Well, it’s been almost a month here and we have had the opportunity to shop for groceries in a variety of different places. The easiest is the Pick and Pay Local, which is basically a very scaled down version of a major chain store in the area. It doesn’t have a great selection, but being only a few blocks away is a big advantage when you don’t have a car. When we want more than just the staples though, we make a trek out to one of the bigger stores; about a thirty minute walk.
The options of major grocery stores are very racially divided. The Shop Rite (not the same as the NJ chain) that we went to first had great prices but a 45-minute wait to check out and pretty sad looking produce. We were also the only white people in the store.
Venturing a bit further, we found Pick and Pay and Checkers, both much cleaner and nicer and with more of a focus on customer service and quality of goods. Given that Pick and Pay has both the major branch and the local, we got ourselves a Smart Shopper card and started filling the pantry.
As much as Pick and Pay looks like a US grocery store, the shelves would prove otherwise. Though there is a huge assortment of food, it is not the marketing outlet that we are used to. Rather than 14 different brands of dish soap, there are three, all the same scents, and nothing to distinguish differences between them. When we buy canned goods, we usually choose “no name” brand because it is cheapest. Corn is corn, right?
To make up for the lack of different versions of the same thing is the sugar aisle. Thank goodness for google! Erich and I have to do our research to figure out the difference between white sugar, castor sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar (which is not like our brown sugar), caramel sugar, fruit sugar, treacle sugar, snow sugar, yellow sugar, and muscovado sugar.
Most of the standard US fair is available, including the beloved peanut butter that we were forced to discard at the airport security stop, but it isn’t always what we expect. For instance, a favorite soft drink here is crème soda but it is green and does NOT taste like our version. Yogurt here is a very distinct flavor. Sweet potato isn’t orange. English Toffee ice cream tastes like pistachio. Also, eggs aren’t refrigerated (and taste amazing!) and there is a shelf-stable milk that is nice to keep on hand for when the refrigerated stuff goes bad.
Some things we haven’t found yet, like oatmeal, and other things we can get here more easily, like guava. And almost everything is a lot less expensive than in the states. Most of our quick grocery stops to get milk, eggs, bread, etc. run us about $5.
We have also been introduced to some new favorites like borewores (a sausage that is a South African specialty) and pap (a cooked sticky grain that is use to sop up the curries that are so prevalent here) and ripe fig jam. Since seafood is such a specialty here in Cape Town, I hope to learn to cook that next!