Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Food for thought

Food is an important part to a balanced diet. As a matter of fact, it is the only component. Therefor conquering the task of a successful grocery shop has been a priority for me in Italy. A trip to the grocery store is always a good way to get perspective of a new surrounding, it is often always on the agenda when we holiday, (you can learn a lot about a place in the cereal and fresh food aisle). I knew the healthy food pyramid was different in Italy when I saw the length of the pasta aisle. I am trying hard not to adjust our eating habits too much. We have been living here for a while now, and I have found myself needing things that I never thought about when I was back in Australia.

First of all, I had to learn the Italian names for simple things; pictures on cans, squeezing produce and smelling things will only get you so far, and results in some disapproving glances from fellow customers, as well as some odd tasting meals.

I have searched high and low for lemon pepper... store some in your suitcase on a trip back to see family, or put it on your next package wish list with vegemite. I do not know why it is not sold here, nor did I realise that it is a seasoning that I used so often. Cream of tartar? Bring it along or do without; this is something that I have also searched for, and being a lover of home made play doh (for my children of course), this item is sorely missed.

Cheese is such an important part of the Italian diet and Milan has welcomed me to the world of cheese and high cholesterol with open arms. In the dairy section you won’t find cheddar cheese or sour cream, (I use plain Greek yogurt as a substitute, blessing in disguise if you look closely at the fat content). You will however find cream cheese, (“Philadelphia” is easily accessible), but they have numerous cheese spreads that taste the same and are quarter of the cost. Sliced cheese similar to Kraft slices are available, but are a really white colour and a little soggier than what we are used to. I know what you are thinking, why would a country that produces such a variety of cheeses make processed cheese? The answer is so expats with children can make a quick grilled cheese sandwhich, although I am substituting most melting processes with mozarella nowdays. How very Italian. Mozarella, marscapone and ricotta is readily available and extremely cheap considering I would only find similar products in a fancy deli back in Australia. A tub of ricotta cost me 65c this morning! Parmasen and other similar cheeses are all bought from the deli section of the supermarket, which has more varieties of cheese than Australia has of beer.

Ethnic food is not as accessible as in the International Aisle back home; instead of an aisle, a whole 3 shelves display the Italians nerve to try new foods. ('Why fix it if it ain't broken?') So if you get a craving for Mexican, Japanese or Indian, you might be able to put something together, but it is definately not a cheap meal. I’ve found that Milan's China Town, covers most of our Asian urges, items can be 4 times cheaper here than in your average supermarket. And flour tortillas, don't get me started... either take out a mortgage on your home, or just substitute for the cheaper option of a packet of padini.

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day? Brioche (crossaints) seem to be the typical Italian breakfast on the go, it is extremely rare to see anyone sitting down to a big greasy 'hang-over' fry up. And I challenge you to find a healthy cereal. 3 out of 4 on sale are chocolate based. Child's heaven, parents nightmare. Finding oats for porridge was initially an ordeal, and we even crossed the border to Switzerland when we first came to further our hunt and illiminate frustration. Perhaps this was a bit overdramatic, as I have since found them on sale at a butcher stand at the local community market; would you believe it is next to the 'Milo'! Our family eats oats in the morning so we'll live forever, then we can spend the rest of the day living like there's no tomorrow!

Majority of our weekly shop is done at the fresh food market every Saturday, and we can generally get all we need for 30€, (this would be 80€ at a grocery store). Where we save money here, we make up for in cheese, wine and nappies! Life is an experience, (and an expense).

IF Interesting Fact

Milan is ranked 15th most expensive city in the world regarding cost of living.

No comments:

Post a Comment