You Shall (Not) Go To The Mall

Thinking that I was alone, friends telephoned on Saturday to see if I would like to go to the wonderfully named Multiplaza…a shopping mall between our town and San Jose .

Unaccustomed as I am to the mall concept I would have loved to have gone as the experience is fascinating…

Level after level of a multitude of shops none of which offer me the least temptation to buy anything.

A ‘food court’ with offerings varying from smoothies to the deeply fried…and that’s only the customers…

A high price supermarket where the mushrooms are inevitably going off….

Women jogging round the walkways in the mornings in matador pants and sunvisors…

It is so bizarre it is irrestistible.

But I was obliged to resist.

The Men had returned from their sojourn in San Jose – an urgent need to return a ladder and do some painting over the Valentine high risk period – and my husband had been exercising his hunting and gathering talents on the markets of the capital, the fruits of which enterprise were presented to me by the sackload.

This being the tropics the sackloads needed dealing with pronto…so no mall.

There were highlights.

Thanks to a change of staff at the regular bakery and the new staff not being up to date on his order he had had to try another one round the corner.
He had remembered my request for a baguette – and presented me with the best baguette I have eaten since leaving France.
I should make it clear that the baguettes I liked in France were not the razor edged bricks produced from readimix by the local artisan boulanger, but the crisp articles turned out all day by the big supermarkets with their onsite bakeries, and this offering approached that standard.

The bread in our local town is dire….a wholemeal loaf that looks as if a flapjack had had ambitions and hastily abandoned them; sliced bread to rate with the best or worst that the Chorleywood process could devise; a baguette that subsides into two soft crusts with pap on meeting the breadknife….but for some reason the San Jose bakers get it right and as my bread making hand has lost its cunning we buy there for the freezer.

So, apart from the baguette, enough loaves for a fortnight to be bagged and frozen.

Eight kilos of ox kidneys for the dogs…one batch to cook, the rest bagged for the freezer.
Ten kilos of soup bones…one batch to the fridge while soaking black beans, the rest bagged for the freezer.

A large box of distinctly ripe tomatoes…sorted for those which might stay whole long enough to use in the week and the rest to process and pass through the mouli legumes to be packed for the freezer.

A large carrier bag of sweet peppers to grill, skin, de-seed and pack into the jar of olive oil in the fridge.

Avocados…two ripe, the rest equivocal. Two out for the evening, the rest in the fridge.

Lettuces…wrapped in newspaper and in the fridge.

Spiced vinegar to make and cool to souse fish…..following the success of soused shark a few weeks earlier I had been presented with a half kilo of corvina to try…and more shark.
The trial piece had been amenable to handling…thin enough to roll round the onions and be stuck with a toothpick or two.
This piece was considerably thicker and it was as much use trying to roll it as trying to manhandle an uninflated bouncy castle with a mind of its own.
There is a succint phrase obtained from an old boy when I was young which describes the futility of the effort….you might as well shit in your hat.
So, to keep an unsullied hat the shark piece was chopped in half and put into an earthenware dish with onions sandwiched between the layers; cool vinegar added, into ziplock bag and in the fridge.
Corvina likewise…sod toothpicks.

Prawns..straight into the fridge until I could work out what we would be eating in the next twenty four hours.

The half kilo of baby squid I had asked for had been transformed into one kilo of cuttlefish, to be cut into fine strips to be
a) marinaded in the juice of the limon mandarina (tree handily by kitchen door)
b)mixed with prawns, grilled pepper and garlic in a marinade of half olive oil and half vinegar.
Both to the fridge.

Onions to sort through for the thick necked ones to use first.

Potatoes to be put into a light-free box.

In the midst of the maelstrom the hunter gatherer offered to make lunch…..and made one of the best stir frys I have ever eaten: strips of cuttlefish, peeled prawns, grilled pepper strips and crushed garlic in olive oil with a squeeze of limon mandarina….

The mess was unbelievable….but it beat the smoothies and the deeply fried – into a cocked hat..

45 thoughts on “You Shall (Not) Go To The Mall”

  1. Ah, what I wouldn’t do for a French baguette right now. We have a local market that makes pretty decent bread, but they are no match for a true Parisian baguette. Tough to perfect that crispy on the outside, soft in the center sensation.

  2. Ahh…bread. Our closest branch of a national supermuckit chain bakes its own on the premises. Baguettes? Pftthfp. But they make something that is a wonderful ciabata(though they don’t call it that) Strangely, the next branch, same chain,misses the goal by miles. Odd.

