If you’re in Italy and you forgot to pick up a gift for a friend or relative, you can run to your local supermarket and improvise – even if it’s Christmas Eve. I’ve already mentioned how much of an education it is to walk around a foreign supermarket. Well, it was a joy to do so during the holiday season. Ischia’s supermarkets are full of even more treasures this time of year. On a few of our recent trips, I brought a camera, so I could share the experience with you. Here is what those last-minute shoppers in Ischia might be picking up today:
One of the best aspects of living abroad for a bit is getting to go to a foreign supermarket on a regular basis. True, I’ve been coming to the ones here in Ischia since I was 2 years old, but they remain foreign and never cease to amaze. Besides always seeming to find treasures, such as the green apple juice above, which tastes like sour apple candy, it is also always an experience for the senses and the memory bank. For starters, these supermarkets are not super at all; they could be closets in the giant American ones I frequent back in New Jersey. This is an island, so the stores are pretty tiny. It’s hard to even get Baby Boy’s super-sized American stroller inside a few of them, including the one closest to our house.
On our last trip over the weekend, we went to a supermarket that was completely new to Baby Boy and me. It is considered to be the biggest one in Ischia with two floors separated by elevators. Consider it the penthouse of supermarkets on this here island. Upstairs you’ll find paper and party goods, cleaning supplies, and beauty supplies. Downstairs is all about the food. With more room to breathe, I thought for sure Baby Boy would behave. I think it just made him feel a little too comfortable, like he was back in the States. He began by taking off his shoes and throwing them into various aisles from the seat of the carriage. I picked them up and put them in my bag. I thought that would resolve the problem. Nope.
Instead, he insisted I carry him. Next, he wanted to be put firmly on the ground wearing nothing on his feet but socks. Since he’s heavy as a 30-lb. bag of flour, I obliged just for a minute. He spread his arms out like an eagle and ran down the aisle trying to knock over whatever was in reach. He managed to pummel and stumble over a couple of potties and some baby food before I snapped him up. Figures, he goes right for his own stuff. I thought it was Wal-Mart-like of the Ischitano supermarket to have goods like a potty right next to the food. There were also pots, pans, brooms, and shovels. I found it to be a baker’s paradise with all sorts of neat gadgets – tube pans, tart pans, little metal cupcake pans (which Italians wouldn’t use for cupcakes, but I would) and tons of ingredients for baked goods, including chocolate chips specifically for cookies and muffins (which I haven’t seen anywhere else). Then, there’s shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, decorative marzipan and fondant, and slew of other sweet delights. I picked up some cupcake liners (which are extra small because Italians don’t use them for cupcakes) that look like the skin of a giraffe. Very cool.
When we were finally in line, my husband and I were rushing to pay the cashier and pack up all the stuff in the flimsy biodegradable bags; I know, they’re good for the environment but they barely make it home without a rip. Baby Boy had other ideas. He snatched a giant umbrella that was for sale and with his Hulk-like strength started waving it above his head. I took it away from him and put him back in the carriage for a moment. I turned around, and he began trying to climb out. He had one leg dangling over the side of the cart when my cousin, who happened to be in line behind us, alerted me to the situation. I had to hold him in one arm and pack bags with the other. The lesson: If you’re taking Baby Boy to the grocery store, make sure a relative is always the one behind you in line. Since this is the small island of Ischia, home to pretty much all my ancestors from the beginning of time, that shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, and don’t forget the green apple juice.