I’ve been here long enough that day-to-day life feels pretty normal and I don’t notice most of the differences. Yet occasionally I’m reminded of my multi-culture lifestyle. Today was one of those days.
The weather was nice, after a day of rain yesterday, and I wanted to get out and enjoy it. We decided to head to the Vredenburg market to pick up ingredients for dinner tonight and stop off at a few other shops along the way. First up was Hema, which can be a bit like Target in that you go in for one thing and come out with a whole bag of other things. It didn’t help that they were having a “vrijmarkt” sale this weekend, with lots of items marked down. I went in for a T-shirt to wear on Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) this week and came out with a new shower puff, a purple sweater, and the T-shirt (seen above with the crown print on it). I actually got out pretty light, all things considered!
After dodging the numerous people that hang out in one spot on Steenweg trying to get you to answer various surveys, we headed to the Centraal Toko, because that’s another shop I can’t resist going in when I’m there. It’s an Asian market with a nice selection of items that aren’t so easy to find in the normal grocery stores, including good ol’ Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, which I stocked up on, just because. We also picked up another bottle of Sriracha sauce, since we were getting low. I also picked up a can of Del Monte creamed corn, because that’s also a “foreign” food and I get a craving for it occasionally and can’t be bothered to make my own. You know you’re an expat when something like a can of creamed corn is a special treat.
However, the big find was a jar of molasses!!!! I had used the last of my jar of Grandma’s Molasses late last year and had been dreading going to the expat food store on Steenweg to buy more, because their prices are so expensive. They charge twice the amount the toko does for baking soda. A can of Libby’s canned pumpkin cost me more than €6 a number of years ago. I don’t use molasses often; in fact, I probably only use it to make my own bbq sauce, but the sauce just isn’t right without it.
When I see something pleasantly unexpected, I have a habit of somewhat loudly saying, “OH!!” I’m not snobby about what excites me. It can be a church in Mantova designed by Alberti or a bottle of black strap molasses on a bottom shelf of a store in Utrecht. G teases me about it regularly. But sometimes you just can’t contain your joy over a happy surprise!
After also purchasing some ras el-hanout spice blend, some ground cumin, and some spring roll/loempia wrappers, we headed next door to Blokker, another shop with a mix of odds and ends, mainly of the household variety. We went in to look at their food processors, since ours broke a while back, but before we made it that far, we were stopped by the collection of knick-knacks commemorating Queen Beatrix standing down and Prince Willem-Alexander taking the throne. It happens on 30 April, which is also Queen’s Day, a public holiday, so we figured we’d get a little something to commemorate the day. After all, how often do you get to experience a royal change of crowns. We were tempted by the kabouter/gnome, but decided to just go with the more useful placemats (seen in the photo) and we bought some matching coffee mugs, just for the fun of it. They were all 99 cents each, so hardly a big splurge. Still, a fun and useful way to remember the event.
By that point, we figured we’d better get out of there before we bought more silly stuff, so off we finally went to the outdoor market held every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. We picked up some shrimp for dinner tonight and I bought a big bag full of okra for dinner tomorrow or Monday. The toko carries okra, but the stall at the market has better stuff and for less, along with a number of other vegetables that are harder to find here. We were just about out of the market when we heard one of the vendors hawking his fresh strawberries. One more inexpensive impulse purchase and we were done, heading to the grocery store for a few odds and ends we couldn’t get at the market.
So that’s typical expat shopping. We embrace our new life here, buying items for the upcoming Dutch holiday, while also remembering favorite traditions and foods from home, be it America or Italy. With the sun shining and a good mood, it’s a fun way to shop and be reminded of how lucky we are to be able to broaden our horizons.