Foreign Food at Lidl

26 09 2008

When you get tired of the very best Italian cuisine

Lidl -hooray!

Lidl -hooray!

Italians are convinced they have the best food in the world and, of course, they’re right. It is not always a pleasure to be told that your native cuisine is rubbish, however. On the rare occasions when I’m able to find exotic delicacies like cranberry juice, oatmeal, or baked beans, there’s always some friendly soul who comes up to me in the supermarket and wants to know what I’ve got in my cart and why I’m buying it. Often it’s the cashiers, eager to know what that mysterious product really is, or, even worse, some supercilious jerk who wants to give me extempore nutritional advice. (Sure peanut butter is fattening but I’m still a lot thinner than you amico.) You would think Italians of all people would understand the powerful emotional resonance of food.

The emergence here of ruthlessly efficient German supermarket chain Lidl has made my food based homesickness easier to bear.  This week, apart from the regular supply of baked beans, there is a special offer on Specialità britanniche, complete with all your British favourites like oatmeal, marmalade, fish & chips, corned beef, English mustard, and above all shortbread. The British food specials were preceded in July by an American Food week, featuring packages of pecans and hamburger relish.

When I got to Lidl, the pickle sauce had already disappeared but there was still enough shortbread and oatmeal there to fill my needs. Predictably, after a few seconds, a group formed around the display and asked my wife “ma perchè si compra questa roba?”

My only question is how long will it be before Lidl gets around to the fine foods of Canada: maple syrup, butter tarts, muffins, donuts, rutabaga, parsnips, oatmeal cookies, pea soup, poutine, and Kraft Dinner.

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Buying Toothbrushes in Italy

6 09 2008

You can have any type as long as it’s Medium

One of the things that amuses foreign residents in Italy is the fascination of the local people with ugly big box stores and malls. As more North American style shopping centres begin to appear, even in the provinces of the south, Italian consumers have been quick to abandon those picturesque urban piazze filled with charming small shops. When a miniature version of a mall opened where I live a few months ago, with all of 20stores, entire families would come down from the mountains to gawk at the glamour and luxury of modern retailing. The German discount chain Lidl cannot open stores quick enough and there are long, disorderly queues in front of their doors every Monday and Thursday morning for the biweekly specials. The reason for all this excitement is simple: traditional Italian retailers are overpriced and arrogant.

I have just come back to Italy with a suitcase full of soft toothbrushes. Why? In the area where I live (but it seems to be a nationwide phenomenon from my brief attempts to find them elsewhere in the country) the supermarkets and pharmacies only sell medium toothbrushes. No soft toothbrushes, no hard toothbrushes, no choice.