Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on Buying Food

Today I took a field trip with Andrew's 1st grade class to the local market, the Park N' Shop. It's a Hong Kong chain of grocery shops (nothing at all like the huge supermarkets in the U.S.). We looked at lighting, packaging, smells, appearance, ease of movement, and location. Tomorrow will be a trip to the wet market for comparison - which is how most Chinese do their food shopping. You may remember the wet market from a previous post - if not, please check it out for a memory jog.

It's funny how I now view the Park N' Shop as the place I would definetly rather shop, and find it pleasant to shop there and pick up what I need (I also frequent the next-door import shop for my $10 Cheerios and the butcher shop for my imported meats). In China, most of the shelves are stocked with foods I wouldn't necessarily consider food (like packaged preserved chicken's feet) (Barbeque flavor) and seaweed and other dried strange things. Dried duck tongue (spicy or regular) is also very common. But I can find produce, dairy, and grains there. Especially in our local Park N' Shop, which has been wise enough to cater to the many foreigners living here and stocking items we purchase at the import stores, like cereals (Cheerios are still $10), granola bars, and ice cream.

What's funny is how I saw the Park N'Shop when we first moved here. I hated the way it smelled, how small it was, how little I could recognize. When we took our first trip to China to look for houses and schools, the grocery store (a different Park N' Shop) was where I completely lost it, broke down and said "Tim, I can't do this!". I didn't recognize anything, I couldn't read any labels (still can't), I didn't know how I was going to feed my family! It scared the hell out of me. I was afraid of the meat, the dairy (was it refrigerated the whole time?), the eggs, which are generally kept on the shelf in most of China. My Park N' Shop knows better, and that people will BUY the eggs if they're cold. My view of this little shop has evolved to preference and enjoyment. I find Target Supercenter to be too big and difficult to maneuver. I buy what I need each day and use it that night or within a week. It's a completely different way to shop.

The field trip proved though-provoking for me and the kids! My, how things have changed...

BONUS BLOG SECTION: Some Chinglish for you...on a wetnap I picked up at my favorite Chinese restaurant (the one next to the dog leg restaurant) it says "Please use sex to disinfect the wet tissue." In a grocery store nearby (not mine) there is a list of different meats and one of the items says "Please F&*C the food.
Another recently spotted sign has a stick figure of a person standing on a toilet while squatting over it with a big circle and slash mark over it...FINALLY they make it clear - DON'T STAND ON THE TOILET WHEN YOU PEE. That's how most Chinese use a western toilet 'coz that's how they're used to peeing - squatting! And so it's not uncommon to see muddy footprints where you want to put your bottom - I do miss American (and especially Japanese - the heated seat, built-in sprayer and built-in pleasant scents) toilets!