Going on a walk to the grocery store in Belfast

Today I went to the store with Robin and mom. Robin and I found some Halloween costumes. The path we walked on doesn’t allow dogs. I had a great day today. I think that Belfast is an awesome place if you are on at trip with your family or a school trip. I have start to get souvenirs when we go to a new city around the world. We may go to Austria. A bag for packing groceries are cost us 10 pence each (that is like cents to us). I really like it in this part of Northern Ireland.

Grocery Attack!

Saturday night Mom and I went to Albert Heijn, the grocery store near our apartment in Amsterdam. I tried packing the bags (our envirosacs) but there was a disaster. I put the light stuff on the bottom of the bag and then I put the breakables on the top of the bag and the mayonnaise rolled out and went on to the floor. It went all over the floor near the check-out counter because the bottle broke. I was scared! But it was ok. We helped clean up the mess.

When we got back to the apartment, we unpacked the groceries and I repacked with the heavy stuff on the bottom and the light stuff on the top. I made sure there was not too much in each bag and that the breakables were on the bottom and equally divided between the bags.

Today we went back to the store and bought more mayonnaise. I packed the groceries and nothing broke this time!

Everything counts in small amounts

Germany just disassembled Argentina 4 – 0 this afternoon. The game has been over for better than two hours and the horns are still blowing as the sun starts its decline into a cooler evening. Everybody appears to have either a car horn or a vuvuzela on which to tootle. Jan and I took a walk just after the game ended to buy some more liquids. The heat has caused us to drink a lot more juice and water. Partly, it was a little adventure to experience the city’s happiness; partly, it was a walk to a newly found grocery store; and partly, it was an excuse to walk through the street fair that was set up about a block and a half away.

The grocery store (in the basement of a mall adjacent to the street fair) is one more of the many stores in a two block radius that sell food of one type or another. We have found at least 14 so far and we are finding more. Most tend not to be general stores and only carry a restricted, or specialized, selection. This includes Asian foods, Middle Eastern foods, fruits and vegetables, meats, bakery goods, and so on. There are lots of them around. There are a few that are larger and carry more variety but even those stores are relatively small in comparison to the store on PEI. Even a drug store like Shopper Drug Mart has a larger floor area than most of the food stores we have found. My favorite fruit store has the inside area of a large dining room but takes advantage of the sidewalk space to display his wares. And I am now completely in love with papaya (he usually throws in free lime too … mmmm).

One of the results of such small stores is the fact that they run out of food toward the end of the day. It may seem odd, but there are times that Jan has gone into a store to buy bread and there is none to buy, or at least none we desire. Most stores sell beer and wine and many have a selection of harder liquor that is often by the checkout–impulse buying whiskey rather than sugar: the jury is still out on which is worse.

Another factoid I have noticed is that people do not buy more than they can carry. Most people have a small basket of goods that they purchase and take with them. A very few pack the groceries into a car. Most carry them somewhere, probably home. Whether this is a result of small stores or the small stores are a result of people only buying small amounts of food, I cannot say. I do think that people do not do as much large quantity buying and “stocking up” here, preferring to get the bits they need as they need them. Because the shopping point is invariably close to home, the pattern works and is not inefficient.

Anyway, our walk after the match to get liquids (we only carry the heaviest of goods on the hottest of days) too us to the new store Jan and Sarah found earlier this morning. On the way across one of the larger streets in our area (Bundesalle) we got to experience the excitement of the fans as they drove hanging out of windows and sun roofs waving flags. Motorcycles (apparently) must carry a driver and a passenger under these circumstances to permit the passenger to wave the mandatory flag on a moving vehicle.

Regardless, the second match is on now and I am finishing off some liquid and require another 0.5 litre hydration. Oh, beer is sold in single bottles in the store as well. There are some that are bundled in groups of six and there are cases that will hold 20 bottles, though these are typically plastic and open with individual bottles taken out of them. It is possible to buy 20 bottles of beer (each being 0.5 litres) for under €10. I have not seen anybody buying that much yet. Mostly, people buy beer in groups of 4 or 6 bottles that are grabbed loose and put into a basket.

Interesting place. The more I get the hang of it the more I like it. Now, off to the second match.

Shopping in Berlin

Most days I go shopping with Mom. Usually we shop for groceries. My favorite grocery store is the organic grocery store near our apartment. I like to use the pull along baskets because it gave me the idea that when I am an adult, I won’t have to carry my groceries all the time. Because of my eyes, I won’t be able to get my driver’s license so I will have to walk everywhere or take a city bus. I will be able to buy my own pull-along basket.

In the discount grocery store, you have to pack your groceries really fast or they get cranky at you. There are too many items for me to make one choice. There is a ringing sound that makes me jump. I don’t like this store! We made a new rule Saturday night, Sarah doesn’t go to the cranky grocery store. I have another name for that store, but mom said I couldn’t use it in my post.

I am very excited because we bought a visual list program for the iPad (and iPhone). We are going to use it for grocery shopping. I will let you know how it works out.

Food in Berlin

Although Gordie is a fine cook and I have lots of experience programming and setting up computers, I love to cook and Gordie loves computers so we usually divide the labour according to our loves. Berlin is no exception to this. Gordie has been very hard at work setting up our blog, making it possible for us to call Canada from our computer, buying tickets online so that we can leave Germany and go to Paris mid July. I, on the other hand, have been having lots of fun feeding us and all that entails.

