Friday, October 5, 2012

Reprovisioning the French Polynesian Way

The last time I did an honest-and-true proper grocery store run was the beginning of May.  Looked at another way, about 4500 nm ago.  And while I still have more tinned beans aboard than are strictly necessary, we supplement with fresh things when we can.  Some places have been easy (San Cristobal (Galapagos), which had a wonderful market), some have been hard (Raraka, which had a supply boat every two weeks).  Whatever the case, our diet was still healthy, if not especially varied.  In the Tuamotus, we lived on just-caught fish, just-baked bread, lentils and rice, and no one minded a bit.

But even the biggest fish-lover needs a change once in a while.  And so, when we arrived in Tahiti, we set off for the grocery store.

Part of the fun of shopping elsewhere comes from discovering regional items.  Here was our first clue that we were far from home:

Is it getting hot in here?

“What are those people with their delightful ‘80s haircuts wearing?” you ask.  If you look closely, it appears their stylish outfits are made from industrial-grade garbage bags.  And the label says, “Unisex Sauna Suit.”  Because apparently Tahiti isn’t hot enough – you need to wrap yourself in plastic to get a really good sweat on.

And before you think this is an isolated occurrence, ka-bam!

In four languages, so everyone can join in the fun!

Right.  The store brand sweatsuit.  And if we look a little closer...

...they have added a helpful diagram showing the sweat.

Over in the frozen food section, we saw some oddly-shaped packages.  Guesses?

"Mom, what's in there?"

Right.  Veal.  I’m pretty sure I can’t fit an entire calf on our little barbeque; Erik might have to get out the Sawz-all again.

But the true excitement came in the fruits and vegetables section.  You would have thought we’d dropped the girls in Disney World.

“Mom!” shrieked Stylish.  “They have apples!”  She picked up a Granny Smith and cuddled it to her cheek.
“Mom!  Mo-om!”  Indy was jumping up and down.  “Oranges!  Mom, I’ll get us fifteen oranges.”  She raced off to get a bag.
“Another kind of apple!  Mom, they have different kinds of apples here!

And that, good people, is how you get your kids excited about fresh fruits and vegetables.  Feed them enough lentils, and they will beg for anything that grew on a tree.

Of course, we bought other things, too.  We were giddy about cheese, dried meats, lemon juice; you would be surprised at what is in short supply out there.  And, of course, junk food.  We have more chocolate and Tim Tams than I know what to do with.

And here is where things went wrong.  Because we took all of this food home.  And ate it.

Now, there is maybe nothing biologically wrong with eating a diet of Roquefort, oranges, salami, Cheetos and baguette, but I wouldn’t recommend it, and certainly not all at once.  The heady pleasure of sampling old favorites turned quickly to indigestion, and I think all of us miss those days of fish and rice.

Today I am making one last dash to the grocery store, and I can tell you, the fun is over.  There won’t be any packaged foods in my cart this time.

Well, maybe one last bag of Cheetos.


Kate said...

I am laughing out loud. Love the suits and especially love the girls discovering fruit. I have been there sampling the food of home.
When I lived in Japan mom sent me enough nuts and bolts and short bread cookies to feed all of my friends. It never occur to me to share these treasures, I ate two grocery bags full of nuts and bolts and two tins worth of cookies in 2 days. ha ha ha so sick.

Thanks for the memory,
Love Kate :)

Anonymous said...

I only wish that I had been in the grocery store with all of you. What are Tim tams pray tell?
Love Mom

Papillon crew said...

Tim Tams are cookies that are reportedly so delicious that you can't get them home without eating half the box. We haven't tried them yet - I'm saving them for A Time Of Need.

Anonymous said...

Tim Tams are Australia’s answer to the Oreo cookie.
Not that they are in anyway alike as a foodstuff (rectangle vs. round, wafers on the inside rather than the outside) but just as popular, varied and ubiquitous.
There are mint versions, double size versions, caramel version, etc but like Oreo’s my favourite are the originals.

What I learned on my first trip to Australia is the following method of enjoying a Tim Tam.
1) Brew your favourite hot beverage. For me a Coffee or better yet a “Flat White”
2) Nibble off opposite corners of the Tim Tam (only two corners, as small as possible while breaking the chocolate coating through to the wafer)
3) Insert one nibbled end of the cookie into the hot beverage
4) Draw on the other nibbled corner as a straw.
No lollygagging here; As soon as liquid reaches your mouth you will want to act quick. You will (quickly) notice the cookie getting soft and warm in your hands.
5) Now pop the whole cookie in your mouth and enjoy. (this can be troublesome for smaller children but I’ve found any attempt to bite the cookie to be a recipe for a mess and lost enjoyment)
6) Savour the moment and your beverage.
7) Reach for another cookie .... repeat
8) Top up your drink as necessary (as a cookie, it is a short straw and the liquid will need to be near the top of the cup)
9) Reach for another bag of cookies ... repeat
10) Pine for the next opportunity to stock up on more bags of cookies

My subsequent trips to Australia I learned that even some of the locals had not learned what I assumed would be every Australian child’s first step in learning to eat solid foods.

Scott Kuehl

Kate said...

Now I want a Tim Tam.