November 21, 2010


I love grocery shopping, but grocery shopping in China is an entirely different game. First off, every single grocery store I've been in has induced a gag or two at some point in my journey through the aisles. It's an olfactory adventure from the deli to the produce to the snack aisle (vacuum-packed octopus anyone? It doesn't require refrigeration, I promise).

However, this weekend I was reacquainted with pleasant, clean grocery shopping. Alex and I ventured to the foreign import store to search for cake-making materials and any other imported gems we could find. The store was in the basement of one of the massive multi-story department stores downtown.

It was gleaming -- white, shiny, and fresh. The store had flowing aisles arranged on a bias and coolers that gently curved around the oval-shaped store. The produce department smelled like grapefruits and the deli didn't smell like rotting flesh. Normally, the yogurt section renders obsessive checking of the dates and it's considered lucky to find a batch that isn't a month back-dated. This weekend we found some that had an expiration date of Nov. 17, as fresh as it comes!

I don't think I've ever been so excited to see a "western spices" aisle. I sat and stared at the dozen or so spice offerings. I bought salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and cinnamon. With those four spices, our meal variety grew 10-fold. On the other side of the aisle I saw liquid gold: olive oil. Praise Jesus. And it had a fair price too! 

We spent 45 minutes wandering the store snatching up Land o' Lakes butter, Betty Crocker cake mix (for Alex's birthday), a jar of faux-nutella type stuff, and other essentials that will make my cooking much more interesting than the standard stir-fry noodles I've been rocking the past month.

It was a fantastic grocery shopping experience, I was a little bummed about not finding certain things, but beggars can't be choosers. The fact that we found Land o' Lakes is kind of a miracle. And olive oil! I'm beyond thrilled.

Today in class I taught my students about Thanksgiving. They ooo-ed and ahhh-ed at my photos of turkey, pie and cranberry sauce. I tried to explain to them how things were flavored and what they tasted like, I ended up having to use arbitrary explanations like "cinnamon is good when it's cold outside, because it makes you feel cozy -- like you're sitting by a fire," or that green bean casserole is "bubbly, gooey, sweet and savory all at the same time. It makes you think of good memories."

I'm not sure if they totally understood, but a lot of them had interested and happy expressions on their faces. 

Then I told them about Black Friday, they may have lost some respect for the American culture after my lecture. I showed photos I found online of people going nuts over huge TVs and pitching tents outside of Best Buy. 

I told them stories about my Black Friday experiences and they stared at me with mixed looks of confusion and fascination. I told them that if they ever find themselves in the United States on Black Friday, they need to go out an experience it for themselves.

So do me a favor, if any of you happen to rock Black Friday or have a particularly beautiful Thanksgiving feast, you should send me a photo or two to show in class. They'd love it.

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