I am not alone in my passion for visiting supermarkets in foreign countries. I love looking at all the different food, even ones similar to what I can buy at home but a little bit different. As an exercise in cultural observation, there is no better place than a large supermarket to get a grasp on a nation’s passions and interests.
I spent Tuesday in Malmo, Sweden, with a good friend and after we had visited a number of very lovely interiors shops in the city centre (Åhlens and Granit amongst them) she suggested we went to the ‘grocery store’, Ica Maxi. And what a grocery store it was. By Danish standards it was a hypermarket on acid!
I made a deal with myself that I would only buy things when I visit foreign supermarkets that I can’t get at home, despite the fact that the exchange rate against the Swedish Crown is very much in our favour. So here is my (slightly tongue in cheek) observations.
Firstly please excuse the iPhone pictures I was too excited to get out my real camera.
So I have a question – is there a secret race of giants living in Sweden who have the need for these enormous knækbrød (crisp breads)? To add more to this there were also similarly enormous meringues disks. And these strange large savoury ‘cakes’ covered in roast beef or smoked salmon.The latter have been on my mind since I saw them. Please can someone in Sweden tell me what is inside them. I read the ingredients but I still couldn’t work it out. Is it bread or cream cheese, more meat or something else completely. Please leave me a comment as I am dying to know.Now, things in squeezy tubes that are not normally in squeezy tubes. We have a few food stuffs in these tubes here in Denmark that are a step on from tomato puree but the Swedes seem to have taken it to a whole new level. With fish paste in tubes and this enormous display of flavoured cream cheese in tubes. I understand the convenience but I am not sure about the presentation once squeeze out – probably onto the aforementioned huge crisp breads (or directly into a giant’s mouth, perhaps?)Next fizzy capsule vitamins and minerals. It seems that rather than just the run of the mill Vitamin C in a fizzy capsule, in Sweden you can take all your vitamins and minerals with a big dose of added sparkle.When it comes to sweets and chocolate the Swedes take no prisoners. A whole aisle of Marabou chocolate bars containing everything from fruit to salt liquorice and oddly Japp (which is like a Mars bar) so I assume this is a bar of chocolate with chunks of Japp bar inside? A pick and mix bar of gargantuan proportions (no photo of this as I was too busy shovelling enormous amount into an equally enormous (giant size if you will) bag to scoff in the car on the way home).It also seems that helping yourself is very much encouraged in Ica Maxi (but paying first of course) with an exciting muesli, oats and dried fruit toppings bar (you know you have lived in Scandinavia for too long when you consider muesli and oats exciting) and a few other self-service spots.The other big plus point in Ica Maxi was the deli and cold meat counter, something I miss a lot living in Copenhagen, with some super looking hams and salamis and the fresh cake counter with jumbo cream filled semla.
I left the supermarket with two bulging bags filled with muesli, cream cheese (but not in tubes I couldn’t quite bring myself to that), crackers, chocolate, sweets, Roberson’s Silver Shred and magazines in a language I have a rudimentary grasp of and it was the highlight of my shopping trip to Malmo!