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Friday, November 13, 2009

Italy v. America: Supermarkets v. Shops

Italy vs. America: The Differences Observed

Welcome to the *brand new* series, of Italy vs. America: The Differences Observed. I have not yet decided whether I want to have this as a weekly or monthly writing, and if it is weekly, on which day I’ll post it. Hmmm….

Before I begin pointing out the differences between these two wonderfully unique countries, some clarification is needed. These observations are not made to make a conclusion at the end in order to say which country is better than the other. They’re merely just ways to show, well… the differences! All writings are based on what I have seen, experienced, and have heard from Italians themselves, which are based on their individual opinions.

Moving along….

Observation #1: Supermarkets vs. Shops

For those of you who have never been to the United States (I’m sure, and hoping, there are readers outside of the US), there is a common characteristic that flows with the everyday hussle and bustle of things here – size. Size does matter here and most Americans like BIG things. Happy Meals (see Home in Rome for Mickey D’s evidence!), cars, freeways, streets, houses, and…. supermarkets. Yes, supermarkets! Think Shoprite, or even Costco or BJ’s. Not only can you buy food, but toys, furniture, holiday decorations, TVs, cameras, and so much more. All to your heart’s content! Or at least what your budget or credit card allows. It’s all about convenience and the ability to buy things in just one store.

That’s not to say that these stores don’t exist in Italy, although they are less prominent… for now. Sure, there’s Conad, and many mall-like locations that have food stores that sell many things like the above-mentioned stores. But, you can still find small compartmentalized-like businesses in Italy, that are sadly, almost entirely non-existent in the US. In Italy you can still find many marcellarie, butcher shops, and the like. Perhaps it is because of the quality-consciencious mentality of Italians, particulary with food, that keeps this tradition alive.

Food, accompanied by good wine, is an important factor in an Italian’s life, where quality definitely outweighs the “benefits” of quantity – as what many Americans see as being better (oddly). Take ShopRite for example. I love my tomatoes, so it is extremely disappointing to buy a tomato from their store, and when the tomato is cut into, it isn’t blood red. They never have their true color, but an almost orange color. Instead it’s pale and doesn’t taste at all like a tomato should. The reason being that they are picked well in advance to survive the longer trip to the supermarket?

Compare these tomatoes to those that are grown closer to the source, locally grown produce. They’re plump, with a hint of taste of the sun. Blood red tomatoes that pour juice down your chin as you take a bite. I find that such produce is easier to find in Italy, and it is much more common for a family to have a small plot of land to grow their own vegetables and fruits. In Italy, one can still go to the daily or weekly mercato to buy from farmers in the area.

With so many obese Americans, maybe it’s time to take an example from the Europeans, and focus more on the quality of our food, and less on the discount received from buying in bulk.

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