Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To Market, To Market

I enjoy cooking as a hobby and my recent lifestyle change is giving me more opportunities to expand my culinary abilities. Back in the Homeland, we belonged to the Ragamuffin Cooking Club, a group of people connected through work, school, church or random chance meeting who all shared a desire to become better cooks. In that spirit, I thought I’d post about my experiences with food, kitchen challenges and especially new recipes I’m discovering over here.

I have to start by talking about two things: grocery shopping in Copenhagen and my limited kitchen equipment. First, there are three-tiers of grocery stores that I’ll call: Independent Vendors, “Kroger” and “Big Lots”. Independent Vendors include green grocers, bakeries, butchers, and fishmongers. Your Kroger stores are expensive but have just about everything you could possible be looking for. Your Big Lots are small but numerous, carry different items from week-to-week and are as cheap as you’re going to find. We largely shop at the Big Lots stores because, despite the fact that in Denmark all food purchases include a 25 percent sales tax, we’re trying to cut our monthly grocery bill by 33 percent compared to what we used to spend in the Homeland. Thus a typical Saturday requires that we shop at at least three different Big Lots stores. It helps our budgeting goals a lot that we have to carry the food home in bags the we provide ourselves; it's either provide your own bags or pay for plastic bags at the store. A heavy, $4, one liter of Coke doesn't seems so necessary when you have to carry it three blocks home.

The other challenging thing about grocery shopping here is there are no preservatives in the food. Which sounds great at first. I mean who among us is willing to stand up and say, “Yes. YES. I want to put toxic chemicals in my body!” Well, after finding produce rotting in my refrigerator less than 48 hours after purchase on at least four occasions (and irregardless of whether I bought it at a Big Lots or a Kroger-like quality store), I stood staring at a bag of half rotten potatoes thinking, “Yes. Toxic chemicals. Sign me up!”

I’m ever-so-slowly learning that my American way of grocery shopping – meal plan on Saturday, go out and buy everything I’ll need for the week – isn’t the best idea. And the many, many green grocer stands are starting to make a lot of sense. “Eeegghhmm… so you buy your fruits and vegetables the day you plan to cook with them… ahhh….”

Second, my kitchen. Our Danish kitchen is darling. It has beautiful wood countertops, a sweet round sink and a brand new glass top range with four burners. We are lacking a dishwasher and an oven. For baked goods, I have what amounts to a large toaster oven to bake in. I’m learning it’s more than meets the eye since, after five collective failures, I’ve managed to bake chocolate chip cookies and homemade biscuits. There are a few equipment deficiencies like I don't have a blender, food processor or a mixer, but I'm learning to work around those things.

For dishwashing, I have Michael. :)

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