I have completed my first out-of-the-house, flying-solo task since arriving here. I managed to drive to the grocery store and go shopping all by myself.
It only took about two and a half weeks, but I finally built up enough courage to drive about a half mile or so alone and rely upon only my own poor Spanish to communicate. Of course, one of the good things about shopping is that there really is not much of need to converse. Baby steps.
Getting started, I thought I would like grocery shopping a little more than I do. I figured this would be something similar to shopping in the United States. I was counting on there not being many American products, which is no big deal to me, and at first glance the layouts of American and Mexican grocery stores are fairly similar. You usually begin with produce and baked goods, there is a butcher usually along the back walls and then aisles of food.
Sadly, most of the produce we find is second rate, unless we go to Costco (annual membership, $14 USD), which easily has the best quality. There really aren't any leafy greens other than romaine, no russet potatoes and the corn is much starchier than American sweet corn. (That was a sad moment as we tried to enjoy grilled corn on the cob.) But otherwise, it was fairly similar to the States.
The snack aisle doesn't differ much either, other than they don't keep their salsa with tortilla chips (totopitos), and they don't seem to carry pretzels. Foods also are packaged differently here. For example, we bought a box of crackers (essentially Saltines) and instead of finding long sleeves of crackers inside, they are wrapped in packs of six. We have a box of 45 wrapped packets of crackers. Seems excessive. Lots of American candy bars and cookies seemed to be packaged this way as well.
Mexican grocers don't carry much wheat flour, but they do have a lot of corn flour. And I still have yet to find active yeast. I guess I'll be ordering that online (I love homemade pizza dough, pitas and pretzels). They also seem to like marshmallows here, as almost half an aisle is nothing but them. And the 'mallows come in the typical small size, the larger size that you'd use for grilling s'mores, and then a super jumbo size that are larger than my fist. The other half of that aisle is usually gelatin and various Jello mixes.
They don't sell cases of pop cans here, not even at the Costco. But they do sell bottled pop in 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 liter bottles. And they lover their juices here. The big brand is JuMex.
The butcher has every cut of beef imaginable, and some of the unimaginable, too. We can usually fine chicken breast and some pork (though I haven't found pork chops yet), but no turkey. I've found sliced turkey breast for sandwiches and turkey dogs, but that is it. I wonder if they import some for Thanksgiving, or if we will be eating Thanksgiving tacos this year.
In the dairy section, the only familiar brand of cheese I've seen is Sargento, which also happens to be my favorite, so that works well. But they also have a pretty good selection of local cheeses, and the Manchego here is really all I need in life. They have a much smaller yogurt selection than I'm used to, which is a shame because I don't drink milk opting for yogurt instead. It is much runnier here, and all of the varieties seem to be plain, with bits of fruit added. In reality, this is probably because it is more natural than the artificial flavors and thickening agents in my Dannon Light and Fits, but this stuff will take a little getting used to. Or I'll start drinking milk.
With my cart full, and I detoured to look at some DVDs, because I was delaying the part I was dreading the most - check out. Finally, I would have to interact with a person. As different as many of the products might be, in the end, it still is all food, and that is something I'm comfortable with. Even if I couldn't fine any thyme (very limited on spices; probably have to drive to Nogales to get that kind of stuff, or order online). And I knew at the minimum they would ask if I wanted plastic bags or the cardboard boxes. Neither of which I know the Spanish for. I wasn't thinking this far in advance when I started the car. I was just worried about getting to the grocer instead of ending up in Mazaltan or some other place I'm not supposed to drive to.
The cashier said something, and in the only word I picked up on was "Americano." Not what I was expecting. I was hoping I would hear the word "plastico" in there somewhere so I could repeat that phrase. So I just said "Por Favor" and he looked at me, and started scanning my stuff. Problem temporarily averted, I assumed.
Then the bagger/boxer said something to the scanner, and he said something back, and I saw a plastic bag in his hand, pointed at it and said "Si, bola plastico." (I had bought some trash bags, and thought the word on there was bola. It's bolsa, but close enough for an obvious non-Spanish speaker, right?). But I got plastic bags in the end, and tipped the bagger. (Thanks for the heads-up on that, Bryn).
Mission completed. And I got home, unloaded, and had a beer.
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