April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Supermarket on the Island

There are five tiendas, or small stores, on the island. When we arrived, three months ago, there there three, but two others have decided to open. It sounds like most tiendas last about a year, with some up to six years. Generally, it is just a a part of someone´s house and is open when they are there and closed when they aren´t. Our third host family ran a tienda. Here is a picture of the store. Everything that is for sale. That´s it.

They have oil, rice, beans, salt, sugar, flour, sardines, tuna, spices, condensed milk, tomato paste, powdered milk, bleach, soaps, toilet paper, toothpaste, some simple medicines, flashlights, batteries, cookies and sweets, onions, garlic, and potatoes. She would generally go to a nearby port to restock every two weeks. As April mentioned in her post about our house, our closest tienda actually has a propane powered fridge as well, so ice, drinks, and duros (frozen bags of juice for 10 cents).

In contrast, in our regional capital of Santiago, there are numerous tiendas and at least eight supermarkets, two of which are now 24-hour supermarkets, with pretty much anything you could need. While you can´t find everything that you can find in the states....you can find plenty. The things that we miss the most in a supermarket? I miss:

Cheese, good real cheese. Cheese comes in white and yellow here. There are a suprisingly large number of white and yellow processed "cheese" options in this world...and none of them worth much attention. I really miss blocks of parmasean. Oh for a chunck of really sharp cheddar. Fresh motzerella I dream about. Feta...is that feta for real or is that really just ground queso blanco? Blue is beyond knowing. You can occasionally find decent cheese...but it is rare in stores and costs my daily salery (wondering what that is now aren´t you??)

Good icecream. I can´t have it in my community due to lack of electricity...but suprisingly a good rich chocolate icecream is hard to come by at all.

A wide variety of vegitables. Veggies are just not as commonly used in the diet here as at home. I could grow estatic for a baby spinach salad. I could drool over fresh real mushrooms. I have been looking high and low for sweet potatoes. I get depressed when I realize that I completely missed an entire sweet corn season. Oh for one (no might as well ask for three and fill my tummy) ear of "perfectly sweet fresh picked and cooked for 45 second and still sweet as southern sweet tea" sweet corn. Spagetti squash....yum, i miss that too. Little red potatoes with soft skins that are just the right size to eat in two "bigger than I was taught to eat at once" bites. I could go on and on...but then I would start to drool.

Before I start to sound deprived and make you want to mail me food...we are eating well here. I have found soya chunks that make a great protien filled addition to our meals. I am managing to keep stocked on chocolate. I will soon start experimenting with making bread in a pot rather than an oven. Living simply with out refrigeration has real rewards and perks. Fresh real free range eggs are much yellower than the ones that I used to buy. I have come to really like fried eggs. I get plenty of garlic. We are basically happy with our food. I am hungry now...time to go.

I do worry a bit about wieght gain when I get back in an area where I can get good cheese. :)

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