Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Shop till you drop: What’s left to eat?

This takes the biscuitDrop from the exasperation at not being able to find anything suitable to eat, most likely, which is a drastic change from the situation on these islands 15 years ago.

Back then, maybe the shops did look a bit barren, like Russian state supermarkets, but the mostly cheap, simple, local produce was probably among the healthiest and least contaminated in the world. It was something I appreciated greatly and, was one of the top reasons for living here.

Now apparently, 90% of the food consumed in the Canary Islands, is imported.

In the big supermarkets, you clearly see the selection of packaged foods; brands you'd know in the UK, Germany, France, the US, etc., grows constantly. As it does everywhere. Trouble is, when you're trying to eat healthily, you don't want packaged food, but there's a complete contrast with lack of variety in the stores closer to home. There's always service with a smile and, importantly for me, delivery, but there's not enough choice and quality in the local produce.

And, as I said yesterday, I'm attempting to follow the recommendations for allowed foodstuffs from Diamond Geezer's low cholesterol diet table.

These limitations combined make shopping a real challenge:

Meat: This month, I made the exception and bought some chicken breasts. That was the only thing from box one of his table that I can get and will eat.

I'm trying hard not to be a "fussy bugger" and refuse to eat too many things I'm allowed, but it really isn't that simple. You'll find turkey here, in the big supermarket (that's a 2 hour bus ride), but only at Christmas.

You'll find veal too, but at over 18 euros a kilo, I don't think we'll be having much of that! Rabbit is a local staple, but to get one in this area, you either have to mate them or go out and shoot them. You won't find them in local shops, like you do in the city market. And, besides, there I do draw the line, because I will not eat something that looks just like one of my cats, skinned!

Out here, you wont find "new fangled" products like quorn and tofu. :)

627564_34153899 Fish: This is an island, surrounded by Atlantic Ocean, so surely we can do better from the fish box? And we can, just not up here where I live.

In the local shop, I could get only frozen slabs of hake and sardines, in tins, in escabeche.

To get a good selection of fresh fish, I need to take a trip further afield, but that's just not always possible.

Eggs & dairy: The idea of skimmed milk makes my stomach turn, but I suppose I could try to learn to put up with it. Meanwhile, I bought some soya milk, but the cost is a bit rich for my regular budget. Cottage cheese, I'd eat, but you just cannot buy it in Tenerife. Anyone know of a secret supply?

Fruit & veg: Thank goodness jacket spuds are allowed! Everything else in this box is my regular diet, but even buying fruit and veg is not that easy in this area, because the selection is really limited. Whilst, I don't go out looking for perfect (and probably artificially so) produce, what we get up here, like old bendy carrots and ready-wilted lettuces, tend to look too sorry for themselves at times. Anything out of the ordinary ... Don't make me laugh!

Once, I got all excited, because I was able to buy a packet of fresh button mushrooms. Yes, once in 9 years. Elsewhere has them all the time, I know.

There's the Farmer's Market on Sundays, but it's a long walk for nothing, if you get there and find that there are only three stalls and not a lot on 'em.

El PanCereals: Fresh, wholemeal bread is still delivered to my door every single morning, so that's OK. Again, I'd have to go off on an expedition (that would make the price prohibitive) to find something "exotic" like brown rice and pasta (and I'm not exactly in love with either, anyway), so that reduces my options in "fillers" a bit.

Oats, I can buy locally, sometimes. Neigh!

Rather than have "halfhearted" sweet things, I prefer to go without and there's just one sugar-free marmalade available here that I find bearable.

Sweeteners, I view as drugs (chemicals) and won't touch them.

And, I was already doing my best to drink more water and tea in place of coffee - but hell will freeze over before I give it up totally!

Fortunately, there really wasn't much in the avoid column that I ate, at least not regularly, apart from eggs and cheese, full fat milk, the odd yoghurt and an occasional (once or twice a year) fatty, spicy, delicious Spanish sausage.

And even though the world's best cake shop, El Aderno, is down in the town, I only pass it once a month when I go to the bank and, surprisingly, I don't go in every month. How's that for willpower? Can I have me medal now? :)

So, what did this leave me with?

The world's smallest ever variety of acceptable foods to eat, that's what!

If I were to use only local suppliers, I'd have ended up with; frozen chicken, frozen and tinned fish, potatoes, fruit and veg (as available). Wholemeal bread, delivered. Oats from a shop in the nearby town. Not much, is there?

Of course I could get a better selection in other areas of the island, but for one thing I couldn't afford the prices there. Not many places deliver and I do not have transport. Ignoring that I would not be able to carry them up the hill once I got off the bus anyway, the bus will not allow more than the amount of bags (1-2) you can get on your lap. The cost of doing that often enough adds up ... And trying to ring the changes and inject a bit of variety into meals, with such a limited selection, is going to be something of a challenge too, isn't it?

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