Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Well, I'm confused. Just how many hours are there in a day? A mere 24. So how am I expected to get around the supermarket in that time? Food shopping in this country has become one of the most complicated, time-consuming, confusing occupations there is. There's just SO MUCH STUFF in those places, I can't see the wood for the trees. When did we start needing this level of choice?

It was all so much simpler in Norway. Once I had mastered enough of the lingo to know what I was actually buying, I became an expert, and very speedy, shopper. But it was a very different art with very different aims. All I had to do was feed the family in a satisfying, healthy and enjoyable manner, whereas over here I need to achieve new culinary heights while experiencing the cuisine of several different cultures and be politically correct at every's exhausting.

For example, in the first few weeks of living in Norway, there were several occasions when I arrived at the cash-point, my trolley BURSTING with a week's supply of food for a family, only to be met with a severe frown and a big 'Tut tut tut,' from the cashier. Clearly they were absolutely appalled that anyone could be so profligate, so greedy, so lacking in moral conscience, and so careless with their cash. Apparently the 'weekly shop' is a non-Norwegian concept, and I must say, once I realized I'd need to take out a bank loan to pay for it, I caught on pronto. that I have returned to the land of plenty, I am completely confused. Why is there so much stuff in our shops? How on earth is anyone meant to know what the heck to buy anyway? The choice is utterly bewildering and it's giving me a headache.

Take pasta sauce. People were starting to stare, but I toughed it out and stood in front of the Pasta Sauce Department in a local supermarket earlier today and counted no fewer than 92 different sorts of pasta sauce. What? Are we going completely mad? Seriously, 92. And that wasn't counting the differently-sized jars, that was just the different makes and flavours, with the added variation of organic, non-organic, free-range, reduced-fat, reduced-salt, reduced-something-else sauces. Nor was I counting the fresh ones in a fridge somewhere else in this Aladdin's Cave of Convenience. Supposing we had pasta in this household once a week, it would take almost two years to try each one, by which point several would have been discontinued while, no doubt, some cheffy-type-character invented several more...Battered Mung Bean with Roasted Neck-of-Pheasant, or Artichoke-Heart and Cab-Sauv-Seepage Sauce. I mean's bananas (eugh...perhaps that would be taking it too far).

Apart from the fact that I'm suffering from Analysis Paralysis while presented with all this choice, I'm also experiencing an uncomfortable dilemma. Choice is good, but too much choice is just confusing. I open the kitchen cupboard here to be greeted by a wall of celebrities, each promoting their own brand of fat-free-authentic-organic-happy-sauce by slapping their weel-kent chops all over the packaging. It's like turning on the telly in there. In Norway, our local shop had three pasta sauces, two red and one green. After testing these, which were fine, we ended up making our own, which was nicer, cheaper, more plentiful and uses up all those unappealing left-overs lurking in the back of the fridge without the offspring noticing. With one part of my brain, I congratulated myself on my good-husbandry, while with the other I was aching for a huge shelf-load of easy, convenient options. But what I really liked was the fact that we all had to be less picky, less precious, less spoilt. And we absolutely did not waste any food.

So now, I'm utterly delighted and deeply perplexed at the same time. Choice I like, and everything sounds so delicious on each label I keep breaking into spontaneous salivation as I meander through the aisles. I admire the enterprise stashed behind every new bottle, jar or packet, and where there is enterprise there are likely to be employed people helping to build our economy. So that is a comfort at any rate. But I also know that too much choice is not necessarily a good thing. Those who moniter society's mental state have expressed concern, sensing that too many options are making us indecisive, unable to cope effectively, and leading some people to depression as they strive to conform and keep up with the Jones.

Still. We have to eat. See you in several days time while I find some supper.


  1. It's great to see you back blogging again - I missed your witty and perceptive observations over the summer.

    I once returned to Scotland after a few years in Norway - excited to be back - looking forward to the greater choice - and found myself walking out of HMV because the array of DVDs and CDs was so bewildering, that to my Norwegian eyes it seemed profligate.

    The other joy in Norway is that all the shops are shut on a Sunday giving a welcome break from consumerism - and a chance for everyone to get out in the countryside and do some free.

    Norman Scott

  2. You are so right. I prefer to shop where there is sufficient but not too much choice. I only hope you don't get used to the profligacy. Am enjoying reading your take on being back in Scotland. Thank you.

  3. So glad that you are back! So what we need is a place that does 'in between'! It does get a bit boring here looking at the same stuff, so it does encourage you to extend your cooking repertoire! My cooking books and magazines have never been so well thumbed... I can only visualise the shelves at these superstores and just think, "if only.."

    Did you see the programme on the good old BBC last night about the amount of wasted food that people in the UK chuck out?!?! It's shameful. The amount of money that we spend on the food here, we can't afford to chuck away the leftovers and the past their sell by date items, so I hope that it will change some shopping habits!

  4. Freda and Pam, I suppose humans are programmed to keep on seeking out the new...trouble is, you can't get round it all by the time the next load of new stuff comes along. Yes, a Happy Medium might make us Happier.

  5. Having moved to Oslo from Stavanger, I am happy to inform you that also here we have our little 7-23 Kiwi on the corner, with only three types of pasta sauce. Yeah!