First off, I love being in a city where I can walk and get anything I need. I think that I am in food heaven and I know the city offers much more than our quiet neighborhood. There are two markets within a block of our apartment, one is lovely, one is surly, but really cheap – a litre of organic milk is only .85 euro, a block of great brie for under 1 euro. I am coming to embrace surly. There is also a wonderful organic market less than a block away that gets all of our love. Here is Sarah on one of our many trips to the organic market. Note the bag that Sarah is carrying. Our great friends, Zach and Jade, gave Sarah and Robin envirosax bags for Christmas and we brought them with us. I picked up two more from Moonsnail Soapworks in Charlottetown before we left. The bags are bright, beautiful, and strong and roll up really small so that I can stash all four in my small day pack and always have bags on me.

Our quiet little neighbourhood also has a great fruit and vegetable market, a bakery, a wonderful Asian grocery store with really helpful staff, and a great donner (donair) shop. All of this is within a block in any direction. We tried out the donair shop last evening and bought a donair and a falafel and a 500ml bottle of Becks beer for only 7.50 euro. The food was huge and feed the four of us… Gordie got the beer. Though, everyone could have eaten more because it was so tasty.

One of the most challenging parts of grocery shopping in Berlin is that the food labels are not in English, sometimes there is french, but usually just German. In someways this is very good because it encourages me to buy food with very little or no labels such as fruit and vegetables, eggs, bread and milk. But even then, I am not always certain of what I am getting. I bought a green yesterday than may have been very young spinach, but I am not certain. It was very tasty and went great in the miso soup that I made for lunch. One of the few prepared purchases was a two pack of what I thought was paprikash sauce and I was going to make chicken paprikash. It turns out I bought a cashew and red pepper spread that I don’t care for and that the chicken pieces were really turkey. The turkey was great stir fried with onions, mushrooms, sake, and sweet soy sauce, served over rice.

I have been trying to find skim milk and no-fat yogurt here but without any luck.  The only two milk options appear to be 1.5% and 3.5% and 1.5% is the lowest fat yogurt.  Organic is much more available here and is very reasonably priced.  We even found organic lactose free milk for Robin.

The nutrition labeling is very different here too.  First off it is in German and it usually is just for 100g sizes, not serving sizes as we are used to at home.  It also lists only total fat and not the breakdown of saturated, trans, and poly/mono unsaturated.  I was worried at first, that I did not have all of the information that I am used to seeing, but after looking at all the people, I am not so concerned.  I have seen people of all different shapes and sizes, ages, races, but I have not yet seen a single obese person since I have come to Berlin (nor in Amsterdam for that matter).  I get the feeling that our North American obsession with food and what is in it, is not really helping us.  Perhaps all it does is make us feel guilty while we continue to eat poor quality food.

I am very happy with the food that we are eating.  My few purchases from the Asian grocery store are turning out to be staples in our diet. Sweet soy sauce, sake, tofu, miso and Korean ginger crackers (to die for ginger sugar cookies) are all great hits. It is amazing how many dishes those ingredients are finding their way into:

  • stir fried pork slivers over greens salad,
  • miso soup,
  • rotini Asian style, and
  • stir fried turkey over jasmine rice

I guess just having good ingredients is a great inspiration for new creations, either that or the old adage that necessity really is the mother of invention – at least for this mother.  Recipes to follow eventually.

Playing, shoping, and a boat ride

Yesterday we went on a boat ride. It was interesting. I had sausages with curry sauce on the boat ride. It was called currywurst.

On the cruise we thought we were going to see a palace but we didn’t. I liked seeing the cool graffiti on the sides of the lake and thinking how were they supposed to put it on there. It was really interesting sitting below in the boat and thinking you are underneath the water in a submarine because it looked like we were under the water because we were really close to the bottom of the boat. It was very scary hearing the trains and thinking that a bridge was going to fall on my head. They never fell on my head. The bridges were so strong—they would have to be to hold up a train and other vehicles.

There were museums on an island that looked like it was a mountain from the water because it looked like the buildings were so high up from the water. I liked sitting up above more because it looked like we were flying in an airplane with an open roof. A bad part was that it smelled like smoke up top.

Yesterday and some other days we went on the subway. I had to stand up on the subway for part of the ride to the boat and I got to sit down for another part of the ride. I had to grab daddy and he said that if I started to fall he would catch me. I did not fall. If you have never been on a subway and you go to Montreal don’t go during rush hour. Don’t go in rush hour in Berlin either. The bottom line is don’t go during rush hour.

Two days ago we went to a little park not very far from our apartment. Some of the structures are so small that I could not go onto it. I was scared I would slam and hit myself. There were some tire swings. There were some other people at the park. Some were talking and some were playing soccer on a little court.

It is really hard to sleep with people building something next door. I can hear tool noises when I am trying to sleep. I can hear the noises now while I am writing this post too.

Almost every morning my mom and I go shopping to get groceries. We go to three or four places to buy our groceries. Whenever you go and get a little handcart you can pull it behind you. You do not always have to carry it. To get a big shopping cart you have to pay money. That is not the same as PEI because we can use them free at home.

There are a lot more outdoor places where you can get some of your food and then you go into the store to pay for it. Some of it is out on the sidewalk and some of it is inside the store. You have to weigh your own food and get a sticker from the machine to put on the produce. You cannot go shopping on Sunday. Yesterday we had bread and leftover desert and pasta and tofu for supper.