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supermarket aislesWe all know you can learn a lot about a person from his work desk, her reading list or even their medicine cabinet. But can you apply similar rules to a country and its people?

Sure. Just check out the extensive frozen food aisles in most U.S. supermarkets, and you’ll quickly realize how much most Americans love to save time by relying on easy, convenient, premade food. So what can supermarkets tell you about people in other countries?

Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic and frequent contributor to IndependentTraveler.com, was surprised to learn that not all Italians spend hours making pasta by hand.

“The vast array of premade pasta at a Tuscany co-op certainly disabused us of the notion that all Italian hand-make theirs,” she wrote on IndependentTraveler.com’s Facebook page.

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I discovered that Romanians are not above making fun of their vampiric association when I found a potato chip dipping sauce called “Let’s Dip Dracula.”

When we asked our readers on Facebook what they’ve learned about a country on their foreign supermarket forays, people were quick to chime in.

Sheila of Sheila’s Travel Page had a similar epiphany to Brown’s. “I assumed that everywhere tropical used fresh squeezed juice, but in the grocery store there was a whole aisle of Tetra Pak juice. People living in the tropics don’t have time to squeeze juice, just like me!”

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And Tamara M. Goldstein wrote that visiting supermarkets abroad reminds her that most people in the world don’t have huge refrigerators. “In the USA we have so many sizes of one product; however, in most European countries there is one, maybe two sizes of a product,” she wrote. “They don’t have gigantic refrigerators like we have nor do they have walls filled with cupboards.”

Do you visit supermarkets in the countries you visit? What have you noticed?

— written by Dori Saltzman

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2 Responses to “Food for Thought: What You Can Learn About a Country from Its Supermarkets”

  1. Steve says:

    Not only do Italians not spend hours making pasta. I was astounded to see shelves and shelves of packaged instant potatoes in small village markets as well as supermarkets, which I came to find out was used for making gnocchi. So most home cooks seem to rely on the much-maligned shortcut, while I am pretty sure the real thing is used in fresh preparations at better restaurants and cafes. I would like to taste test, side by side, sometime.

  2. Maria soltero says:

    My husband and I lived in Spain 50 yrs.ago when we got married, as students. There were no supermarkets and besides having to buy fresh products every day at the outdoor markets, canned foods were few; prepared and precooked were nonexisting. For meat, fish and seafood,we went to stores that sold only that.
    So, upon returning to Spain almost every yeár after we retired, I love visiting and buying at súpermarkets. Now they have everything USA supermarkets have, plus the delicious spanish foods we love. If we are staying at a hotel with a refrigerator in the room, we buy cheeses, ham, wine, precooked omelets, olives, bread, etc and make one of our daily meals at the hotel. We do not miss anything. The Spanish pople have everything we do, and so much more. They pack food just like in the States, plus also differently. Their delis offer so much, and you cab get anything from paellas, to fricasé of rabbit all done and you just have to warm it in the microwave!354966

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