04 September 2012
Food, part 1
So, now that I've explained how grocery stores work, I made a list of some products and prices that I found interesting as I wandered through one of our hypermarkets one evening. The post got really long, so here's the first few aisles of the store, and I'll post the rest soon. All the prices listed are in US Dollars.
South Africans do enjoy drinking soda, and while you can buy Coke everywhere, Pepsi is a bit harder to find, and other American soft drinks like 7Up or Dr Pepper can be found, but only in a few places. I was excited to see Cream Soda here, but then I drank it. Being color blind, someone had to point out to me that it was bright green. That still really doesn't explain the fact that it tastes like super sweet rose-flavored soda. Ginger Beer is popular, as is a carbonated Lemonade, and sparkling apple and grape juice soda blends. Sodas as a group are referred to here as "Cool Drinks" regardless of the temperature they are served at.
There is a huge array of fruit juices available in 1 liter boxes (like a giant juice box) with very exotic blends of fruits, like Litchi, Mango, Granadilla (Passion Fruit), Naartjie (kind of a tangerine-mandarin hybrid), and Pine (just like Avo, they are too busy to spell out the whole Pineapple).
Given the British heritage, Tea is quite popular here. Tea bags are mostly traditional Black Tea, or the South African originated Rooibos Tea, which is a naturally decaffeinated beverage, brewed from leaves of the Rooibos (red bush) plant; no real relation to tea leaves, but since it's brewed like Tea, it gets lumped in the same category. A box of 100 tea bags costs $2.25
Coffee is consumed here but the vast majority of it is instant coffee, and much of it is a blend of coffee and chicory, as at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. There are many different brands, and very few people seem to think it tastes fantastic, but that doesn't seem to stop them from drinking it. A one pound jar costs about $5. There are some ground coffee or coffee beans available for brewing, known here as "Filter Coffee".
Fresh milk is available as Skim, Low Fat or Full Cream, and a 2 liter jug is just over $2; you can also buy UHT Milk, which is milk that has been heated at such an Ultra High Temperature that it doesn't need refrigeration until it has been opened, and can sit on the shelf for many months. UHT Milk is very popular in Europe, as it reduces the need for large refrigerators in grocery stores, and can be stored and shipped in regular trucks. It has been introduced in the US, but we just haven't bought into the hype. It's about the same price as fresh milk here, but after trying it once in Switzerland, I have no interest in trying it again.
Fermented milk (called Amasi) is a popular beverage among certain indigenous tribes; the milk ends up being similar to drinkable yogurt, and is readily available. Flavored fresh milk is also surprisingly popular; I can handle chocolate milk, or maybe coffee flavored milk, but I will not be trying ginger milk, banana milk, marshmallow milk or creme soda milk anytime soon.
Yogurt is very popular, but the recent American craze of Greek yogurt hasn't quite made it here yet, although I've seen yogurts of other origins, like Ayrshire and Bulgarian.
As in any country, candy is plenty popular, and there are a lot of similar products that would be familiar to any kid in a candy shop. There are quite a few more gummi items than we would find, and there is a curiously large variety of flavored marshmallows; I can't explain that at all. No Hershey products here, but rather the much better tasting Cadbury range of chocolates (now owned by Kraft) are available everywhere. Kit Kats and Rolos are quite popular, and are only about 75 cents each.
Chips and Nuts
Even though the British try to confuse Americans with chips and crisps and we never know what kind of potato we will get, the South Africans use familiar terms, but the flavors probably aren't too familiar, such as Chutney, Tomato Sauce, or Chicken. Nacho chips are available, but usually not plain. Various nuts, like Almonds, Pecans and Cashews are available, but quite expensive. Shelled pecans are close to $19 a pound. Peanuts are grown here and a bit more affordable; a can of honey roasted peanuts is about $4.
Plenty of options here, but probably not quite as popular as in the States. Even though they refer to corn as "mealies" here, I am glad that they are still called Corn Flakes. A couple of American brands are here, like Rice Krispies and Special K, and it's all about $3.25 for a 14-ounce box.
South Africa likes their meat. A lot. As in a huge amount. I thought Brazilians and their Churrascarias were the epitome of meat consumption, but I hadn't seen a South African grocery store before. Aisles of chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish and sausage with so many different cuts and marinades and spice blends, all ready for the Braai, the South African version of a barbecue. While Americans think they are king of the summer backyard barbecue, the weather here is better and they will Braai any sunny day any time of year, and the food they have to cook on the Braai (it's a noun and a verb) is outstanding.
In addition to the wide range of animals to be consumed, there's a wide range of parts of the animal to be eaten. An 11 pound bag of chicken pieces is less than $9, and then you can buy Chicken Hearts ($1.35/pound), Chicken Gizzards ($1/pound), Chicken Necks ($0.65/pound), and the ever-popular Chicken Livers ($1.75/pound). Turkey doesn't seem to be very popular at all; I've not seen it at the store or at a restaurant, but other birds like Ostrich are available.
"Bacon" seems to be popular, but the majority of Americans would consider the bacon here a travesty. It's often claimed to be "crispy", which simply means it is not raw, and it's not even like Canadian Bacon. It's more like sliced country ham that was cooked at some point within the last decade. I've considered hiring a lawyer to bring about a class action suit against the restaurants here to bar them from ever using the word "bacon" again.
Sausage, however, is available in a myriad of varieties, from different cuts, with different spices, and some are finely ground, while others are coarse. Boerewors is the most prevalent, a delicious coarse sausage made usually from beef (and maybe some pork) with a variety of sweeter spices like nutmeg, cloves and allspice.