Grocery shopping in Smalltown, Namibia

I think I utterly confused a few folks last Friday while working on this story.  The looks on the faces of the local supermarket customers asked “Why is this really tall white girl taking pictures of our corn flakes?”  I smiled and nodded and tried to act as though I was a professional and this was completely normal.  A writer’s got stories to tell and stories need pictures.  So I set aside my self-consciousness to introduce the world to our Pick-N-Pay supermarket.

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I grabbed a cart on the way in.  The carts, called trolleys, are not the mammoths from home that can flatten small children.  These are much daintier and more practical.   Whoever decided to make trolleys simply double-decker basket holders was a genius. 

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First stop is always the produce, as it is in many food shops.  One will find the usual fare; squash, taters, apples.  But nowhere else have I seen robot peppers.

It took some brain power to figure out this moniker.  Then I remembered that in South African English, traffic lights are called robots, supposedly because they are the robotic form of policemen who used to direct traffic.  In any case, I find them quite entertaining.

Another South African vegetable specialty are baby marrows.

You say they look like zucchinis.  Yes, yes they do.  They are zucchinis.  South Africans, however, prefer their zucchinis to be miniature and so harvest them early and call them something no one else does (except, you know, Namibians).  It doesn’t affect the tenderness or flavor, nor have I found any other reason to do this.  Nor do I know what a marrow is.

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After the produce comes the meat.  I never spend much time in this section.  But it also has some regional flair.  Boerewors.

Afrikaans for “farmer’s sausage”, this is a staple around these parts.   A braai (a barbecue) is not a braai without them.  Bring this if you’re invited to one and you’ll make friends.

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Into the packaged foods next.  First aisle: jams, jellies, Nutella (even in Namibia), and just below that, the fish paste.

One even has multiple fish paste options.  Anchovies, unidentified, or tomato flavored unidentified.  I have to try it before I can say anything but it’s said to be a popular breakfast smear.  Available online for South African expats worldwide.

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One will be hard-pressed to find a bakery or sandwich shop in this country that does not offer broetchens, German “little breads”.

They are cheap, versatile, and tasty.  What more can one ask of their bread?  Healthy?  Whole wheat/grain broetchens, while less common, do exist.

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I regret to report that the Namibian markets have been corrupted by American corporations.  Shelves are stuffed with such products as Kellogg’s corn flakes, Doritos, Coca-Cola, Tampax tampons, and Colgate toothpaste, of which there was enough to paste our town’s teeth for years.

And the Christmas fruitcake tradition was, unfortunately, not lost in Namibia.

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Then, you’ve got your chunks of dog which never cease to amuse me.  Note that any size dog can be a cannibal.

And specials signs which could be considered discriminatory against tall people.

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In the end, I will embrace all of Pick-N-Pay’s wide variety of products and cultures represented, and I’ll make an effort to try those still foreign to me just as long as they continue to carry my one trip-to-town treat, the all-important, ever-delicious cheese flavored maize snacks.

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6 thoughts on “Grocery shopping in Smalltown, Namibia

  1. Shelly, just letting you know I read your blog, and I am absolutely in love with it. I look forward to new posts!! Happy Holidays, kiss a giraffe for me!

    • Thanks a lot, Liz. I’ll keep my eye out for a giraffe and will certainly keep the posts coming. Enjoy these last days of 2011 and I’ll see ya next year.

  2. I met your mom last week and she told me about your blog. Just seeing your thoughts in reserve to mine (I moved from South Africa to USA) is quite fun. I miss my Pick n Pay though… and my fish paste (Peck’s Anchovette is the best) and my Robertson’s Chicken Spice…. and I could go on. Enjoying your blog

    • Hi Astra, thanks for coming, I’m glad you enjoy it. Pick n Pay is our preferred grocery supplier as well. Haven’t tried the chicken spice yet, but Robertson’s garlic salt is a staple at our house. Great for popcorn. I’ll have to give the fish paste a whirl when I get back.

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