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A Foodie I’m Not But…
Although I don’t consider myself a foodie (and certainly wouldn’t call myself a cook!), there’s no question that I love food and love to eat. If you’ve followed along with me on my travels, you know that I also love to share photos of local markets and fare, and the people who grow, harvest, catch and/or prepare it.
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Going to local farmers’ markets is absolutely one of my favorite things to do in any town – large or small – be it a small neighborhood vegetable stand, artisan cheese, seafood or pastry shop or a large market offering pretty much a to z, I find that it is a perfect way to really learn about the authentic local cuisine and culture. Knowing that what I see will probably be on my plate later that day, I have a deeper appreciation for every morsel.
Learning about local specialties; what is seasonal, regional and traditional is a wonderful, experiential way to gain insights into the local lifestyle.
Since I usually stay in or near historical centers or small towns, I haven’t had the opportunity (or need) to go to an Italian super market (super mercati). Passing by as we travel from town to town, I see them on the outskirts in the more modern neighborhoods. My closest encounter has probably been an AutoGrill which is more like a super deluxe convenience store/gas station along the autostrade.
Well, that all changed during my last visit to Puglia. While visiting friends who now live in Ostuni, we had the occasion to go to a local Supermercati together. While visiting super markets isn’t usually my thing, this was a new experience and a peek into another aspect of local life. And, after all, since it involved food, I was definitely interested!
Also, I thought it would be a fun way to improve and practice my Italian vocabulary and, indeed it was. So…
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Grab Your Shopping List and Let’s Go!
The Familia Supermercati is a chain of stores in southern Italy. Flipping through their weekly ads you’ll quickly notice that you’ll find everything you need and more. From fresh and local to packaged goods, pasta to pet food and patio furniture, they have it here. It’s virtually a one stop shopping destination. (You’ll notice a few familiar American brands sprinkled here and there, too.)
- If you need a shopping basket, you can pick one up on your way in but you have to pay one euro which is refunded when you return it after you’ve checked out and put everything in your car. (I love this concept as all too often shopping baskets never find their way back to the store here in the States.)
- If you only need a few items, smaller baskets (trolleys) with wheels are available as well.
- You have to bring all of your own shopping bags to tote your purchases home.
- The rule when picking out your purchases in Italian farmers’ markets is generally “non tocare” (don’t touch). After all, what good would that peach be after dozens of people gave it a squeeze?
- However, at the super mercati, where you have to pick and choose, you are politely reminded that you must wear a glove which is provided as you enter the market.
- Wearing your glove, you get a plastic bag and then pick out your fresh produce as well as make and put your other selections in your cart.
- Once you select your produce, you then weigh it. The automated scale prints out a sticker with the description, weight and your cost to affix to the bag. Very efficient and obviously time saving during check out!
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The array of choices is positively mind boggling! Just the assortment of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, seafood, dairy, wine and beer, baked goods…on and on… is outstanding! The challenge is to stick to your shopping list…
And everything is so neatly organized and arranged, and attractively displayed.
♦ And, by the way, if you’ve traveled in Italy it will come as no surprise that there is a very “green” conscientiousness and emphasis on ecological and biological alternatives.
♦ It also became obvious that, for practical purposes, knowing basic metric measurements was very important. (Also, note that they use a comma instead of a period to indicate “cents”.)
♦ A few of the more useful conversions are:
- Kg (kilo) = 2.2 pounds)
- L’etto = 100 grams or approximately 4 ounces (used for freshly sliced cheese and cured meats)
- L (liter) = 33.8 ounces
- 500 g (500 grams) = 17.6 ounces
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♦ Not only the assortment of choices but the prices and values were very impressive. For example, some fresh Pecorino romano Dop at 0,79 L’etto (about 6.5 euros/kilo) would equate to only about $4.00 a pound and fresh ciliegie (cherries) at 1,99 for 500 grams equates to a little over $2.00 a pound!
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As my friend checked items off her list and filled her cart to the brim, I was interested to see what her total would be. When it was only 77 euros, I couldn’t believe the value! There were enough delicious eats to keep me happy and satisfied for weeks!
I have to say that I loved this outing and learning more about the daily local life. Eating well is an uncompromised priority for Italians and its easy to see how one can eat and live well in Italy!
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Join me on some of my other forays into local markets in Italy! Better yet, join me in 2018 and we’ll explore together!