I find one of the biggest adjustments to moving is figuring out how to shop for food. In our previous life in Vancouver, I had a set routine for groceries based on our location which greatly affected our diet. Kalamata olives and Macedonian feta cheese were staples because we lived close to a Mediterranean specialty store. When we moved to Scotland, we rarely ate olives or feta cheese and instead switched to cheddar. I ate kippers instead of salmon and baked my own bread more regularly since the flour was easier to work with.
We have moved back to Vancouver, but to a different neighbourhood with a different ethnic makeup. I rarely buy cheese at all. I know that salmon is available in Chinatown, but so are many varieties of fish I can’t name since they are labelled with Chinese characters.
Two blocks away from our house lies Sunrise Market which intimidated me for the first month we were here. The aisles are often too narrow to wheel a stroller down and products are not obviously in the most logical place. For the first week we were here I would walk several blocks away to a new chain grocery store that reminded me of the Tesco Metro close to our old house in Scotland. The aisles are wide, the lines are short, and the produce is perfect.
One day, I had bought some broccoli and onions from this chain and walked back home right by the produce stands just outside Sunrise and noticed broccoli and onions at about 1/3 the price. I realized that I was able to assuage my guilt from shopping at a chain and save quite a bit of time and money by dealing with the busy, sometimes rude, crowds at Sunrise.
The rudeness might be a cultural thing since most of the clientele come from more crowded cities in east Asia and feel more comfortable bumping into each other while I come from the suburbs of Texas where personal space is abundant. Also, it seems that speaking Cantonese has a tendency to make one sound angry. A Cantonese speaker confirmed this for me so I feel more comfortable saying this. One time while I was waiting in line at Sunrise, a cashier and a shopper had an extended conversation that sounded very heated. Everyone not engaged in the discussion seemed calm, but I caught the eye of the one non-East Asian employee and he seemed just as baffled as I was.
Sometimes, I get impatient with other people’s comfort in that store. Old ladies will stand in the aisles and seem to willfully ignore me and my stroller. I don’t totally feel comfortable running them over. I’ve tried bringing the boy in the baby backpack so I don’t have that problem, but he invariable tries to grab some canned goods off the top shelf and I have to clean it up. So I generally just deal with the crowds and have learned to navigate the store a bit better, knowing which aisles to avoid with the stroller. If I need eggs, I’ll leave the kids alone for the 15 seconds it takes to grab the eggs.
Other than my general anxiety levels, the other problem, I soon realized, was that I needed to buy the produce in smaller quantities since it might actually start to rot by the time we made it home. On the other hand, I could buy a mango at 11:30 for 33¢ and eat it at noon without having to wait for it to ripen. So I visit the shop fairly often but I didn’t realize how often until yesterday.
I turned the corner on the sidewalk just outside the store pushing the stroller with one hand and holding a bunch of baby bananas and an enormous carrot (two things a chain grocery store would never sell since they look so unusual) with my other. A local on an old road bike stopped and said, “hello again.” I don’t know where we had seen her before but I assumed it was just on our daily walk.
I walked into the store and got in line when the cashier greeted my kids by name. I paid for my things, said goodbye, and started walking out when she said, “See you tomorrow.”
I wondered if we actually go to the store everyday. Has it become part of my daily routine without me even realizing it? The cashier, who may check out hundreds of customers everyday, knows my kids by name, after all.
On our way out the store, we walked by the woman with the bike who said hello to us before. She was speaking with the anglophone employee. She had an orange in her hand and he was accusing her of stealing it. She claimed she picked it up off the sidewalk. I was always curious as to what his job was until then. Not too many grocery stores employ bouncers, after all.