Saturday, May 29, 2010

Four Hundred and Fifty-Two

All 4 of us loaded up in the car this morning for a trip to the grocery store.  Or the mall.  Or both.  At a glance, this mall appears to be your average Western conglomerate shopping center, but after further review, it was far from the average American mall.

You put a euro into a cart, which is located in a corral in the parking lot, in order to be able to use it throughout the mall and grocery store.  The euro just fits in a slot in this little black box on the handle, and the cart doesn't leave the corral until it has a euro in it.  When you return the cart to the corral, you get your euro back.  So for all of you people who leave your carts strewn about the Target parking'd be paying $1.22 for that!  :)  

You also have to bring your own bags or baskets to the grocery store unless you want to pay for them.  We loaded up the trunk of the car with these collapsible plastic baskets.  Everything paid for goes back into the car (un-bagged) and we load everything into the baskets in the trunk.  It's very eco-friendly (everything in Italy is very eco-friendly...just wait 'til we get to the recycling!) and the baskets make for easy carrying inside and keep everything from rolling around in the trunk.

We stopped by the dry cleaner (in the mall) to drop off and pick up Christer's work clothes, looked around in Sisley, a super cute clothing store (which is, apparently, also located in the Mall at Millennia), and then headed to the grocery store. -This place really is the one stop shop.  Where else could you take care of your dry cleaning, hair products, AND grocery shopping under one roof?

The regular mall stores are on the right, and the enormous grocery store is on the left.  Sorry...not such a great picture.

This grocery store was insane.  It can only be described as the Italian version of a Wal-Mart.  They sold everything from flat screen TVs to clothes to fresh meats and cheeses.  A lot of the stuff for sale was the same or similar to what you'd find in the states, but there were a couple of things I noticed that stuck out to me.  For instance, neither their milk or eggs are refrigerated.  Milk is sold in liters on the shelves just like you'd find bottles of water and 6 packs of liters, and the eggs are sold by the half-dozen in plastic containers.  We do refrigerate the eggs at home, and once a bottle of milk has been opened it goes in the refrigerator.

Another difference from American grocery stores was the pasta selection.  Funny, right?  We ARE in Italy, but oh my goodness.  We're talking a solid aisle, both sides, top to bottom, just shelves and shelves of pasta.  They also sell refrigerated versions of pasta, and the grocery store itself makes their own pastas like at the bakery counter in Publix.  They even sell Barilla pasta, which, as you know, is available everywhere, but is actually produced in Italy.

They also have a cheese department with an insane selection of cheeses.  It was set up a lot like the cheese counter in Whole Foods, but made the one in Whole Foods look like a little Prius sitting next to the Hummer of cheese counters.  Christine says this cheese selection is nothing compared to some of the ones in France.  They have the RV of cheese selections.  Good thing I'm not lactose intolerant! (note: Meg Ryan's character in "French Kiss")  "Did you know that there are four hundred and fifty-two official government cheeses in this country? Don't you think that's incredible? To come up with four hundred and fifty-two ways of classifying what is basically a bacterial process? " -Kate, French Kiss

In the produce section I just stood back and people watched.  It was utter craziness.  Christine said that in order to handle anything you MUST wear a glove (a little plastic disposable glove located right next to the produce bags) and you have to weigh your own produce.  There were stations located throughout the produce department where you'd take your bagged item, set it on the scale, enter the produce number (located on a sign along with the description and price) and wait for the barcode to print out so you could stick it on the bag.  Christine said if you forget to weigh your produce, when you go to check out the cashiers get mad, and it takes for-ev-er to get the barcode, which, in turn, causes everyone in line behind you to get mad (she's speaking from experience).  This is a picture of one of the signs above all the fruits and vegetables.

The first box at the top says "Prodotto" or "product."  Can you guess??  Potatoes!  The next box, which I thought was pretty cool, says "Origine."  They put the origin of the fruit or vegetable on display, and most of them, as well as these potatoes, were from Italy.  The box to the right of "origin" is for the "Numero Bilancia" or "balance number."  This is the reference number you enter into the computer when weighing your produce.  You search for the number, a picture pops up to verify that you have the right item, and then a barcode prints out.  These particular potatoes were bagged so they don't have a number.  I'm not so sure what the 2 small boxes are for, and then, of course, you have the price.  Everything is, obviously, metric here, so it's weird figuring out speed limits and weights and such.  This was a 5 kg bag of potatoes that cost € 2,50, which, with the exchange rate going up, equals about $3.07.

