Sunday, May 5, 2013

Musings on Grocery shopping...

Most of my blog posts are more like photo albums.  I love taking pictures and sharing them on my blog.  Well, this blog post will be several thoughts on grocery shopping in Oman.  An adventure of its own!

A friend was sharing yesterday, saying that he feels like he is really a resident of Oman now.  We asked why?  He replied, "I saw black beans at Al Fair, and I bought all they had!"  To which I replied, "I have looked all over Muscat for black beans, in vain."  Now I know where to get black beans.  :)  Living in Muscat has turned me into a bit of a hoarder.  I am in current possession of 3 Keebler graham cracker crusts (for lemon icebox pie), about 4 bags of chocolate chips (because I am told there are sometimes shortages, although I have always seen chocolate chips in the stores), 5 packages of corn tortillas (because I looked for them for 5 months and have only seen them that one time), 3 packages of cream cheese, and 3 bags of Frito Scoops (because apparently they taste different than regular fritoes).  I really am amazed at the variety of American brand names you can find here, although it's not always when you need them.

Which brings me to my next musing.  Sometimes one has to collect ingredients for a certain recipe.  This afternoon I am going to make Strawberry Pretzel Salad.
I have been wanting to make this for a while, but it calls for some hard-to-find ingredients:  pretzels, cream cheese, frozen strawberries, strawberry jello, and cool whip.  First of all, I had never seen a bag of pretzels in Oman, until a few weeks ago.  I was shocked!  I thought about the Strawberry Pretzel Salad right away, but knew I didn't have the other ingredients.  So I didn't buy them.  I kept thinking about those pretzels.  Over the course of three weeks I slowly accumulated the rest of the ingredients.  Different grocery stores, different days, and of course, perseverance, and I now have what I need!  Minus the Cool Whip, which I have never seen, though there is an urban legend that it is sometimes available.  I am using Dream Whip, the best option I have.  I will let you know how it turns out.  Oh, by they way, there is a danger in slowly collecting ingredients for a recipe--teenagers!  I have learned the hard way to either hide food or threaten harshly.

It is now a few days later, and here is a picture of my Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  Turned out pretty well, even if I had to use fake Cool Whip.  :)

So, what do I pay for the privilege of eating Frito scoops, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Rold Gold pretzels, etc.?  A pretty penny, let me tell you!  16 oz. of Velveeta runs over $9!  A regular box of Peanut Butter Cheerios, $7.50.  The pretzels and chips are about $5-6 a bag.  Hershey's chocolate chips are cheaper than Nestles, so I buy those.  I was so happy to see the cream cheese, that I didn't even glance at the price.  Another hazard of living here.  $10 for a bag of Hershey Kisses.  I only did that once, but it was worth every penny!  :)  I bought an avocado and cherry tomatoes today, and those were quite pricey.  Fortunately, not everything is so expensive.  Milk, eggs, bread, meat, and more local produce is comparable to US prices.  I have learned to buy American General peanut butter and cereal made in Dubai.  So that makes an occasional splurge more palatable!

But not everything survives the long journey.  I was so thrilled to find Blue Bell ice cream when I first moved here.  Unfortunately you could tell it had been thawed and refrozen.  We couldn't eat it.  The same with Diet Dr. Pepper.  It was flat.  Live and learn.

Then there are the ingredients not found here for other reasons.  Don't look for pure vanilla extract in any store.  It contains alcohol and is a no-no.  Fortunately I read that somewhere before moving here and brought my Costco bottle of pure vanilla.  Marshmallows are also hard to find.  They contain gelatin, which comes from meat, and maybe pork.  Also a no-no.  Although I have seen marshmallows and Pop-tarts in the 'Pork Room', for non-Muslims only. 

The Pork Room.  There is one grocery store in town (that I know of) that has a Pork Room.  It is only for non-Muslims!  That is the only place I have seen real bacon and ham.  But at $20 a package, the bacon didn't make it home with me.  Same for the sliced ham.  Other items in the Pork Room?  Pork and Beans and Jiffy cornbread mix.

Besides the Pork room, there is an 'Ethnic' aisle in one of the grocery stores.  Now my kids go to a school with over 50 nationalities represented.  The same for my church.  I am wondering, "What in the world do they sell in the ethnic aisle???"  Old El Paso products!  I suppose they consider Tex-Mex ethnic.  :)  I couldn't even begin to tell you all the unfamiliar food for sale here.  There are whole rooms devoted just to rice!  But the spices are wonderful. 

Now a word on shopping carts. You know how sometimes in the store you will find that one annoying cart where all the wheels spin and it is hard to steer?  How you quickly exchange it for one that works correctly?  Well here, all the shopping carts have four wheels that freely spin!  All of them!  At every store!  One of the grocery stores I sometimes go to is located in a mall.  I have to push that basket across slippery tiles.  Let me warn you.  You need to buy groceries in shoes with good traction.  No leather sandals.  Because when you wear the wrong shoes to shop for groceries, I guarantee you will find out you have leg muscles you never knew existed!

Back to cooking.  Today I am making chicken enchiladas for the Staff Appreciation luncheon at school.  How am I showing my appreciation?  By using my precious corn tortillas, that's how!

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