I was in the process of creating my Must Have Trader Joe’s Grocery List and experienced a little flashback –> I was getting off the plane in Bahrain and immediately asked to go to the grocery store. A friend overheard my request and the look on his face will forever be imprinted in my memory. (… no.)
In my naïve brain I thought the grocery store was going to be some cute little corner shop filled with pounds and pounds of spices, piled high with fresh fruits, and I wanted to check it out!
Reality: Grocery stores in Bahrain and Dubai, are located inside the shopping malls. They look like a huge HEB, Cub Foods or your typical large chain grocer. With a Top Shop across the isle… Not too much glory in that.
However, I stand by my suggestion: Stop in the local grocery store of the country you’re visiting or living in.
From there, you can learn what locals use to cook. What they grow up eating. If there’s any no-no’s. Or any must-eats. You can find real, local, fresh foods. Or you can find items you’re used to seeing fresh.. now imported and barely surviving.
In Dubai – there were huge spice barrels, a nut and olive counter, and aisles packed with fresh dates. There was also as scary dark dungeon in the back of the store where you could try to score some pork.
In Portugal – I was ecstatic to see mounds of salami and wine, and a butcher who would very excitedly try to communicate the best option for me, giving me taste tests along the way. (I spent a lot of time at the salami counter, 6 months into living in a pork-free country had me like heeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy)
In the Dominican Republic – there were mostly smaller markets. Some larger… All of which lacked peanut butter, and I craved it like a fish craves water. (I think I eventually found PB near a resort and ended up paying $30 for a small jar. Priorities people.) Also, the DR had tons x tons x tons of beer and rum + yucca and tostones + loud salsa music inside the markets… at 6am. All for approx. 10 cents <– You can tell those people are happy.
In Amsterdam – my dreams came true. Tiny, cutie, corner markets with breads, cheeses, flowers, coffee and food that looked so precious – staring at it all day was enough! They also had larger, more typical style grocery stores. Extra heavy in the floral department. (Needless to say, I’m anxious to go back)
What my flashback has pushed me to say is, when you’re abroad, take a good look at those local grocery stores.
Appreciate the fresh items you find, that you won’t be able to at home. Eat them like cray. And don’t forget to figure out what groceries to appreciate from home, that may not be offered abroad.
The people working at the grocery store are locals. Learn about the them. Personality, language, accents, style…
I love finding fun activities that aren’t so touristy. Granted, sometimes laying on an all inclusive beach resort with no scary pork dungeons is a treat of it’s own… But that get’s a little boring, no?
What fun do you look for when you travel internationally? Surely, it can’t simply be grocery shopping…
PS. Must-Have Trader Joe’s Grocery List IS coming up tomorrow… Distractions on lock down.