Probably the weirdest selection in the grocery store was the baby food.  I wasn't supposed to be taking pictures or I would have taken a wider selection, but just check out these Italian baby foods.

Yes.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.  Those are, no joke, mozzarella, trout, and HORSE baby foods!!  (moment for reaction)  They had all different kinds of seafood, veal, lamb, HORSE, and anything else you can think of that would be a gross meat mashed up into baby food.  I'd also like to take a moment to point out the cute little cartoon drawings of the live animals in their natural habitats as a description of what's been mashed up into a jar to feed to your child. Love it!  Thank goodness Jameson has graduated from baby food and is now eating real people foods because I don't think I could stomach feeding him Mister Ed.

We played a little bit, napped a little bit, cooked a little bit, and then got ready for a barbeque at one of Christer's co-workers house.  Christine had told Blake and Carrie (Blake is the guy that works with Christer who's house we were going to) that we would bring potato salad for their American/Italian barbeque.  We went to the grocery store (above) with 3 recipes in hand just in case we couldn't find something required for this traditional American dish.  Well, as it turns out, most potato salads call for pickle relish of some sort, and pickles are hard to come by in Italy.  There were probably 10 different jars of pickles on the shelf, all of which were whole, not cut, and though we could have used a food processor to just make our own relish, we couldn't read the Italian in order to tell which ones were sweet.  So Christine made do with eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, and whatever else she put in, and the potato salad turned out delicious.  We also had american style hamburgers (which I took advantage of because I've been warned how rare American food is over here), Carrie's famous baked beans (and rightfully so...they were fantastic!), chips, vegetables, and lots of wine.  Carrie had to get the baked beans from the army base because that's another American food that you just can't find in the grocery stores.  Laura, Fabio along with his girlfriend, and Daniele and his family all joined us for dinner.  They are all Italian with decent American vocabularies, so talking with them was so so interesting.  I hope I get the chance to spend more time with them, maybe when my Italian improves from "Salute!" and "si" to actually being able to hold a conversation.  Let's hope.  Everyone had a great time socializing, and Jameson was in heaven the whole night.  There were so many pretty girls and so much to explore, he didn't go to sleep until about 9:30! (his bedtime is normally around 7).  Levi also had a blast running in the yard and getting in the middle of the soccer game and stealing the ball away.  He was like the Bradley family Air Bud.  

Blake and Carrie have 2 sons and a daughter that I got to meet tonight as well.  Their oldest son was away at boy scouts camp for the Memorial day weekend cleaning the headstones of an American cemetery, so I didn't get to meet him, but their youngest son, Caleb, and daughter Sidney were so cute and polite.  Sidney just loves and adores Jameson, and Caleb (8) was running around the yard playing soccer all night.  He's the youngest of the 3, so when they moved to Italy they enrolled him in an Italian school.  The other 2 go to an American school because they'd already started school in the states, but Caleb was young enough he could adapt.  He now speaks FLUENT Italian, and his teacher is always bragging about how his speech and grammar are better than the native Italian speakers.  Carrie says she can never get him to speak Italian at home...he will only speak it to Italian speakers, but at school, when he surrounded by the language, he thinks in Italian as well.  I heard him speaking in both American and Italian and it was so mind boggling how he could switch so easily from one language to the next.

The evening was a lot of fun.  It was my first time out meeting people, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the conversation, even if I could only understand about half of it.  It was a good example of what's to come in the next few months, and I loved every minute of it.

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  Cool beautiful weather in the evenings.  It has been hot all week, was rainy and overcast all day today, and then 6 o'clock rolls around and the skies clear and the temperature drops to near perfection.  Every night.  It's bliss, I tell you.

P.S.-- I am slowly learning different things about blogging with each post.  Did you notice I learned how to make my pictures bigger today??  With that said, I just want to thank you all for reading and keeping up with my travels.  I am really enjoying blogging and sharing my experiences with all of you, and there is no point in traveling unless you have people to share with.  I just wanted to thank you all for continuing to read and for dealing with my amateur blogging skills.


  1. Thank you for posting about your Italian adventure! I love love love reading about all that you are getting to experience. I am so proud of and happy for you Kindie! What a wonderful experience! Love ya girl!

  2. Omg my job would be gone if we did that at target because I would never have to move they carts the people would just put them away for me!! good thing its not like that!!!! haha