Tag Archives: grocery

Why you don’t need a cook or a driver in America……..

When I first told people I was moving to India, they all wanted to know – “does that mean you will have people working for you?” And they said it with lust in their eyes. As if it was all rainbows and unicorn farts burps. If you don’t know why that could possible be NOT the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to you – please read here first and then maybe here and maybe even here. This blog post might actually be more interesting to my readers who have never been in the U.S. but, trust me, if you are all too familiar with the ways of the West, you might just be amazed at what we are all taking for granted. Trust me on this one – it’s not always the same, same every where.

I have always admitted that having staff made my life in India (much) easier – it was just a pain to have people always around you and sometimes stealing from you and blah blah blah. In fact, for the last five weeks of our lives in India, I did all the cooking and 90 percent of the shopping. People marveled at how I was going to manage it. Why would it be so tough to manage without a cook? Well, most of the shopping is done in markets and there are very few convenience foods. There is no “one-stop” shopping.

Today I went to a grocery store and Walmart and I marveled at just how many things we do not have to do in America.

First of all, some stores in the United States are open 24 hours a day. That is right – they never close. Can I get a hallelujah? In India, most markets don’t open until much later in the morning. And have I bored you to tears yet by telling you how many different places you have to go to get everything on your list? Shopping, cleaning the food, preparing the food, and cooking the food really can be an all-day event. And the foods don’t have a lot of preservatives – which is all sorts of loverly – but it also means you have to go to the market more often. See how tedious it all becomes? I know, I know, there are bigger problems in the world – but I am just sayin – shopping, cooking, and cleaning in India – harder than in the U.S.

So, I am in my car – driving myself – listening to the radio – windows down and I am reminded that the definition of traffic is not universal. Here is what I saw

Now this is not a side road – it is a well traveled thoroughfare and this is at 8:30am. Not necessarily the height of rush hour – but not in the middle of the night either. And, no, everyone is not simply running late today because no one was really behind me either. And I know I should not have been taking a picture – but give me a break – I used the rearview mirror – I had my eyes on the road the whole time! Pinky swear!

So, I pull into the road in front of the shopping plaza and see this sign.

Yes, you see that correctly – A) there is a sign telling you what’s here (what a marvel of modern technology) and B) all of these mega stores are within walking distance of each other.

There is a Target next to a Walmart (basically the same thing) and a BJs with everything that Walmart and Target sell, only in larger quantities. There is a shoe warehouse next to a Payless shoe store and a Toy Store right next to Target and Walmart (which both have enough toys in them for a large country). If you are from India and know about Spencers or Big Bazaar – think of that magnified 8,000 times. Bigger, bigger and better, better.

I know it reveals just how fancy I am not – but if I had to pick only one store to go to for the rest of my life – it would be Walmart – okay, a super Walmart – but a Walmart nonetheless. I heart this store! And, for my Indian readers – do you notice what is missing? Parking attendants and drivers waiting by the front? Oh yeah, and the occasional armed guard. That is because – everywhere in the U.S. there are parking lots. In India, mostly only the malls have parking lots. Hence the real benefit of having a driver. Here – no problemo – parking galore…

See all those empty spaces – you just pick the one you want and zip in – no one has to push a car out of the way for you or drive around the block while you shop. The down side of that is – guess what – you are carrying your own groceries. Just consider it exercise.

And inside these markets is a whole different shopping experience.

There are carrots that are already peeled and cleaned for you. Yummy.

Need a veggie tray? Done.

Need a fruit salad? Done.

Want lettuce? You can get it cleaned and shredded – ready to eat.

Oh, I am sorry – did you need dressing with that?

What’s that? You don’t like bottled dressings? Okay – make your own – here is a starter kit.

Would you like some cheese with that? Shredded perhaps? Remember how our parents used to tell us that they had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways? I now lament with my children the olden days gone by when I had to shred my own cheese. And slice it too. And there sure as heck wasn’t any colby/cheddar on those grocery store racks. Oh, the hardships of childhood.

Oh, your child has tactile issues and prefers sliced cheese? No worries, we’ve got that…

Your mother-in-law prefers cubes – it doesn’t matter if she says that just to make you crazy – it’s all good, we’ve got that too…

And just in case no one is happy with the above choices, let’s throw in some cheese sticks.

And yes, you saw the labels correctly – those are all some form of cheddar cheese – but some like it shredded some like it not.

The cereal aisle can quickly earn you a seasons pass straight to the looney bin. Frosted or not. Fiber or not. Crunchberries or not. Sugar free or high octane. It’s amazing we ever get out of the store.

And even when our carts are full of things we can cook, we still have the option of not preparing our own food. Close your eyes on this first one if you are vegetarian.

We don’t even have to put cheese and crackers together ourselves. They even add a drink.

And if opening a box just seems too daunting at the end of the day – there’s this – we don’t even have to make a sandwich. It’s been done.

