Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grocery Shopping–Peruvian Style

I love a good grocery store. I love grocery shopping. No need to point out that I am odd. It has all been brought up before. And when we are in Peru the MiL knows that I like to go to the grocery store. Grocery stories in other countries are a source of endless fascination for me. Peru is no exception to that. The in-laws actually split the shopping between the established grocery store, either Metro or Wong’s (both owned by the same company by the way) and the Mercado Surquillo. One store is pretty much what you might encounter here in the states….

And one is not…….

Let’s start with Metro shall we. Metro looks fairly similar to my local grocery store, other than the fact that at my grocery store we don’t have money changers standing on the corner with an armed guard behind them. And we don’t have the shelf stable square containers of milk that don’t need to be refrigerated. And the vast quantities of Inca Cola. I cannot adequately describe the taste of the national soda of Peru other than to say think of sickeningly sweet liquid Good and Plenty candy and you might be on the right track. Gag.

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In all my shopping life I have never seen so many varieties of potatoes. An entire aisle in the produce section devoted just to the humble spud. I had a sudden hankering for sour cream and butter.

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My poor iPhone photo cannot convey the enormous size of these carrots. I wasn’t sure if people were going to cook them or use them as instruments of self defense.

Murder by Beta Carotene, Your Honor.

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Ah, this is corn you are thinking. And you would be right… is Peruvian corn, also known as Choclo. It does not, in any way whatsoever, resemble sweet corn except for the fact that it is corn. HUGE kernels of corn. It is chewier (an understatement) and not sweet (another understatement). My favorite way to have it is this way………

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Little nuggets of baked and fried corny goodness. Accompanied by a Cusquena beer. Perfection!

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Did you forget something in another part of the store? You don’t want to push your cart back there? No problem! Just leave it out of the way and it will be there when you return. Here in the USA I wouldn’t even dream of leaving my cart somewhere in the store. It wouldn’t be there when I got back. But in Peru your cart will be happy and unmolested until you return.

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Oh the floors! At home, you are not going to see someone mopping the grocery store floor unless there is a clean up on Aisle 5. All that cleaning gets done at night but the invisible store minions. In Metro, there is a constant cleaning and mopping and tidying of the floors. It is amazing to me.

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You do know that as long as the eggs have never been refrigerated they will last for quite a while. That is good to know because eggs in Peru are not refrigerated, and are often found in the area right before you check out. The first time I encountered this it totally freaked me out, especially as the MiL was actually buying eggs. Now I am more fascinated by the colors. What you can’t see in the picture is all the packages of what I think were tiny quail eggs.

You get in the check out lane, you hand them your loyalty card and your coupons, you check out. Easy!

See, I told you that grocery shopping in Peru can be just about the same as grocery shopping in America. That is if you are at Metro or Wongs

But if you are at Mercado Surquillo it is a different matter. Surquillo is all sight and sound and smell. And nothing that would be allowed by the USDA and the other lesser known but still every present government agencies that monitor this kind of thing.

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This is the first stall that we always stop at. In Surquillo you buy from the person that you have established a relationship with. They know you, you know them. There are most likely several merchants selling the same sort of thing but you stop and give your business to the same person. And she lets you eat olives right out of her displays.

Not that I would know anything about that……..

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No bright metal carts here. Only people with their own “canasta” shopping baskets.

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We needed nuts in various forms and raisins and chia seeds and cheese and olive oil.

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And as the pile of purchases grew she jotted them all down in her book and added them up by hand.

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Need some dried peppers. Lovely and colorful…and deadly hot.

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I have absolutely no idea what this thing is. I would guess that it is some sort of fruit or vegetable, it was lovingly displayed in the fruit vendor’s stall. To me it looks like a giant slug of some sort. I passed it by.

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Need some pollo? Honestly, I would most likely buy poultry or meat here. I have been in some third world markets where you wouldn’t want to eat the meat that is being sold judging by the smell alone. At Surquillo, no off smells, no strange small rivers of unidentified liquid (no really, ask me about the market in Kumasi, Ghana), no flies. Just clean, plump poultry.

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Not sure what animal this came from but I am betting it was bovine in nature as that was the area that we were in when I snapped this lovely. It just makes you want to fire up the stock pot doesn’t it.

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Where else but Surquillo would no one bat an eye as the little girl sits on the counter in the lamb section of the market and pets the lamb tenderloin.

Purell anyone?

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Need a nice piece of lamb? She whips out her hack saw and gives you exactly what you want. And then spends several minutes talking to me in rapid Spanish telling me welcome to Peru.

Have I told you how much I love Peru and Mercado Surquillo?

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Need a well aged and more “substantial” piece of cow? You can certainly walk out with that.

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Oh the fresh fish!! No fishy off smell. Just clean whiff of the ocean. Point to what you want, pick it up and examine it if you need to. The fish monger is happy to help. I can eat fish every day in Peru and be happy happy joy joy.

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That last statement does not apply to the large sacks of fish roe. I might be a slightly adventuresome eater but I am not Andrew Zimmern. I passed the fish roe by…quickly.

But I am still hoping to one of these days sample some Cuy. For those who do not know, Cuy is……………Guinea pig.

Lock up your pets!

And that my friends is grocery shopping Peruvian style.

Because Bonny wanted to know.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, thank you! Your post was the most enjoyable (and educational) reading I've done this week. I've got three local grocery stores to choose from, all with their own pros and cons, but none of them have such an amazing selection of produce, unrefrigerated eggs (I had no idea!), clean mopped floors, and the ability to leave your cart and have it be there upon your return. And Mercado Surquillo; how I wish we had something similar! I love it all, especially those beautiful peppers. Well, maybe not the weird bumpy slug thing. Great yarn and great grocery shopping, those Peruvians have it pretty good!


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