  3. What a wonderful sack of goodies, and how clever you are to find so many ways of preserving it all for future use. It’s made my mouth water! It certainly beats a trip to the mall. (They are springing up here and although I get quite excited at the prospect of a visit I’m always left disappointed because they have no character, and I rarely find anything to tempt me)

    1. No way of knowing what he will return with…the only sure thing is that if it is a bargain there will be a lot of it!
      I quite like mooching round a mall…but more for the oddness of it all, I don’t find anything to tempt me either, whereas in the little shops in the centre there’s often something that takes my eye.

  4. How proud you must feel when you survey your work. That wonderful satisfaction and content that you have a full store cupboard. MInd you with our electrics at the moment, I’m not sure about all that in the fridge!

    1. We do have power cuts in the summer….but luckily not for long enough – says she crossing fingers – to do damage to the contents of fridge or freeze.
      As to proud…I think knackered might be more the word!

  5. You must use as much olive oil and vinegar as I do. Anyway, back to bread, which I rarely make these days. It was difficult in Spain when I first moved there as they had no strong flour. Ordinary flour doesn’t do it, as I discovered. Since then, the supers now stock strong flour, but I no longer have an oven. C’est la vie. Or, eso va la vida. I could make it here but I have got lazy.

    It’s interesting that supermarkets actually do sell decent bread though. We used to use our local panadero (referred to as panero of course), but wow was it stale and tough within ten minutes. I started making it, and after that we used the supers. Same in Gib, we use Morrisons.

    Grilled pimientoes, or rather pimientos asados. I’ve got some green ones to use, must get on with it this morning. I rarely have enough to store in a jar though, and it would need to be a large jar. I think I do them with garlic and maybe salt as well as the olive oil. Quite delicious, based on a French cookery book recipe, Child, Bertholle and Beck or some variation of the three.

    Shopping malls? I don’t think so. You must have read enough of my blogs to know that shopping is my personal hell, unless it is a gracious outing for vegetables if I haven’t received sufficient freebies.

    We are betwixt and between with our homes. No freezer here, no oven there, but we seem to manage to eat most of our goodies in time at both places.

    1. The garden is always feast or famine….so I’m used to putting down surpluses in quantity…thank goodness for the mouli, though!
      Bread flour here seems to be non existant…but I think I’ll try the bakers in San Jose to try to buy a sack….their bread seems to work where the local bakers are abysmal.

  6. What are soup bones?
    You must have lots of storage space for all your preparations, and big freezer and fridge. I was thinking of buying an extra freezer until my DB put his second motorbike in my garage, which quickly ended that idea. No room no room, there’s not a bit of room!
    At the moment I’m trying to find space to store a lot of empty jam jars. Small houses, especially rented, can be a right pain.

    1. Send me the jam jars…there is a shortage of glass jars here, even the jam coming in plastic packs, so it has taken me ages to amass a store.
      Meat is sold off the bone here, so what I call soup bones are an assortment of bones with the meat trimmed off by hand. These cost about 12p per kilo with free marrow bones thrown in.
      There are what locals call soup bones…with more meat attached…which cost about 2.50 pounds. I prefer mine…and so do the dogs.

  7. Hot dog diggetty, Fly. You are a one-woman food factory. What a huge freezer you must need. What boundless energy you have. What a clever husband. And what a relief to find a kindred spirit who does not rave about locally-baked baguettes. Thankfully our village bakery closed several years ago. Their baguettes and pain crusts were, as you say, razor sharp and could do serious damage to teeth and gums. Generally the inside constituted a chain of large holes surrounded by a white tasteless polystyrene textured substance. And if you looked through the open door behind the shop into the area where Dusty Miller was at work, you could see the loaves stacked in a heap on the floor waiting to be loaded into the delivery van, and the cute little bakery dog who casually cocked his leg over them when he went past. Auchan in Poitiers does an absolutely fantastic pain rustique with a crust that is slightly charred in places, that gives it an extra je ne sais quoi, but really delicious. Costs its weight in gold, but worth it.

    1. I remember Auchan’s bread! We used to pick it up when having hospital appointments out at La Miletrie.
      I have to admit that i could have done without quite such an avalanche to deal with….but desperation is the mother of invention….

  8. Wow, you must have one big freezer. I’m not sure how delighted I’d be at being presented with quite so many ingredients. I’m not a great fan of baguettes anyway but our local boulangerie does a Cadillacais (called a Langonais in Langon,10 km away and a Sarmentine by anywhere not big enough to claim it as their own) to die for, we swear that they must put cocaine in it because one bit is never enough.

  9. I’m on my way for tea….. it all sounds delicious, and I too, am wondering about the size of your freezer. I have great plans for our cellar in France…..I can almost see the bottles and jars of preserved things…. I dont know what they’ll be yet, but they will look and taste amazing. Jx

    1. I have two freezers…one chest and one upright as we had to have room for the pork from the pigs plus the bulk goods as itemised in the post.
      You’ll have fun preserving things…but, I beg of you, do not bottle courgettes!

