the grocery store tourist in me

Some people travel to foreign places to see the sites, the beaches, the exotic scenery, the history, the culture, and on, but there are some people who travel for the food. They travel to cities just to check out the restaurants receiving international reviews.  Others, travel, for former reasons, and combine culinary tourism along the way – as I have done before….

In 2006, I lived in London, England for a year and to this day, I remember my first visit through a local Tesco grocery store. I wandered the aisles for 2.5 hours. Yes – and it was amazing – AMAZING!  With my marketing hat on I appreciated the packaging and with my foodie hat on I swooned over new ingredients and sweets. When I’d memorized the grocery stores, I also visited as many markets as I could – my roommate would be ready to go and I could stare at the vendors’ displays forever….

A chocolatier in Borough Market, South London.

A chocolatier in Borough Market, South London.

The dairy aisle in a British grocery store.

Dairy aisle in British grocery store: orange cheese virtually doesn't exist over there

Baked beans, almost full aisles dedicated to them. Beans on toast is a common meal there, as popular as North American's Kraft dinner.

Baked beans, almost full aisles dedicated to them. Beans on toast is a common meal there, as popular as North American's Kraft dinner.

Well back then, I didn’t know I was a grocery store tourist. I knew I loved going into grocery stores, but I never knew it was a thing I could be until recently when I stumbled across someone else online labeling themselves a grocery store tourist. That’s when it hit me,

I am officially a Grocery Store Tourist.

New additions to North Vancouver

New additions to North Vancouver

Grocery store tourism, like all travel, can take place far and near… Last night, I took a little stay-cation down to my local Thrifty’s that recently opened in North Vancouver.  The shelves were lined with brand new products everywhere, freshly packaged meat, cheese, breads, produce glistening from the fresh mist of water, and the bulk candy aisle’s plastic dispensers glistened in the fluorescent lights – not yet tarnished by overuse from years of dispensing…

Neighbouring the new Thrifty’s is Bed, Bath & Beyond – a new addition to North/Vancouver proper. The combination makes for a weeknight culinary tourism spectacle.  Like my first Tesco grocery trip all over again, I wandered the aisles, dreaming of recipes I should make and the fun I could have prepping the ingredients. The basket on my arm began to fall heavy suddenly, and before an embarrassing amount of time could pass, I had to leave. So I wandered to Bed Bath & Beyond, thinking it would be a quick visit, I was soon corrected, and here is why:

BBB's kitchen section...

Part of BBB's kitchen section... I was overwhelmed!

The gadgets intrigue me everytime...

The gadgets always intrigue me: who comes up with this stuff?!

Endless organization options...

Endless organization options...

Are you a grocery store tourist? If so, tell me about it below…

8 thoughts on “the grocery store tourist in me

  1. shurli says:

    I confess that I am a supermarket junkie. We too were in the UK, and—as good as the food was, with the B&B breakfasts and the surprisingly good (and healthy) pub meals—I yearned to go shopping in the markets and get local ingredients to cook a good meal. Unlike Canada (and NZ for that matter), it is quite a bit more expensive to rent accommodations with cooking facilities in the UK. I still managed to shop at the markets for cheese (cheese!), fruit, biscuits, and wine. Wandering around food markets is always a Very Important part of a trip away!

    • Jeanette says:

      I totally agree… That is interesting about NZ though; and for some reason I thought NZ might have more markets than here? Culinary Tourism comes in all shapes and forms!!!

  2. Jocelyn says:

    At last, another soul who spends hours browsing condiments! My favourite Grocery Store Tourist experience was in Holland. We were camping at a lake-side site and rode our bikes into the town. Ended up spending a solid two hours in the tiny shop, lingering over the salted licorice and tea section. I find any GST experience in a non-English country exciting. Like being a detective, we try to decode foreign packaging in hopes of finding something comparable to our North American diet, or like an explorer, stumbling upon a new dietary discovery!

  3. Jeanette says:

    Jocelyn – that sounds like a tasty experience to me! Good point about the language barriers and interpreting ingredients – this would be my idea of thrill seeking (over, say, bungee jumping any day)!

    I have not been to Holland before, do you have photos of your food-explorations in your blog?

  4. ar0ura says:

    I grew up with Thrifty Foods in Victoria. When we went to the Coquitlam location for the first time my husband commented that he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen me that happy. They have the best butter tarts, they make square (real butter) croissants, and their Island Sourdough is the best this side of San Francisco.

    I am certainly a Grocery Store Tourist. Tesco was pretty great, but I fell in love with the Food Hall at Harrod’s. What I found most interesting was where the more exotic produce was from. The pineapples were from the Ivory Coast and the oranges were from Spain. That’s what made me feel far from home.

    • Jeanette says:

      Oh Harrods, yes, that is a dreamy experience too – I loved the candy and chocolate displays. Tesco was simply my first UK store experience: I also spent many hours in Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and even Asda! *** I didn’t realize that Thrifty’s has the best Sourdough (?) I will have to go try it now! I used to live near the Coquitlam location too; it would appear they are following me and I’m meant to have Thrifty’s in my tourist routine! But I’m not complaining 🙂

  5. creativebyrosey says:

    I was obsessed with Monoprix when I lived in France for a 6 weeks after university. The yogurt section was out of this world! I wish I had a photo. I used to buy them almost daily because I didn’t have a fridge. And smelly cheese. I had to hang it out my window, again no fridge and that is stuff you don’t want in your bedroom. I also appreciated that I didn’t need to know much French to get buy at the supermarket. I was lazy with the language.

    When I was in Iceland earlier this month we spent about 20 minutes in their version of a 7-11 looking at the candy selection with a young guy who worked there. He kept pointing out different things, and then would run over to another part of the store and show us something else. I just opened a bag of Icelandic licorice after reading Jocelyn’s comment. I’m now wishing I bought more.

    • Jeanette says:

      The dairy in all European countries I imagine to be amazing, and the candy in Iceland sounds sinfully sweet! I would love to be a food traveler and just explore grocery stores everywhere! One can dream!!!

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