Monday, September 8, 2014

The Struggle of Transition, Starring: the Grocery Store

Since I've been back at UVA, I've been super busy. Getting used to new classes, my new apartment, and new people have taken a lot of my energy and occupied a lot of my mind- which has been so good because now that things are starting to normalize I'm going a bit crazy. Transition is TOUGH.

One of the places I've felt this hardship most acutely is the grocery store, which has become pretty much my least favorite place at this point.
Before going to Russia, I didn't really cook for myself. I was (and actually still am) a pretty terrible cook and had no clue about grocery shopping. When I got to St. Petersburg, however, it was sink or swim- especially after April when my host mom stopped making dinner for me. I learned how to cook a few staple dishes and got creative in the kitchen. I knew what to stock my fridge and pantry with. I knew exactly what to buy at the grocery store. It was awesome feeling so independent and successful! Of course there were times that I got frustrated when the small store near my house didn't have the products I wanted and I'd have to take a bus to the big supermarket for things like peanut butter or tortillas, but overall I was very content.
Enter, American grocery stores...
I had been longing for a choice of more than 3 cereals, craving fresh green beans and broccoli, and dying for some whole wheat bread and skim milk. I apparently forgot, however, just how much I was "missing".
So here's a helpful catalog of my thoughts while grocery shopping tonight to help you understand what I'm feeling (because I know you all care so very much...)

Enter the store:
OMG SO BIG...can't read those signs (because my sight is failing me, nothing to do with Russia vs America), where is the bread?
Would love some 50cent dushyes (pear soda) right now
I wish they had rolling basket combo things like in Okay Express

These tomatoes suck. Probably not even grown in America and so so expensive.
These peaches suck. Soo expensive.
These plums sucks. SO EXPENSIVE.
I'm need to rearrange my grocery budget...
Fresh broccoli! Fresh green beans!
Wow, melons are cheaper here, but it would be so heavy to carry home...oh wait, I have a car!
Wish tomatoes didn't suck...

I totally forgot this section existed. Do people really need a special section for stuff that's less than 100% chemicals? 
Look at all the granola varieties!
So many protein bars.

my favorite sausage
Frozen foods/meats:
Hey, maybe I can actually afford to buy meat here! ...nope, not really...but a bit cheaper
Maybe I'll just get some frozen chicken strips...LORD HOW MANY AISLES OF PRE-PREPARED FROZEN FOODS CAN THERE BE?!?!?! *this is where the panic really started to kick in*
Okay, abort mission, let's just go for a sausage (my staple meat product in St. P)...all I see is raw Jimmy Dean and deli meat...chemicals, preservatives, nitrates, I think my mom said to stay away from those...hey, there's a sausage! "Ingredients: animals byproducts"...and it's like a dollar so I think I'll skip that. I guess no meat.
Soooo much cheese! Yummmm way better variety and types I've actually heard of

(Probably what I was most excited for because I love cereal)
I can't remember what kind I used to buy before I went to Russia...let's see what they've got
Wow, is it really this whole aisle?
my corn cereal
Is there a Kroger brand of every single cereal?
How do I choose between vanilla almond crunch and crunchy almond blueberry??
Let's compare nutritional value- wow, whoever regulates this labeling does an incredible job compared to Russia. Props to the FDA (?)
Wait, is all that cereal too?!
*lungs start to contract, chest feels tight, eyes begin to redden* don't cry, don't cry, you can do this
Fine, this one is fine...I wish they had my Lyubyatova corn flakes...those are perfect

yes, that is milk in bags

Yay skim *no enthusiasm*
But maybe now I like a little bit of fat...I'll try the 1%
At least I don't have to guess what all the strange Belorussian dairy products are...although that was sort of fun

In the condiment aisle:
Why is it arranged by ethnic group??
Wish Heinz had the same products in America*
Where are the fridge-convenient squeeze bags of condiments?
No "burning Mexican ketchup"?
Why are there 100 types of olive oil and no sunflower seed oil? How will I cook anything???

"Wow, a bagger! How nice!" (girl looked at me like I was crazy)
Kind of a waste of plastic bags...
Might as well add this chocolate thing...

Sitting in Car:
Holding back tears. Feel like a failure. Never doing that again.

I've always thought of myself as someone who loves variety and change, who can't sit still and loves new things. To a large extent that's still true, I just miss the Russian version of me who felt like nothing needed to change, who wasn't bored and starving for new adventures, who was a successful independent if anyone wants to send me some starter recipes or a care package with my Russian cornflakes, Krasnodarskiy tomatoes, and Kronstadt sausage...that would be awesome.
Sorry if this post was depressing.
Thanks for reading.

*In Russia, Heinz sells way way more than ketchup. They have a ton of condiments including lots of cool Asian-inspired cooking sauces that I lived off of. They have canned vegetables. They have an enormous line of baby food products- cereals, soft foods, drinks, and a weird hippo mascot. 

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