Monthly Archives: August 2011

30 days without supermarkets #28-30: wrapping up

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Smoked ham

The last 5 days of the no-supermarket challenge were scuppered by spending them in Prague where at least for the first couple of days, I defaulted to Tesco because I knew where it was and what it did.

As the days have gone past, I have discovered where the small shops are – there are refreshingly large numbers of minimarkets, even in central Prague, though I suspect it will not  long before they too will be replaced  or outdone by Tesco Express stores as in the UK.

For the 25 days while I was in London, however, I accomplished my no-supermarket challenge without a hitch, and it was one of the most satisfying and creatively stimulating things I’ve done in a long time.   I learned a lot along the way, including:

  • Forcing one small change in any area of your life seems to have a knock-on effect in your thinking in other areas.
  • A small creative challenge is as good as, if not better, than a big one, because it’s do-able.
  • Shopping at supermarkets is fundamentally a depressing and numbing experience that stifles original, creative thought about the miniature challenges of everyday life.
  • The mind of the supermarket becomes implanted in your brain. Taking yourself out of them for a while is a liberating experience, and opens your eyes to other opportunities.
  • Genuine, friendly interactions with people in local shops make every day that much more pleasant. Scripted, enforced interactions with supermarket cashiers are a source of stress.

Several people have asked me whether I will continue to avoid supermarkets once the challenge is over. The answer is a resounding yes, not because I want to live in a permanent state of protest against them, but simply because living without them has been a joyful experience that has added many positive things to my daily life, and removed many negative ones.

 

30 days without supermarkets #27: My new briki

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Briki from the household department at Kotva

I finally threw away the džezva that I bought in a department store in Belgrade in 1979 last year. My recent discovery of Lebanese coffee at Daily Fresh in Tooting means I need another one, though it should really be a rakweh. The Greek friend I’m staying with tells me it’s a called briki in Greek. I bought this one at Kotva in Prague, where it’s also called a džezva. This is making me slightly sentimental for the subject of my first (unfinished) PhD which was lexical variation in the cooking vocabulary of Serbo-Croat. Really.

30 days without supermarkets #26: defeat in Prague and glory of kitchen departments

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An onion-storer for the fridge

Much as I feared, I had to abandon the challenge today as the prospect of quickly finding a suitable independent food retailer  in central Prague was as likely as finding a greengrocer in Oxford Circus. There is one big fat supermarket in Prague, and it’s Tesco. I’m intriqued to know why by last year they had completely rebranded it in natural green and orange and with the name ‘My národní‘ with the Tesco logo and colours almost invisible in a tiny patch on the front of the 6-storey building.

One of my favourite shops in Prague is the household department of Kotva. The only thing that even nearly approaches this is the basement of Peter Jones, but this is several leagues better than that. This is a shop where you can buy several sizes and brands of  implements and devices whose function you can only guess at. This is a shop where you can get something that will slice a cucumber into one continuous spiral, or a bag of metal lids that can be clamped onto storage jars with the right jar-clamper, or a curved tube that turns a bottle of water into a jug, or a plastic screw-top onion that can be used to store unused bits of onion in the fridge (left).

I couldn’t quite place why I love this shop so much, and why it feels so different to similar shops in England, until I realised that it’s because it’s full of things that help you to do things yourself, rather than convenience and the pre-packaged.