  10. You make me remember how many different stores and shops we frequent to find proper food. There’s no one-stop-shop, or even one-mall-shop.

  11. Ha! Your day dealing with the food onslaught sounds like mine on Saturdays after shopping the Puerto Viejo Farmer’s Market. Cilantro and parsley made into pesto and popped into the freezer, lettuce wrapped in a tea towel and into the crisper- which really should not be called that–chicken salted and left overnight in the fridge, milk set to clabber for cottage cheese, etc. etc.

    I’ve said before and I’ll say again, it is amazing to me the things I store in the freezer in this tropical clime: all my spices and herbs, so they do not mold; crackers, so they stay crisp; chocolate, to retard oxidation; pestos, so they don’t turn back, etc. There was so little room in our side-by-side we ended up buying a small freezer for the ordinary freezer items.

    But, I always feel very productive on those food prep days. A well-stocked larder makes for a happy home. πŸ˜‰

    1. Yes, my freezer use has changed radically too…and yes, it does feel good when it’s all done, on condition that I can sit down and contemplate it all with a gin and tonic.

  12. Every time I pull yet another solid grey mass from the freezer and ponder about defrosting it to see what it is and whether it’s edible, I smile and think of you and your immortal phrase “Unidentifiable Frozen Objects” – an onslaught of freezing work like the one you describe would, in my house, simply ensure a plenitful supply of yet more UFOs.

    1. There’s no guarantee that I’ll remember what a particularly lumpy package is in six months’ time…luckily the dogs consume kidneys on a regular basis so there’s not too much risk of pulling out the parcel to make a lunch….

  13. Great post, Helen. I love the smell of freshly baked bread and cookies, and some of the malls in Montreal have bakeries and the smell is very appealing…kind of makes the atmosphere in the mall warmer and friendlier than the boring run of the mill commercial establishment.

  14. You can’t tell me that you would choose to forego the delights and wonders of a mall for paltry efforts like the ones listed?

    Just think, you might have bought burgers and chips, leggins and halter tops, feather dusters and squeegee mops. I am so unutterably sorry for you having to stay home and cope with unadulterated, fresh, troublesome food. Give me deep-fried joggers any day.

    1. Deep fried joggers! What a wonderful idea,,,I rank them with the lycra clad louts on bicycles who infest urban pavements and refuse to respect red lights…
      Leggings I always associate with Lady Caroline Lamb who ‘gesticulated’ at Byron wearing a green pair of same….
      But a feather duster would be welcome, especially for the picture frames…
      I have looked for one here but to no avail so a good friend is bringing one out in her luggage when she comes next week….together with bras from Primark., proper horseradish sauce and jams from Tiptree, not to speak of Golden Syrup, Birds Custard and a whopping lump of Cheddar.

  15. Your husband sounds like my kind of hunter/gatherer!! What a haul. I absolutely love the sound of that stir-fry lunch too. As for the mall….well, you put it all so perfectly and so very comically. Great post. Axxx

  16. Are you sure your fridge isn’t a tardis??!
    Men and kitchens–it is a truth universally acknowledged that men in kitchens = great food + bomb site.
    At least in my H-G’s case as well πŸ˜‰

    1. As long as a Dalek doesn’t emerge from it….it is overcrowded and I could do with a small fridge just for maturing the cheese to free up the big one…but that way lies a bigger electricity bill…

      Oh yes…they’re talented all right…but .just how many chopping boards , containers and pans does it take for a stir fry…..?

  17. At least you can trust your husband to come back with the things on your list, even if not in the amounts specified! πŸ™‚ In the unlikely event that mine were to go food shopping without me (or at all!) he would almost certainly spot something completely different and bring it back just because he wanted to try it.

    I am green with envy here at the thought of sweet peppers by the carrier bag, rather than in cellophane-wrapped threes at exorbitant prices or single and shrivelled. Your freezer and store cupboard must be so full of goodies.

    1. He did miss the squid…but that was because they had been frozen before going on display…and next time he can bring a bit more cuttlefish as I’ve just found a recipe for it stewed with chorizo.
      His shopping skills were honed pretty young when he was sent off with money and a shopping list to the nearest town as quite a little boy…and improved as a young, not very well off man when stallholders in London would take pity on him and tell him how to cook the cheaper stuff on their stands.

      I remember those three packs….and yes,I have a good range of stores…but I did too in France…just different stuff!.

      The police are clearing the street traders away from around the markets, which I think a great pity because they had good stuff – if you were careful. A bag of 4 huge canteloupe melons for one pound fifty…one was always going to be over the top but at that price it didn’t matter and most of that one would be salvageable as melon sorbet in any case.

      I don’t think I’m cut out for supermarkets really….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s