Friday, October 14, 2011

Hunting and Gathering, Part 1

Note: I wrote this post a few weeks back and will have the more recent update (part 2) finished in a couple of days.

Truly, I can't complain.  We have an abundance of grocery stores, butchers, and produce stands ranging from the Wal-mart model to the nicer stores a la Harris Teeter or Tom Thumb and everything in between.  (Keeping in mind that this is on a Moroccan scale, of course)  They don't have the cleanliness/refrigeration/efficiency standards that we are used to, but it could be a lot worse.  What follows has more to do with my own issues.

First, let's talk grocery carts in Morocco.  I know that seems like an odd topic to begin with, but just wait. At first glance they appear identical to those in the states.  But then you try to move it and KATIE BAR THE DOOR.  Instead of the 2 front wheels of the cart being able to turn, while the back 2 are fixed, ALL 4 wheels turn on these grocery carts.  I can barely steer one without anything in it, but once it starts filling up with items...oh dear me, it is totally uncontrollable.  I have tried pushing it, pulling it, going sideways, turning it backwards.  It doesn't matter- the cart and I end up looking drunk.  Nevermind that all of my fellow shoppers are passing by me cooly pushing their carts as if it were NO BIG DEAL.

I would say that entering a Moroccan grocery store is an assault to the senses but that wouldn't be true.  It's an assault to the EYES.  I am pretty sure this would ring true for anyone anywhere in the world where you don't know the language or the local brand names.  I never realized how much I profile in the grocery store.  Let's say I'm buying mustard at Harris Teeter back home.  I look over the brand names "French's" or "Guildens" and compare their prices to one another.  Then I check the Harris Teeter store brand and compare that price to the others while also taking note of the sizes.  Maybe I want organic "Annie's"- price/size check.  But wait, Harris Teeter has an organic one too!  Or maybe I'm feeling fancy and want "Grey Poupon".  It starts all over.  When you know all the brands, can read the labels, and understand exactly how much you are spending (without dividing everything by 8) you do all of this subconsciously in a few seconds.  But here in Morocco I stand in front of the mustard and wonder at the big blur of 20 different labels/sizes/prices and I have NO idea which is good quality and decently priced and I don't even know if it's the name brand or store brand!  And I do that with EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. I. BUY. RIGHT. NOW.

Here is part of the ketchup section.  Was anyone else's eye drawn immediately to the 2 bottles on the right towards the top (Heinz)?  Mine were.  However, it is inevitably going to be a ridiculous price and is it really worth it for me to have an American brand of ketchup?  Probably not.
Of course it will get easier after trial and error.  But it's been 2 weeks and I still can't bring myself to buy flour because for one, there are too many different types of flour- all the ones we have plus their own, they ALL come in Costco size bags so you don't want to make a mistake, and there are always a few bags of flour that have spilled out.  So basically, the flour aisle is like a slip-n-slide which is one thing just walking in, but then add that blasted cart and OH MY HEAVENLY STARS.  And when I say I don't want to make a mistake I am assuming the "normal" U.S. kinds are in there, but not totally confident in my ARABIC reading skills.

I have decided that the best job to have in Morocco is that of grocery store cashier.  Not only do they get to sit in a nice office chair behind the register, but they don't even have to weigh the fruits/veggies.  (You do that in the produce section)  So they just scan all the bar codes and take your money.  You then bag all of your groceries yourself.  Sign me up.  For the cashier job, not the bagging.  You should see the spectacle I make every time I am trying to count out correct change, grab the reciept, throw it all into my change purse- whose zipper inevitably manages to get stuck, and bag my groceries all at the same time while the next customer and cashier stare at me with a "Really?" expression waiting for me to MOVE ALONG, homegirl.

The main thing, though, is that I am managing to feed my family in a new place.  Score one for Mommy.

More to follow.

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