The Leaning Tower of Piña

21st February 2011

Seeing that I’ve lived in Spain for nearly eight years, you would expect me to have come to terms with supermarket shopping, the Spanish way. Not so.

There are many different supermarket chains with stores near where we live. One blatantly caters to holidaymakers, inflating its prices during peak season, while another uses its French roots and international appeal to draw in shoppers of all nationalities, all year round. It’s particularly good at encouraging you to buy three of something when you only need one – at the time, you think buying 12 cans of pineapple instead of the three you went for means that you’re picking up a real bargain. Usually you just end up with a bigger bill than you anticipated and, as has happened in our house, a leaning tower of piña filling up your cupboards.

One of the other popular supermarkets here requires you to remortgage your house prior to arriving at the checkout, and then there’s the one known to be the supermarket of choice for the average Spaniard – and, of course, it’s one of the cheapest.

I hate supermarket shopping and have always avoided the cheapest option simply because of the hordes of people that flock through its doors whenever I want to go there. And while it is great value, our local branch is impossible to navigate. I like straight aisles, where you can systematically venture up one side and then back down the other, passing everything and thereby forgetting nothing. Well at this particular store, you have to wiggle around corners, and at right angles – it’s organised chaos.

But I’m overjoyed to report that this chain has opened another branch near to where we live. And, touch wood, not too many people seem to have discovered it yet. The aisles have been built in perfect straight lines, the checkout staff are friendly, the carpark has girly wide spaces and you can buy individual pieces of fruit rather than super huge packs that go off as soon as you get them home.

One oddity though – last week I bought some broccoli. That evening, while my homemade fish pie was bubbling away, I unwrapped my broccoli and was gobsmacked to find instructions explaining that I should split said vegetable into florets and cook in boiling water. Now, I’m no domestic goddess, but even I don’t need instructions on how to cook broccoli. If you do, check out this helpful (if somewhat hairy) guy on You Tube:

How to cook perfect broccoli

Finally, a word of warning: Most of the supermarkets here in Spain now charge for plastic bags so don’t forget to take your old ones with you next time you shop. We may be saving the planet but goodness me, I’m going to have to start buying bin bags now! What is the world coming to?

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