Those were frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The first time I saw them, I was outraged that we have become so lazy that we can’t even make our own sandwiches. Now, I own stock in the company. They are frozen so you do have to plan ahead and let them thaw out for a whole 15 minutes. Patience Grasshopper. Either that or tell your kids they are a popsicle  and cross dessert off the list as well.

Need a drink? Which one? Beer?

Wine?

I included this picture just to show you that Gallo wine really does not cost almost $30 a bottle. Remember that?

And to top it all off, you can even buy your apples already sliced.

You would think with us doing all of our own cooking, shopping, and driving that we would run out of time to do anything else. Not true. This woman still had time to decorate her car with silk flowers. Who says Americans don’t have their priorities in order?

To be very fair to this person, though, this car is a Honda and finding a Honda – your Honda – in the midst of a Walmart parking lot without the aid of a driver is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. She probably did this to make it easier to find her car and to ensure that other moms (or anyone else for that matter) wouldn’t go anywhere near it. She clearly does not have teenagers yet. They would never stand for this degree of lunacy.

So, that is why we don’t need drivers and cooks – we have parking lots and shredded cheese.

Housekeepers, on the other hand, are another story altogether. I cannot imagine a land or a time or a dream where they don’t make perfect sense. 😉

So many choices………

Whenever I arrive back in Delhi, I am reminded of (really assaulted by) the fact that India is not the U.S. But the same is happening in reverse. When we land in the U.S., the differences jump out at us.

One of the things that you might be surprised to hear is that the number of choices we Americans have to make can be simply overwhelming when you are not used to making them.

When we got home, I almost immediately went to the grocery store to stock up on all the essentials our favorites. We emptied the house completely before we left this summer to return to India, so we “needed” everything. I literally walked up and down every aisle. I marveled at the choices. Twenty-five types of bread, sixty-three choices of cereal, five types of onions, and 6 types of tomatoes. Then there was the delicatessen – unbelievable – forget it – there was pasta salad with oil-based dressing, pasta salad with mayonnaise-based dressing, pasta salad like your grandmother makes it, pasta salad like your mother-in-law makes it, and pasta salad like you make it because you don’t really care for it the way your grandmother or your mother-in-law makes it. Sweet pasta salad.

On the 26 hour flight home, I made a list of all the things we wanted from the store. And, I left that list on the plane. Yep, brilliant!

But we love tacos. So I knew for sure that taco fixins were top on the list. I remembered everything except the corn. Luckily I remembered in the check out line that corn was (supposed to be) on the list. I unloaded my cart onto the belt and dashed over to the canned vegetable aisle. Holy corn, batman. Honestly. I did not remember that there are approximately 8,000 types of canned corn. Now, don’t forget, I am very jetlagged at this point and I have not been in a grocery store in 6 months. Heck, most of the time, I don’t even do my own shopping.

I was temporarily stunned by the options – not just the brands available but the sheer number of types of corn available was honestly astonishing. In India, corn is pretty much corn. IF you can find a can of corn, you will likely only find one variety. You would be amazed how easy it is to “pick” which one to get. It only took about 15 seconds, but I seriously had to reorient myself as to what we liked. Creamed or sweet or white or yellow or Green Giant or Libbys. Good heavens.

The same was true in the toothbrush aisle. I now live in the land of few toothbrush options. In fact, some vendors will sell sticks on the side of the road. These sticks do not come with any bristles, much less soft, firm, or medium. They do not come in different colors or different lengths. They do not come with a choice of cartoon characters. They do not come in electric or manual form. It’s just a choice of this stick – or that stick over there – that happens to look a lot like this stick over here.

Of course, you can buy more traditional toothbrushes in India too. But you will most likely only get to pick from one or two options.

Please don’t even ask me about my trip to the sub shop where I had to make these choices:

Wheat or white bread?
Hot or cold sandwiches?
Cheese or extra cheese or plain?
Mayo, mustard, or both?
onions?
If you don’t want ham, do you want double turkey?
pickles?
Do you want to make it a combo?

Really, when you count your options, count your blessings too! 😉

In a huff……….

I was in the grocery store yesterday and had a shopping cart full of junk very useful items that I very much needed wanted. I was wheeling my overloaded cart to the checkout counter and was cut-off by a fellow shopper. It felt like I was in the roller derby of shopping carts. Knee pads and helmets recommended. Shopper “x” was apparently in a hurry. Hmpf.

shopping cart

Seriously, she saw me going for the line. She pushed her cart faster just to beat me. Hmpf. Her son looked a little nervous – he knew what his mother had done. He was not exactly hoping for a mommy brawl in the check out line. Hmpf.

To brawl or not to brawl? I decided to not say a thing. Grand scheme of things and all that jazz. So, I start unloading my cart in another line (without even mumbling at her under my breath) and noticed that she has put items back in her cart and was moving to another line. Really, that is just unnecessary. You basically push me out of the way, just to move to another line? Seriously? Hmpf. At least that is what I thought until I looked up at the sign above her lane – 12 items or less.

Karma is alive and well.