Grocery shopping in an Italian supermarket is pretty much like grocery shopping anywhere.
However, there are certain things I can count on seeing each time I go out to stock up on supplies.
- In the supermarket carpark, there will always be someone driving the wrong way in the one-way carpark lanes. (The lanes are clearly marked with arrows, but it makes no difference.)
- I’ll grab a shopping trolley and there’ll be someone else’s shopping list, written on a post-it, stuck to the front of the trolley. (I’ll quickly read it to see if it’s better than my shopping list. Sometimes I’ll steal an idea or two.)
- There will be a Sikh Indian coming out of the supermarket while I’m going in. Don’t ask me why. There just will be.
- If, for some reason, I’ve forgotten what month it is (sometimes I live in the clouds a bit) I’ll remember as soon as I walk in. The entrance area will be piled high with merchandise for whatever feast day or holiday is coming up. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates? OMG! Christmas is even more over than I thought.
- Some of the most expensive products will be local ones. Where I live this includes certain types of local ham (not that I eat pork), parmesan cheese (the really, really good stuff), hand-made ravioli and freshly-baked local cakes. So much for locavorism.
- There will be a lot of pinching and squeezing going on – in the fruit and vegetable section. Italians love their fruit and veg. (Just as well kiwi and zucchini don’t have anti-harassment laws.)
- A fellow shopper will ask me a question. Usually a man. But it’s the type of question you would ask your partner, or mother (how flattering) such as which rice do you suggest? or are those pineapples ripe? I never have a useful answer.
- There will be a staggering variety of different kinds of dried pasta: spaghetti no. 3, spaghetti no. 5, vermicelli no.7 and various shapes (fusilli, farfalle, penne) in a bewildering array of brands. You know you’re in Italy when you hit the pasta aisle.
- The checkout chick will be wearing a vivid shade of blue eyeshadow. (I use the term checkout chick because it’s a delightful reduplication of sounds, kind of like flip flop or criss cross. I value the work that checkout chicks do, but I realise that chick is a bit demeaning. So maybe I should stop using it.)
- There will be an Italian woman having a prima donna moment. Example: the prima donna in question will be standing in a queue at the checkout (oh the indignity!). She’ll get on her mobile and complain bitterly and vociferously to someone (mamma, probably) that she’s being forced to wait in a queue. She’ll go on and on and on about it! The upside is that if you’re lucky, the checkout chick will give you a conspiratorial wink of her vivid blue eye.
These are all things that I see on a regular basis when I do my shopping.
Another thing that’s bound to happen is that when I get home, I’ll remember that I’ve forgotten to buy some vital item such as toilet paper, which was my main reason for going to the supermarket in the first place!
What’s your grocery shopping experience like? Do your trips to the supermarket always seem to have an element of déjà vu about them?