A Quick Stop Shop

At Corvin Alley Mall, I happen upon a grocery store in the lower level.

I’m not sure why I always tempt fate, but I love local grocery stores. Be it Prague, Siem Reap, Xi’An, Bangkok, or Shanghai, I enjoy breezing through grocery stores to see what the locals consider important to their diets. In Siem Reap, the kampot pepper made a debut through many aisles, along with local beers (Angkor, Cambodia beers), teas, instant coffees, and meats in open bins. In Xi’An, it’s easy to spot aisles of oils, soy sauces, teas, rices, nuts, and the ubiquitous Xinjiang spices, used on lamb and fish dishes to make them spicy and delicious.

Bangkok, oh Bangkok – I love the sweet instant coffee packets, meat trays, green and pink-dyed eggs, prepackaged takeaway meals from the food bar, colorful packets of sauces and spices, and the distinctive scent of curry ingredients in the veg aisle. Let’s not forget the pungent durian fruit, which is usually split open and spewing its yellow contents onto plastic trays.

In Budapest, there are big plastic containers of pickled beets, pickled everything, and cabbage slaw. Packets of local paprika brands marched across one shelf. The wine selection boasts bottles from local regions such as Eger Bikaver, or the famous “Bull’s Blood” red wine. I chose one brand of the Bikaver, and then also a rose, which, to my surprise that evening, smelled like a summer garden of roses and sweet wine and didn’t disappoint.

Of course, I never think to pack a corkscrew, so I bought one so I didn’t have to stick a key into the cork and chip away at it (which I’ve done out of sheer desperation before). I took up some of the famous Pick salami from the deli aisle (wow, the salami and cold cut meats selection here!) and a thick wedge of cheese with bits of pepper in it. This was for a few late night snacks in the hotel.

With packet of buttery crackers, diet Cokes, fizzy water, sliced sausage, cheese, and wine, I make my way to the check-out. I have to grab two bags to avoid the tell-tale clinkedity-clink-clink-clunk of wine bottles together. I find quickly that most people mistake me for a Hungarian until I say a cheery “hello” to denote that I can’t speak Hungarian beyond the basics found in my Lonely Planet guide. When you’re an Eastern European mix of German, Czech, and Polish from America, it’s super easy for everyone to think that you belong there.

So much different than my usual sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb when in China.

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