Supermarket=Cultural Experience: The AIP Vacationing Series

Did you know that you can learn more about a country's current culture by visiting their grocery stores instead of their museums?  I mean, I like a good museum as much as the next guy, but when I want to really get immersed in a new culture . . . I go grocery shopping.  Think I'm reaching a little, see the examples below.

Supermarket comes to my door via enterprising young women in Sierra Leone.
Organic, Free Range chicken eggs sold at a supermarket in Montreal.

See the difference?  Even if you've never visited either locale, you already learned alot about Sierra Leone and Montreal.  Don't you love the "liberated chickens" in Montreal (Quebec is a French-speaking country)?  In developed areas, this has become an important dietary concern, but I can tell you for certain, it is not even a necessary conversation in still developing countries.

We got into Montreal at about 5 PM.  Dinner time was not far off, so I needed to work out a plan for eating soon.  This could have been sorta' stressful, but I actually approached it with alot of energy and excitement.  I knew we were about to have a major cultural exchange.  After we unpacked and took an hour or so to get acquainted with our apartment and to rest, we hit the streets to walk to the grocery store.

As we walked, we immediately started getting a sense for Montreal.  It's a sophisticated city, with a very visible mix of people overlaid with both French and American culture.  I've experienced the French/African mix, but this was my first time experiencing the French/American mix.  Then something interrupted my thoughts, "Our little walk is getting kinda' long, Honey."

We got lost on the way to buy groceries.  The woman who'd rented out the apartment to us had told me it was near the City Chinois (China Town).  We headed back in that direction and wandered through busy streets.  No luck.  I can only beat the streets for so long, before my stamina starts to waiver, so my daughter and I decided to head back to the apartment while my husband did a further reconnaissance.  We got a few blocks down the street and I heard someone shouting my name.  "Who in the heck knows me in Montreal?," I thought.  I turned my head to see my husband running toward us.  The store was just a few paces beyond where'd we parted ways.

Excitedly we all marched into the store.  A few observations:  grocery store was in bottom floor of a stunning skyscraper . . . very cosmopolitan.  Grocery store was a familiar chain from the U.S., but roughly 50 rungs higher on the fancy ladder for a Frenchy crowd.  Like most Euro-influenced supermarkets I've ever been in, the store was a bit maze like, but every hidden corner was filled with interesting new foods or brands.  For some reason, I love reading the names of ubiquitous foods in other languages and this store did not disappoint.  Porc haché sounds so much more exotic than ground pork, right?

Daddy & daughter, heading home w/ our haul

We get a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture, more on this in the future) box from our local farmer.  We picked it up Saturday before leaving and I washed and prepped everything and we just took it with us, so we didn't need too much in the way of vegetables yet.  I concentrated on meat and fats.  Horse meat was an option, but we passed on it.  We ended up buying plain, ground pork, duck fat (holy moly, duck fat is my new favorite thing EVER), and a few odds and ends.  By the time we arrived back at the apartment I had a plan for what would be on the menu our first night on vacation.

Tarragon Pork Burgers, Sauteed Spinach & Garlic, & Zucchini & Fresh Sage fried in Duck Fat

It was easy, fast, and delicious . . . and by the time all was said and down we ate at the very fashionable Euro-influenced hour of 9 PM.  A little on the late side, but our tummies appreciated it more.  If you absolutely can not delay meals (or if you have younger kids), this timing on the first night of a vacation might be a little hard to pull off.  In that case, I would suggest packing extra ready-to-eat food, but for us it worked out great.

Tomorrow read about how a vacation changes when eating out is not on the table and learn how delicious a roasted chicken becomes when you pour melted duck fat over the entire thing.  Not.  Even.  Kidding.  Yum!

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One thought on “Supermarket=Cultural Experience: The AIP Vacationing Series

  1. Colleen

    Glad you enjoyed your stay in Montreal. I do want to point out that Quebec is not a French-speaking country but a French-speaking province of Canada. Canada is officially bilingual, so all food labels are in both French and English. I speak functional French, which makes it handy for reading ingredient labels. We almost always stay in suite hotels with kitchens. I love the apartment you stayed in. I must look it up for my next trip to Montreal. I'm a bit surprised that you were able to cross the border with all that food - especially the fresh veggies, as I've had produce confiscated when I try to fly with it. I'm only on day 16 of AIP, but I'm already anticipating how to manage when travelling to the US next month. I'll have to try those coconut date balls.

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