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Where’s the Hannaford?

By Kendal Lariviere; For The Clock
On March 28, 2016

Where’s the Hannaford?

Kendal Lariviere

For The Clock

klariviere@plymouth.edu

Every country, and each region in every country has a unique cuisine or style when it comes to food. However, we rarely look beyond these varying dishes to understand where the food itself comes from. When traveling abroad, it can come as a surprise that the ways in which people buy and keep their food can also be very different, depending on where you go. One of the first things I discovered upon arriving in Sorrento was the blatant lack of supermarkets. Being a red, white, and blue-blooded American, I subconsciously (and somewhat arrogantly) assumed that the entire world obtained their groceries the same way that I did at home. This assumption proved to be very difficult to deal with, as I was at a complete loss of where to buy food during my first few days here. I couldn’t get over my frustration of not being able to find everything I needed in one convenient location. I discussed this issue with other equally-annoyed Americans, and heard about the closest thing to a supermarket in the area: Decò.

It was a convenience lover’s Italian dream come true. Decò had nearly everything I needed, including peanut butter (a tough product to come by in Italy). I was in heaven, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheating on the Italian lifestyle I had signed up for. The locals go to separate shops for each of their food items. They go to the salumeria or macelleria for meat, to an outdoor market for produce, and to the caseificio for cheese. Most of them do their shopping every day or every other day, as much of the food is fresh and goes bad very quickly. This lifestyle was mindboggling to someone like me, who is used to going to one giant store and buying enough food for two weeks. Regardless, I decided to give it a try. I figured that if I’m living in Italy for four months, I shouldn’t be sticking to my American habits just because they are comfortable.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I didn’t want to do my Italian grocery shopping just anywhere. I wanted to find out where the best places were, and become a regular customer. Luckily, my landlord is a sommelier-in-training and a lifelong resident of Sorrento, so my roommates and I used his specialized knowledge to help us find where the locals shopped. He graciously spent a weekend answering our questions, giving us addresses, and even walking us around town to help us find the best specialty shops. We also consulted other locals during our great grocery hunt, which helped us find places that catered to locals and not just tourists. The hunt was successful.

I’ve been in Sorrento for a little over a month now, and I can honestly say that I have my salumeria and my go-to produce guy. I seek out shops that bake their bread fresh every day, and am constantly looking for new specialty food shop discoveries. Above all, my favorite find is Caseificio Apreda, a cheese shop I visit fairly frequently. The cheese in the States is absolute crap compared to the fresh, delicate balls of mozzarella or the sharp, smooth hunk of goat cheese chopped fresh off the block that’s available in Italy. I’ve always been a cheese lover, but this shop has turned me into an addict. I first went to Apreda because my roommates and I had heard from various local sources that this shop had the best mozzarella in the area. I had one taste and I was hooked.

I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult to describe the tastes of different cheeses. My roommates and I, at what should be our Cheese Addicts Anonymous meetings, will sit around our kitchen table every day trying to master this feat. We each slice off pieces of our various blocks of cheese (of which we each normally ha ve about three different kinds) and talk about whether they are soft or creamy, light or dense, sharp or mild— but none of these adjectives ever truly captures the pure magic of dairy that we’re consuming. So, we default to describing our cheeses as “fantastic” or “unreal.” This is both incredibly accurate and a failure of description, our attempt to describe the indescribable.

From learning to shop like an Italian, I have not only grown my love (and possibly developed a problem) for cheese, but have also been able to buy very high quality, fresh foods for a relatively inexpensive price. Believe it or not, the supermarket-esque stores are actually more expensive than specialty stores in Italy! Changing my grocery shopping habits has gone beyond just opening up a world of delicious foods by helping me understand the larger Italian culture that surrounds food. The locals don’t go to supermarkets because they value their food and how that food is made. They take time to shop and carefully select the ingredients for their meals because eating and cooking are the pillars of social life here. It’s true that food brings people together, but great food keeps them together for hours on end.

By shopping in specialty stores like the locals, I am gaining a greater appreciation for the quality of the ingredients that go into my meals. I’m learning how to slow down and enjoy all aspects of life, including those everyday chores, such as grocery shopping, that American culture considers as a hassle. It will be interesting to see this chore from a different perspective when I eventually go home, having lived in a place where food is so highly valued. Now, I’m not rushing through aisles with my metal shopping cart, trying to get in and out of the grocery store as fast as possible. I’m taking the time to consider the food I’m putting into my body. Grocery shopping is beginning to become an enjoyable process, which is making cooking and eating become more enjoyable, too.

All I know is that in a few months, I’m going to be much sadder as I’m pushing a cart around Hannaford, and not hand-selecting blocks of homemade cheese from Apreda. Maybe I’ll never leave...

 

 

COURTESY PHOTO/KENDAL LARIVIERE

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