think about asking me where you might find lightbulbs. In fact, there’s only one brand that maintains both its name and identity from UK stores to their US equivalents. Sadly, man cannot exist on Heinz Tomato Ketchup alone.

This doesn’t make shopping easy, much to The Special One’s chagrin. If I get sent off to get, say, a can of lentil soup, there are only two possible outcomes – either I come bounding back enthusiastically with a jar of artichoke hearts, or else she has to launch a full-scale search of the store when I fail to return, and finds me twenty minutes later sitting shaking on the floor surrounded by tinned tomatoes and sobbing uncontrollably.

Shortly before our honeymoon, I was sent on a shopping mission by The Special One to ensure that the kids had enough food for the time we would be away. I had ten minutes to do two weeks of shopping, and to be honest, even if I’d have been given ten hours I would have struggled to correctly pick out everything on the lengthy list I’d been given. To be fair, the children don’t seem to have suffered any long-term effects after fourteen consecutive days of eating only olives and grated mozzarella. Although they admittedly get a look of abject terror if you even walk past them with a jar of tapenade.

Still, getting all your groceries packed and delivered more than makes up for any difficulties in the purchasing process, especially when you live in a fourth floor apartment. After years of lacerating my hands in the UK with shopping bags seemingly made of recycled razor blades, it’s nice to have somebody else carry the twenty four jars of baby food I mistakenly thought were bottles of beer, after all.

5 thoughts on “Trouble in store

  1. emiglia

    I feel your pain. Never thought I’d have those sorts of problems in Canada, but I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I wasn’t speaking English when I asked for something in a store, and then just went home and ate ice cream instead. In France, I try to pretend that American grocery stores never existed, but Thanksgiving is proving to make me completely mad.

  2. GrahameD

    I’ve been here long enough now that when I’m home in London I find myself standing at the checkout watching the shopping pile up and wondering why they aren’t putting it in bags for me. Then I remember and start packing it myself.

    Conversely, here I feel quite guilty letting them pack the bags – like, who do I think I am, Lord Snooty having the help put my shopping away?

  3. Dylan

    GrahameD – am so glad somebody else feels that way! Occasionally when I’m not buying much, I attempt to do it myself – only to receive filthy looks from the packer for getting involved with something that I should clearly play no part in…

    Emiglia – happy to send pumpkin pie ingredients, although why anybody would eat that stuff is still beyond me.

  4. GrahameD

    “only to receive filthy looks from the packer for getting involved with something that I should clearly play no part in…”

    I know, isn’t that crazy – same thing happens to me! I’m only trying to make your life easier, you wally.

  5. EiNY

    There’s a guy at my local C-Town who is about 91 and who always looks like he is about to have a cardiac arrest if he has to lift anything heavier than a tin of tuna.

    I can’t bear to watch him pack so I always try to simultaneously pay and pack my bags, leaving the light stuff like bread and crackers for him to pack. (It takes him a good 25 seconds to lift and place each item in the bag so I am normally done by the time he has packed them.)

    Then, because I feel so guilty that he even has to stand in C-Town packing people’s groceries, I give him a dollar tip.

    He must think that I’m the wally, considering I pack the bags myself and then pay him for the privilege.

    PS Dylan, would you mind dropping me a line? I’m in Chicago and I don’t have your email address with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *