One of my favorite things to do in a new country is to visit the grocery store. You can learn a lot about a culture there. The most mundane errand becomes an anthropological study.
We have visited a variety of types of grocery stores, from the corner green grocer to the big, bustling supermarket. Even in the US, the big grocery stores are overwhelming for me and I generally try to avoid them. I’ve always preferred the smaller, local grocer in our old SF neighborhood. I also prefer fresh foods over the rows and rows of packaged items that are so prevalent in chain grocery stores. That means more frequent trips and buying fewer items at a time.
However, we are currently staying in a sort of suburban purgatory called Parque das Nações. It is the the site of the last World’s Fair of the 20th century, Expo 98. It’s not without its charms — riverfront esplanade, interesting architecture and public art, lots of restaurants. But it is firmly a car-oriented part of town, making it a bit of a haul for us pedestrians and public transportation users.
And what would a suburban neighborhood be without a massive mall? Inside this mall is a massive grocery store (a “hipermercardo”) that has everything from household, garden and beach items to a sophisticated wine shop. On the surface it can feel like any other major grocery store with maybe a little Target thrown in.
Except the piles and piles of different cuts of bacalau, or salted cod, the national ingredient. It’s right next to one of the most impressive fresh fish sections I’ve ever seen in a grocery store — all that is missing is a poke bar like I’ve seen in Hawaii’s grocery stores. Give it time. Poke has arrived.
One surprise was the vast variety of yogurt. Acres of it. An entire aisle dedicated to it.
What was not a surprise were the pork products of every sort. The following shows the entire aisle dedicated to all things porcine.
What I’m most excited about, aside from learning more about Portuguese wines, is learning more about the olive oils. Here, they organize them by region.
In addition to navigating the aisles, we have also obtained loyalty discount cards (like major US grocery chains), and have learned some of the protocols about picking out breads and other items.
Two places high on my list of places to shop are the TimeOut Farmer’s Market and the Mercado de Campo do Ourique. Now this is a farmer’s market!
As I said, even the simplest errand is an adventure in a new land!