The Sour Cream Adventure

During our trip last month, one of the things that I was able to satisfy my curiosity about was the grocery shopping situation. Anita gave us a great opportunity to check out the grocery scene. She’d gotten a phone call, and was very excited about it. Apparently the word was being passed around that Foodworth’s, a local grocery store, had just received a shipment of sour cream! There hadn’t been any sour cream in the city for over a month, so this was BIG NEWS! She asked if Matt and I could take their van (which in Africa is called a “combi”) and go to the grocery store for her, as she had a group of homeschool kids arriving shortly. We thought that would be a great opportunity to drive around and get a feel for the city, and of course we were delighted to help her. So we were off on the sour cream adventure.

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First we needed a good map. We had a tourist magazine that covered the basics, so we set off with that. You’ll notice from this picture that I’m sitting in the front seat, on the left side, and I’m definitely not driving. I was more than happy to let Matt show off his excellent right-hand driving skills.

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On our tour of the three grocery stories in the city, we ran into something familiar to anyone who has lived overseas: bagged milk. They make nifty pitchers that are designed to hold these bags. You just set the bag in the pitcher, clip off a corner of the bag, and pour.

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Looks like a pretty regular grocery store, doesn’t it? This is in the international section of Shop Rite, and if you have really good eyes, or a great sense of logo recognition, you’ll notice the Old El Paso brand in the sparsely stocked section of the shelves. A pack of 10 tortillas was about $10, so I think we’ll be using the tortilla press that my mother-in-law gave us.

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Fresh produce is readily abundant, fairly inexpensive, and will likely make up a majority of what we eat. Things like mangoes and papayas are easy to find. Celery: not so easy. This picture makes me laugh, because if I didn’t know it was Malawi, I’d guess it was a Wal-Mart here in California!

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Meat is a bit more expensive than the fruits and vegetables. One of these packages of frozen chicken breasts contains 4-5 pieces and costs about $6. That doesn’t mean we won’t be eating meat; it just means I’ll try to make it stretch a bit farther.

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And finally, we found the sour cream (top shelf). We bought plenty to last Anita for a while, and I realized that I’d learned a lot about shopping in Malawi during this trip. 1) There’s plenty of food and variety available. 2) Cooking from scratch is the way to go – they have almost all of the basics, and with a little creativity you can come up with a lot. 3) Shopping is an adventure. You never know what will be in stock, but it just might be sour cream!

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