Thursday, 31 January 2008

Milano: At the supermarket (Part II)

After unloading my thoughts about Milan yesterday, I feel like I just have to come back and write more. There's just too much to say. I can almost touch the feeling of emerging into the city life and it is becoming more solid by the day. My new apartment, my new neighbourhood and my new independence have allowed me to explore aspects of the city which I'd never had a chance to explore before. It feels like i'm in an entirely new place.

Living alone teaches you a few things. Grocery shopping, for example. For someone who ran from a supermarket like a dog would run from a bath, the scavenge for food is quite a learning experience. Where I live, there's only one decently close supermarket at walking distance. The others are there too, but i'd rather not lug back bags full of groceries for half an hour. Anyhow, this mini supermarket is enough for all I need to get. I go, I shop, I pay...and then I freak when I see the bills i've accumulated. When my parents told me Milan was expensive, I didnt quite wholly believe them. I do now. As fun as it might be to stock up on all the pastas, tortas, and carne ( meat), I've finally realised what my parents meant when they said life in Milan is expensive. I'm not even thinking of the utility bills yet...

Apart from the cost, the whole experience of grocery shopping now feels like an adventure. I'd never before brought fresh affetato ( fresh sliced ham and stuff), so the first time I go, I'm dazzled by the choice I have. Prosciutto, coppa, salame, pancetta...these are just names of some. And even within these, there are choices among the variety and prepartion.

When I finally drag myself out of there, I stumble into the cheese section. I dont even know the names of half of them, much less the difference between each one! Gorgonzola, parmiggiano, brasaola, taleggio, mozzarella, pecorino, ricotta, mascarpone...phew! These are just the ones i've tried, there are about a plathora of other kinds which I don't even know about! Each kind of cheese has a character of its own, almost an identity. You identify it, and use it accordingly. It's really fun to see cute little old ladies pick out cheeses, each for different use, picked out precisely for their purpose. Not that Italians don't like to experiment, but still, there's a certain amount of conservatism when it comes to their cheeses and wines. They have to be just right. Give Italians Japanese food, and they'll lap it up with pleasure, but don't mess with their own cuisine. No complains there, why tamper with perfection?

Moving into the wine section now. My knowledge here is a little scarce. Actually, not a litte...I have no clue how to select wines. I went wine shopping with my friend recently, Italian of course, and realised that it's almost sacred territory, to be handled with much care. He meticulously scanned through the entire section ( time no bar, patience no bar...for HIM...I was on the verge of tying him to the shopping cart and dragging him off!), and picked out the wine which he thought would go with the food. The food, happened to be Indian chicken all the spices drown out any effect that the wine could have. Still, never argue with an Italian when it comes to wine, even the least interested will know more than you. I can bet on that. While I stood apart and let my friend go about his business inspecting wines, I just read the names i'd heard often enough and never really paid attention to. Bonarda, Chianti, Asti, Spumante, Barolo, Gavi..these are just naming a drop in the ocean. Red wines, are more commonly used, though the whites are pretty diffused too. My knowledge of wines ends here, there's a world to be explored though...

Italians are traditionalists. Even in modern city settings, i.e Milan, they refuse to give up their traditional tastes and dishes. Microwavable dinners are a strict no-no, and ready-to-eat stuff is still looked at with...well, disgust. I don't blame them, when your tastes buds have been so used to the freshness and the richness of good food, anything less is not easy to adjust to. And why should u? When you have the best available right in front of you, why would u want anything less? I repeat, time is really not a priority when it comes to good food! For example, I would never think to go an extra 100 metres to buy bread. I'd just pick one off the supermarket. My italians friends don't approve. I go shopping with them, and they do visit the bread shop to buy the fresh bread, about which I wouldn't think twice about. Oh well, I still got a lot to learn I guess...

The rest of the supermarket is more or less the same as any other place I guess. What surprises me though, is that even a universal and equable concept like supermarkets, has been so wonderfully italianised here!

Next stop...well, i dont know yet. You'd have to read to find out.
Ciao ciao for now!

1 comment:

AR said...

i wish i was this writing about any city would probably be arranged in bullet points..but if u ever need a spell checker, u better not consult the MS Word tool! Anyways, good job with the writing ya..i could almost 'feel' Milan..can't wait to check out this grocery store next to your place ;) Apart from the shopping haunts, of course..;)