Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday morning errands

Saturday morning, or afternoon depending on the time I feel like getting dressed and facing the outside world, is my shopping day.  Most Dutch people I know go shopping every few days or so.  Refrigerators here are smaller and most apartments don't have the storage capacity to keep all the goods a normal American household would collect in one trip to Wal-Mart or Costco.  Niek and I, however, live in a brand new building on the the edge of the city, and our refrigerator is considered gigantic by Dutch standards (might I just add that it would be tiny in America), and we can get by on shopping once a week.
We jump into our little car with our shopping bags and head over to the Moroccan supermarket:

Niek was looking for parsnips for a stew he was going to be making that night, but we couldn't find any this week.  But look at the beautiful turnips we found instead. 
This is the place we buy most of our produce.  We also get any flour, grains, or dried beans here.  The selection is always better than the standard supermarket. Oh, and the nuts.  Don't forget the nuts.

Here I am trying my best not to pose stupidly for the camera.  Niek kept telling me to look at him, but I was hoping for more of an action shot.  Not that there is a lot of action involved in holding a shopping bag.

Once we finish at the Supermarkt Morakkaan, we head over to the Dutch institution, the Albert Heijn.  These stores seem to be on almost every street corner in Amsterdam, but most of them are pretty small.  People want the convenience of a store within walking distance so they can easily do the shopping everyday.  We kind of live in this no man's land, however, and the result is a "larger" AH with a parking lot that most people drive to!  Let me say that although the AH in our neighborhood is HUGE compared to most (except for the Super XL Albert Heijns, and yes, they are called Super XL), it would still fit inside the produce section of your standard American supermarket.  
There seems to be a fascination with packaging in the Netherlands.  I wasn't expecting this in Europe at all when I arrived, and it confuses me just a little.  I've been trying to figure out why there is such a love of wrapping plastic around produce here.  The pictures show tomatoes and pre-cut potatoes, but pretty much all of the vegetables are packaged. Even the bell peppers are individually wrapped.  If I ever figure out the cultural impulse to package, I'll let you know.

Hello, yogurt section.  Yes, in this small store, there are two corner walls dedicated to yogurt; yogurt drinks, yogurt desserts, yogurt smoothies, yogurt, yogurt, yogurt.  How the Dutch love their dairy...and then their bread.

But where is the baking aisle?  Baking aisle?  No, no, you mean the baking corner.  It's that one over there.  Yes, that neglected one over there by the magazines and the diet products.  Yes, you're right, it really only sells mixes for everything and a few one pound bags of flour.  Because, as I've said in an earlier post, the Dutch don't like to bake.  (Note to self: I will not rant or get upset about the lack of baking supplies.  I am not upset.  I am not upset.  No, really.  I've come to terms with it, and I am not upset.  You make compromises when you live in another country.  I have traded baking for an abundance of delicious cheese and amazing beer.  Oh, the sacrifices I've made!)

I would also post pictures of the packing job I have to do every week at the check-out, but it's just too stressful, and I didn't have time to take pictures.  It remains a mystery to me how Dutch people are able to pack their groceries so quickly, but if you take to long, people get really upset.  Bagging my own groceries under sever time constraints is an event I dread. Most of the time, I throw everything back in the cart and fight my way to a corner where I am able to bag everything without fear of being yelled at or accidentally putting my tomatoes under my canned goods in my haste.

And what would an errand run be without walking past the flowers every corner florist in Amsterdam has for sale?  Can you tell people are anxious for the spring?  Me, too.

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