Thursday, December 6, 2007

Foraging for Food (Part 1)

Food shopping in the Netherlands is a more frequent and more local affair than in the US: I walk to the Albert Heijn (AH) grocery at the top of my block every other evening (left photo), and to the nearby butcher, bakery, and fishmonger weekly. The AH is open 9 to 8, and (as with all other stores) closed on Sunday (except the first Sunday of the month). There's also a fresh market in town center on weekends to get farmer's produce and cheeses (right photo).

Weersstraat shopping 01 Arnhem Market 02

Refrigerators are much smaller here, and I have to carry my groceries home, which leads to making smaller, more frequent trips for food. I take my own grocery bag (left: stores don't provide them), and need to have shopping done on Saturday if I want to eat through Monday. The store is similar in quality, but *much* smaller and goods are differently distributed than American grocers. So, a quick tour (unfortunately, not accompanied by AH's cute little hamster mascot)

Shopping bag

The AH opens with a produce section that is light on most vegetables: you can find exotics like leeks and witlof (left) more easily than lettuce or celery. I must bag, weigh, and label vegetables at the section's scale, otherwise I'll be 'sent back' from the checkout.

There is a bakery that makes breads and desserts, but almost no baking mixes apart from basics like flour and soda. I did make one appeltart from a box that looked awful going into the oven but spectacular coming out (right).

Appeltart 1

The meat and fish counter is completely absent, replaced by an attendant overseeing a vast selection of cheeses and processed meats. Cuts of meat (vlees), chicken (kip), and fish (vis) are prepackaged in color-coded trays along the wall and are generally single-serving portions. I don't think I can buy "a steak" the way I am used to.

Breakfast foods, cereal, eggs, and juices, are similar to the US. The big difference is the large section of chocolate sprinkle toppings nearby. Coffee is generally cappuchino in the morning and espresso in the evening: it is hard to find skim milk (magere melk, left), but Dutch Coffee Milk is the common substitute (right: thick and brown and not at all milk-like.

Coffee Milk 2

There is a good selection of cleaning products but almost no housewares (mousetraps, for example, are purchased from the pet store). Sponges, carpet cleaner, and fabric softener are hard to find. And, of course, there's the automated beer bottle return. You pitch bottles, foot first, into the porthole and get a credit receipt. Only beer bottles, no plastic, no Heineken returns (go figure...)

AH Bottle Return

And, yes, the chocolates are fabulous (but beware the licorice!).

I'll take a camera on my next trip and capture a photo tour...

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