When we mainly stayed in hotels when we travelled we rarely went to supermarkets. Perhaps just to pick up bottles of water and some cold beers, maybe some snacks. But hotels became increasingly strict about what you could take into rooms, many installing mini-bars with sensors so that the moment you shifted something to clear space for your purchases, the cost of the thing was added to your bill. And that’s one reason why we started to stay in holiday rentals more, because we loved to buy and try local products.
This year, one of the first things we do when we arrive at a new place is head to the supermarket to buy groceries to fill our fridge (see our Take Homes posts). We love it! We get exciting seeing what people eat. I also get a kick out of watching how people shop. It’s heartening to see the similarities between people’s habits around the world, but it’s also fascinating to see the differences in how they shop and eat.
I also like to keep my eyes peeled for edible and liquid souvenirs. While I’m a sucker for a good gourmet shop or deli, you can pick up some really fun and affordable mementoes from supermarkets. When we lived in Dubai I was always taking unusual supermarket souvenirs back for my friends and colleagues. I remember falling in love with some old-fashioned candies in retro boxes in Turin and buying dozens of the things.
I made the mistake of taking edible gifts to Australia once, something I’d never do again. We’d lived away for a long time and hadn’t been back in years, when I decided to take my mother in Perth half a dozen tiny tins of cardamom-flavoured condensed milk she had fallen in love with when she visited us in Abu Dhabi. I was heartbroken at the time that they confiscated them (she was actually in hospital recovering from a car accident), but I should have been relieved also. These days they’re a lot tougher and impose colossal on-the-spot fines for taking food into the country.
So if you do live in a country where they allow you to take in foreign food and drink, when you travel head to the local supermarket before you leave for some edible, or in this case, liquid souvenirs that are unique to the place.
Above are a few things I found in our local supermarket in Zell am See (L-R):
* Almdudler, a local softdrink in a retro can that tasted a little bit like a cross between lemonade and creaming soda, which I loved for the design more than the taste;
* Jagatee, a medicinal-like spirit from the area that was originally more like mulled wine before they bottled it, and was traditionally drunk by hunters and forest workers; and
* Jägermeister, a similar yet more herbal-tasting spirit that comes in packs of tiny bottles that the locals (especially the young guys) fill their pockets with, especially for a chilly day on the slopes. The streets were littered with these after the Krampus festival!