Ailsa (ailsa_cf) wrote,

The Baked Beans Incident, aka, Grocery Shopping In America

One of the challenges of this year has been living in a dorm, sharing a 'kitchen' with 4 floors of students & one tiny microfridge with my roommate. I'm used to having a kitchen in the apartment, shared with 3-4 other people and just a few steps from my room. Nevertheless, I was determined not to get a meal plan where I'd be paying a minimum of $9 per meal, and eating the same food week after week.

So, armed with directions including which bus to take, I set off for the supermarket in the first week of term. This is the first thing which makes grocery shopping in Chapel Hill a bit of an adventure: you cannot walk to the grocery store. Or rather, you could walk there, but you certainly wouldn't want to walk all the way back from Carrboro laden with tins and packages.
Having found your way in to a store, you are faced with the challenge of finding things. This one isn't too hard, really, except when you're looking for something that has a different name in America, or just plain doesn't exist. I can't find unsmoked bacon no matter how hard I look, for example. Milk comes with labels about growth hormones not affecting things. (I think if you told people in Britain something like that, or that the food had been genetically modified in some way, as it can be here, they would have a cow.)
On one of my early shopping expeditions, I got a little frustrated on the bacon hunt, and went to grab some baked beans - something which, I thought, would be much easier to find. After all, they were baked beans, right? How complicated could it be?

I was wrong.

I arrived in front of the shelf to find I think at least 10 varieties of baked beans. Beans with bacon. Beans with bacon and sugar. Beans with honey. But not, apparently, beans in tomato sauce. I stood staring at this incredible selection and wondered how on earth I was going to survive cooking for a year if there was sugar added to gorram baked beans. I may also have muttered crossly to myself, and probably attracted strange looks from other shoppers. What I eventually found was 'vegetarian baked beans'. I'll let that sink in for a moment. Something like beans, so ordinary to me, apparently need to be specifically labelled as vegetarian. I decided this was quite enough mind-boggling for one day, took my vegetarian baked beans, and left.
I haven't bought them again this whole year.
baked bean adventures
Tags: shopping, study abroad, unc

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