An adorable goat’s milk yogurt label from Trento, Italy
This may seem a bit strange, but one of my very favorite overseas travel activities isn’t visiting the museums or galleries (though they’re very nice, of course)… it’s touring the local groceries, markets and drug stores.
I like to see how the average person lives. In Italy, for example, your average shopper has access to powerful traceability and sourcing information. The eggshells come with printed sets of numbers. The packaging includes the key to translating the numbers.
And what can you find in that code? Everything about where that egg came from, including the state, province, municipality and farm where it was produced, the breed of the chicken and of course, the date on which the hen produced the egg.
Pretty cool, no? One glance at the eggshell, and you know just where it came from, what kind of chicken made it and how fresh it is.
Similarly, when I visited both Italy and France, I noticed that the produce is all labeled with the country and/or region of origin… even at the farmers’ markets.
The second reason I enjoy checking out other peoples’ groceries: they have things that we don’t.
While looking in rural France (Les Eyzies) for food that would work well on the grill, we were delighted to find an upgrade on the traditional canned campsite “pork ‘n beans” duo. This canned duck confit and lentils heated up just fine on the grill and made couple of très magnifique dinners.
The same shop also had shelf-stable jars of duck rillettes (essentially a fatty duck spread), which tasted amazing when spread across a fresh baguette.
And finally, there’s the joy of discovering cool packaging logos and graphic design.
A devilish rotisserie chicken bag from Toulouse, France
Cool seafood cans at the Hong Kong Supermarket in Flushing, Queens
I know I can’t be alone in my tendency toward grocery store tourism. Anyone have foreign food discoveries to report? Let me know in the comments or link me over to your adventures.