A Trip to the Grocery Store in Spain

When You Get Caught Off-Guard at the Grocery Store

I’ve been meaning to write about the differences between American grocery stores and Spanish ones. I’ve had a list building in my head for quite some time, and I’m only writing it now because something got me. Something got me good. Off guard.

First is the list of differences that have struck me these last few months:

  1. The bread section in the mercadona is awesome. They have a huge assortment of breads and pastries and their cakes look like they are to die for. I had to slowly ween myself off of the bread here because I was eating too much of it. You can get three baguette’s for a euro, but you have to eat them fast because they go stale after about three or four days. But, like, who doesn’t want to eat three sticks of bread?
  2. There are strange things in cans that I have never seen before. Such as a salmon spread, or a tuna spread, or an assortment of spreads I don’t know. (partly because I don’t know the Spanish. Okayyy, mostly because I don’t know the Spanish.)
  3. The eggs and milk are no refrigerated. Still getting over this one.
  4. People will actually run you over with said cart or children…. never mind, that’s not a difference.
  5. There is essentially a fish market inside the mercadona. They have all sorts of things I’ve never seen with heads still attached, and of course it all looks amazing.
  6. There is no such thing as sour cream. (or if there is, I can’t find it.)
  7. You can buy frozen churros.
  8. Jams are more than just strawberry and grape. They include melon, pear, peach, and other fruits I’ve never had in jam form.
  9. Oranges are year round. And fresh squeezed orange juice is all the rage. There is a juicer in the corner by the oranges where you can squeeze ’em.
  10. I have been unable to find sweet potatoes here. Like at all.
  11. They are huge on their jamón. A carving station sits right by the meats so you can get your jamón leg carved. ((Yanno, if you ever have a craving to buy an entire jamón leg. I, sadly, have not yet had that craving.
  12. There is no “one store for it all.” Some days I really miss Wal-Mart. There is something to be said about a one-stop shop. But here in Calahorra that isn’t a thing. The mercadona sells your basics like soap, shampoo, make-up, trash bags, cleaning supplies, and food. In fact, I would say that the mercadona actually does a good job supplying the basics. But it can’t hold a candle to Wal-Mart, except perhaps in prices and freshness.
  13. You have to pay for bags. I forgot that this is totally a thing in Europe. To encourage you to help save the world, they make you pay for bags. And even though it’s only a few cents, that can add up if you’re continuously forgetting your bag. (I’ve gotten really good at remembering, after spending quite a bit of change.)
  14. I can get three bottles of wine, a pizza, lettuce, four avocados, mushrooms, and a baguette for thirteen euro. Yep, it’s pretty amazing.

That woman, there, in the background, she is telling me not to take photos….and too late.

And now for the part of this Spanish market that I was not anticipating. The part that let me know that however small the changes are from America to Spain, this for sure was one I would never stumble across at home.

I was casually making my way towards the chicken. (The chicken that doesn’t look like chicken. The chicken that is cut up into slices without a face or legs or any of that stuff.) I glanced down. What the— yah no, that’s a baby pig, the entire thing, in plastic wrap for sale.

I am not an idiot. I know pork comes from pigs. I know the legs hanging behind me are grown up pig legs. I get it. But I still freaked out because it’s a baby. An entire baby. So of course, I get a little spazzing-out/sad, my roommate telling me, yes that’s common. So I gather the courage to take a few steps away and what’s next to the baby pigs wrapped in plastic wrap??- skinned rabbits wrapped in plastic wrap. My roommate nods, “Yes, that’s a rabbit. I think you can take it to the butcher and they can take off the head and feet.”

Ya esta.