My friends and colleagues in the US asked me how different Amman is from the US. Since I’ve only lived in Virginia, I can only compare to that. There are differences in terms of the society, culture, geography, weather, etc, but I thought it would interesting to show what it’s like to shop for food.
I think one of the biggest differences is the style of the grocery store. Most US grocery stores are a one-stop shop for produce, meat, packaged foods, bakery, pharmacy, cleaning supplies, etc. While this type of shops is emerging–there is a Safeway and a Carrefour (a French store)–the traditional and prevalent style is little stores for each type of food.
I went with my mom one day and took pictures of a spices/nuts/coffee store, a produce store, and bakery, and a supermarket. They tend to be placed in clusters. I wrote comments about each…
There are a bunch of nice things about this shopping style. The food you buy is fresh; freshly baked, roasted, ground, etc, and the produce is mostly local and seasonal. The stores are not franchised, but instead owned by locals and many times families who take pride in their one-of-a-kind products. Each store, town, or neighborhood can offer a unique selection of products, have it be bread, cookies, spice mixes, coffee, roasted nuts flavors, etc.
The disadvantage is that you have to go from one place to another to complete your shopping, and carts are not available. I can’t imagine doing that with a child tagging along. Often, you can’t guarantee consistency in what you need to buy. Pita bread is not the same pita bread every where. And you can’t walk in a store and grab your favorite Dunkin’ Donuts coffee flavor.
One thing for sure: shopping for food is an experience, a trial and error, and definitely, a word of mouth.
Question for you: have you been somewhere in the world where you found a new and/or interesting way to shop for food? Where?
Coming up next:
Tea cookies are common and one type made with anise seeds is my favorite. I actually tried to make it at home and it was such a success. Easy to make from ingredients available everywhere. I will be posting the recipe on Wednesday.