Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Zoe Mulford: Postcards (Blog)

Supermarket Tourism

Posted on March 24, 2010 with 0 comments

From Zoe's journal:

We lived in Japan for two months. If nothing else was going on, a trip to the supermarket could provide a day’s worth of adventure.

What do you buy when you cannot read the labels, you don’t recognize the ingredients, and you have no mental model of what the food should look like when it reaches the table?

Fortunately, the instructions for most of the packaged foods in a Japanese supermarket (provided, with pictures, on the back of the packet) are “add hot water and serve.” Whole aisles are devoted to instant soups. Once we’d acquired a pot that could cook rice, we were in business.

If you cannot go abroad, supermarket tourism can be practiced anywhere you find an ethnic specialty grocery. The only rule is that you must come home with at least one impulse buy. Some memorable impulse buys:

Kinder “Happy Hippos” - hazelnut cream in a hippo-shaped wafer shell. They have little cartoon eyes and, like gingerbread men and chocolate bunnies, present the troubling question of whether to eat the head first or last. B found them first on a trip to Austria; now we can get them at our corner store.

Japan: green tea Kit-Kats, salted plum chewing-gum, hot quince beverage (all yummy), candied soy beans (unappealing).

Chinese grocery in Cary, NC: durian-flavored wafer cookes. Malaysia’s notoriously stinky durian fruit is banned from public buses. I can't offer an opinion on the fresh fruit, but artificial durian flavor tastes like a sweetened ripe garbage can with garlic. Not recommended.