Monday, March 21, 2011

A slice of the ordinary

I walked to the grocery store this weekend. The shelves are mostly full again. After the earthquake many stores had difficulties bringing in supplies to replenish their stocks, and some things are still in short supply. (Not that I’m in dire need of specialty cheeses.) I like going to the grocery store because there’s a nice familiarity to the orderly bins of produce, followed by aisles of cereal, soup, baking needs, hair care products, toilet tissue, etc. Grocery stores in Christchurch (and elsewhere in New Zealand) are, to me, comfortable reminders of Life Back Home. Plus there’s not a whole lot there that is beyond my means, or even beyond my understanding, and even an extravagant trip into the Land of Comfort Food isn’t going to break the bank, although it may break the diet.

My favorite discovery since arrival has been the “Easy-Yo” yoghurt maker. One can, of course, buy yoghurt in 6-packs of small containers (called “pottles”), or even in vat-sized buckets I thought were generally reserved for more upscale varieties of ice cream. It’s cheaper, though, to buy New Zealand yoghurt in powdered form—in packets on the cereal aisle. Mix your packet with cold water in the specially designed container, stick it in your Easy-Yo overnight, and presto! The next morning there’s yoghurt. No electricity required. Use less water, and it’s Greek style! Use more, and it’s a yoghurt smoothie! Buy add-ins like fruit and honey in bulk, and save even more! Adding in your own goodies almost constitutes playing with your food... From all of this, I have to conclude that I am easily entertained.

Grocery stores are great ways for the non-risk-takers like me to feel adventurous. You won’t find me bungy-jumping off any bridges while I’m here—and believe me, there are lots of bridges I could choose from—but sautéed kumara cooked in pumpkin soup? Yum. Anyone for organic marinated NZ tofu with zucchini pickle on a Cruskit? Occasionally I’m lucky enough to find vegetarian pies in the deli. Meat pies, in the individual serving size, are a traditional New Zealand fall-back food, having migrated along with the British. They’re a little like a U.S. pot pie, but with a pastry crust that is hardy enough to stand up on its own without the help of an aluminum tin tray. Mostly pies contain hamburger meat and potato, but even the vegetarian ones will sit back and put their feet up in your stomach until your digestive tract cries uncle.

I went to the grocery store this weekend because I was buying ingredients to make a typical New Zealand lunchbox treat—the slice. “Slice”, near as I can tell, refers to any goodie that comes in bar form, although usually oats seem to be involved. In my case, the slice of choice was Ginger Crunch, as I’d wheedled the recipe from a friend who made me some after the earthquake. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this addiction when I get back to the U.S., as one of the key ingredients is Golden Syrup, which, for the uninitiated, is a little like the broiled sugar on the top of a flan dessert. (On second thought, it’s probably just as well I won’t be able to make it all that frequently back home. There’s enough butter in the recipe to drown your average Kiwi.) It took a little hunting around for some ingredients (fine coconut vs. long thread coconut?), but I eventually carted home the goodies in my reusable green shopping bags.

I’m not the only one who walks to the grocery store. Walking was popular before the earthquake but it’s become more common as the earthquake has done an impromptu reorganization of usable roads in, out, and around the city. Having been caught out in this traffic more than once, I’m definitely up for multiple trips of walking to the store to carry back necessary food supplies. Nothing like adding little extra weight-bearing exercise to the weekly schedule to make one feel virtuous. It makes the Ginger Crunch taste especially good.

1 comment:

Jen ( said...

I have a friend that lives near Christchurch. I should ask him to take some photos of the grocery store; I'm curious about some of the things you've mentioned! Isn't it an odd thought that a grocery store would be so different?