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Czech Life

Nigella never had to put up with this sort of rubbish…

I like to cook, I really do. For friends and family who come to visit, and for friends that we are making here. Our apartment here has the nicest kitchen I have ever had in rented accommodation, and so it seems a shame not to use it.  I also like to cook on a daily basis, just to survive without resorting to take-always, meals out and unaffordable (yet delicious) deli offerings from Au Gourmand and Bakeshop
So food shopping is a frequent necessity.  However, as mentioned before I have found that it can be the most mundane tasks here that make me feel most out-of-my depth.  Even with the presence of Tesco on Narodini (a God-send, in my opinion), the weekly shop has become something of an adventure.  On a good day.  On a bad, busy or stressed/PMT day, it is not an adventure but just a pain in the arse.  Grocery shopping in Prague has twice now tipped me over the edge and reduced me to a tearful wreak.

The first time was on my second day here. I was admittedly a bit shell-shocked and had gone out without my glasses on (nothing like a city where you need to read the road signs to make you realise just how visually impaired you really are) and couldn’t find feta cheese.  At the time this was almost the end of the world.  Somehow we struggled through…

The most recent incident was last Sunday afternoon. I had “popped” to Tesco, wanting to get some food in for the week before going to The Globe to read my book-club book and then go to the gym.  Nice Sunday.  I assumed that the list of food items that I needed (only 13 things – unlucky for some, apparently) would take ten minutes to get, max. 

Ninety minutes later….I emerged red-faced, stressed, unbelievably p***ed off and still without self-raising flour or tinned chick peas.

There was shelf upon shelf of dried chick-peas, but who has time to soak them for an hour before using them?  People with no life, that’s who.  Although in retrospect I could have been at home soaking them instead of spending an hour in the supermarket looking for them…

The lady herself - I bet she never had to deal with these kinds of limitations

And no self-raising flour? What’s that about? I spent a good fifteen minutes of my Sunday afternoon blocking the aisles of Tesco web-surfing on my blackberry trying to find out the Czech for “self-raising” before I found a link to this article which told me I was wasting my time.   Self-raising flour is apparently the reserve of bourgeoisie westerners, who are too lazy to mix up their own combination from plain flour and a raising agent called kypřící prášek do pečiva. Who knew?!

Upon my return from the supermarket, kind husband actually volunteered to go to Robertson’s (nice English food shop/safe-haven for expats fresh off the boat) to get the “right” sort of flour for me.  

At this point I came to my senses. I am not even thirty – what the hell was I doing spending Sunday afternoon in Tesco worrying about chick-peas and raising agents?!  And was I actually going to ask my husband to run across town just to stop me sobbing into my apron?! Time to get a life myself.  I went to Bakeshop and had cake and wine.  Suddenly everything was much better.

She's clearly talking about tinned chickpeas...

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About CzechingIn

A blog about an English lady living in Prague.

Discussion

9 thoughts on “Nigella never had to put up with this sort of rubbish…

  1. M&S has self-raising flour and also caster sugar (for lazy people who don’t grind down the normal stuff). Albert and Interspar usually have tinned chickpeas.

    Posted by eva | February 2, 2011, 5:14 pm
  2. Hilarious blog! I think you should resist Eva’s mention of M&S though. Surely its completely bottling it if you just go shopping in M&S…

    At Xmas I made this mistake and calmly assured my English wife that I can get mincemeat for the mince pies she was making in M&S, “of course” you would think. Now why would M&S (English) among its stock of ingredients for traditional (English) christmas dinner, next to brandy butter (English) have mincepie (English) mincemeat WITH chocolate chips….Who on earth makes mincepies with chocolate chips???

    Duly begged for forgiveness and humbly asked Prague-bound friends/family to pop into M&S at Heathrow and get some.

    Bah humbug.

    Posted by Fellow struggler | February 2, 2011, 5:27 pm
  3. Was just about to write and say that you can get self raising flour in M&S when I noticed the post before mine…
    In the last year, Billa has started stocking tinned chickpeas. I shall get some for you. For feta, I usually substitute Balkan cheese, it’s practically the same.
    I definitely agree that shopping here takes some getting used to and personally I just don’t find it at all inspiring. After several trips of going out with a list and being disappointed, I decided to instead venture out with an open mind not knowing what I would find. I hoped I would feel inspired to make some new and interesting dish with the exciting things I would find but actually it made me just want to order a take away. After 4 years, I just appreciate when you see new items on the shelves and am learning what I just won’t be able to find. I feel your pain though!
    Happy shopping x

    Posted by Emily | February 2, 2011, 6:49 pm
  4. Thanks for the tips everyone! I have now made my plain-flour/raising agent combo, so cakes are a-go-go. Tinned chickpeas suddenly appear to make up the bulk of my day-to-day diet, so I shall run to Bila immediately!

    And I think it’s fine to go to M&S. All we need now is a John Lewis and everything will be fine. Oh my goodness, I have become my mother 🙂

    Posted by CzechingIn | February 2, 2011, 9:52 pm
  5. Hi CzechingIn,
    Glad you didn’t send your husband to Robertsons as it isn’t open on Sundays! Our great complaint is the frequent practice of putting a sticky label in Czech & Slovak over the English &/or German explanation of the contents of a tin or packet thus preventing us from knowing what something actually contains 🙂

    Posted by Chaplain.cz | February 2, 2011, 10:37 pm
  6. Thank you so much for posting such a hilarious entry in your blog. I have talked with my husband (who wants to move back to Czech) that I can move to Czech only if my favorite grocery store staples will be stocked with regular frequency. And, being from Colorado I would imagine I’ll have a hard time finding fire roasted green chiles and fresh jalapenos. 🙂

    Posted by Cheryl | February 3, 2011, 12:12 am
    • Hi Cheryl – thanks for your comment – yes I have a hunch that your shopping essentials might be hard to find 🙂 Sometimes the bigger super markets sell fresh jalapenos though.

      Most of the time I am all-embracing of trying new ingredients and cooking new things – there is a whole aisle in Tesco of dumpling-type things and jars of herrings that I find particularly fascinating. But I agree that there are some times when you just want what you want!

      Posted by CzechingIn | February 4, 2011, 10:23 am
  7. coming in a little late here, but i share your supermarket (mis)adventures and found it particularly upsetting when we first moved here. for some reason, the produce aisles had me reeling (and not in a good way) with their oh-s0-scant selection of things.

    it seems you’ve had good advice on where to find the things you were looking for, but i still find it can be a day-to-day battle to get what i want or need. i’m regularly going to 4 (sometimes 5) different stores to get the various things i want and just have learned to schedule and plan my shopping around which stores that have which things that i’ll be going to. *sigh*!

    Posted by Megan | February 10, 2011, 4:15 pm

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