woensdag 7 december 2011

The cost of European taste buds

"You really need a portfolio in English", a university teacher pointed out to me when I told her about my tentative plans of finding out if any of the local papers or magazines might take me on. She was right. I need to hone my skills - conversing with fellow mummies and their toddlers is one thing, putting thoughts and ideas into writing is quite another. So I have designated Wednesday as my day for blogging in English and I plan to translate some of the older posts into English as well. I do like a nice plan. (The university teacher also pointed out that Singapore is a tiny country with loads of media students so that my plan might very well be doomed from the start.)

"Excuse me? How much did you spend at the Carrefour?" S. could not quite believe his ears this Saturday when I told him. And seeing as I could not find everything I needed at the French hypermarché (unbelievable, but true) I had to go down to our lovely local Japanese store Meidi-Ya and spend even more money. Loveliness comes with a hefty price tag in these parts. "So how come the fridge looks so empty?" S. wondered while opening randomn kitchen cupboards and being underwhelmed by their contents. "We've got guests coming tomorrow. Where's the beer?"

The beer, unfortunately, was still at Carrefour. It all began when we decided to host a tiny Sinterklaasparty for S.'s colleagues. So we invited all of them, fully expecting at least half would send their regrets. They didn't. In fact, they were really, really enthusiastic about our plan. Their eagerness was bit intimidating, because before I realised the number of people who'd attend I had somehow let slip I would actually Bake Traditional Stuff Myself. There is a reason I had my last couple of parties catered by the fantastic PhD-student-cum-baker-cum-keeping-things-alive-specialist M.

So I went down to Orchard Road on Saturday afternoon to get the necessary elements for the party: silly presents for the Sinterklaasgame*, dice for same game, plastic plates and cutlery, presents for gullible children with a sense of fairness who would not take kindly to being cheated out of their presents by hard-playing grown-ups such as S. and food. Lots of food and drink.

I paid. I looked at my bags. There were dozens of them. (In Singapore they tend to stick two or three items into an individual plastic bag and move on to the next. I think they take weight into account, but there's also this thing where apparently you're not supposed to combine certain foodstuffs in the same plastic bags. I have not yet figured out the precise packaging rules, but I do know the cashiers do not take kindly to my unpacking all their grocery bags and repacking them so as to fit them into our pram.)(I was without pram on this particular trip. This is a vital piece of information.)

Then I remembered: Carrefour delivers groceries for free if total expenditure exceeds 150 Sing dollar (87 euros). So I bought a few extra boxes of diapers, I decided to not switch E. to cow's milk completely yet, but invested instead in a 1.5 kg box of Nestlé Gold Probiotics 3 formula (10 mo+). Those three items alone would come to about 115 dollars (67 euros).

But still, I had not expected the price tag to come to 360 dollars (or the grand amount of 210 euros). I admit I was a tiny bit shocked. I had to pay by credit card, as I hadn't brought enough cash with me and our joint account hadn't yet received its latest money infusion, which I discovered when my debit card bounced. Twice. Even detracting the Pampers and Nestlé, it still came to 250 dollars, whereas we usually spend between 120 and 150 dollars. So, what happened on the way through the Carrefour?

I analysed the bill for you. These are the culprits:

- two sixpacks of beer at 30 dollars (17 euros)
- a tin of Illy coffee to go with S.' new coffeemaker at 17 dollars (10 euros)
- 700 g of Brussels sprouts at 15 dollars (9 euros)
- Président cream cheese with garlic and herbs at 11 dollars (6 euros)
- three pieces of broccoli at 8 dollars (5 euros)(which made the broccoli more expensive than the 200 g of mature cheddar cheese, which came in at a surprising 7.90 Sing dollar)
- also, two packs of unsalted butter at 8 dollars (5 euros and it was the cheapest I could find)
- smiling cow cheesespread which E. doesn't particularly like but I do and she'll have to lump it at 7 dollars (4 euros, admittedly around the same price as in Europe)
- organic cashew nuts at 7 dollars as well (I distinctly remember there being cheaper, non-organic ones, but I couldn't locate those)
- 4 bars of Cadbury chocolate at 21 dollars (12 euros. We tried the cheaper - Dutch brand - chocolate. It's just... not nice. And why eat chocolate at all if we're not enjoying it?)

Damn our European taste buds. It's Asian all the way from now on. Bring on the red bean paste!

But the worst bit was yet to come. See, the Carrefour only delivers the non-perishable goods. So I still had to lug half of the bags home myself, thereby cutting all blood circulation to my hands for a good half hour. Which hurt.

The delivery itself could not be scheduled earlier than Tuesday, delivery-girl told me that Saturday (if this hadn't been Singapore, I could have sworn she was chewing gum). Whereas the party was on Sunday (in Tamtam-land this meant we reached a new pinnacle of forward thinking and planning). So S. had to go down to Meidi-Ya AGAIN to get a couple of sixpacks. And then his thoughtful colleagues brought Coronas! And mince pies! And not-very-spicy pasta! So we now have more alcoholic beverages and more food in our home than we had at the start of the party.

Some things never change.

*It's what cheapie Dutch people do instead of getting massive, lovely presents for everyone involved.

I know my English is not flawless. Feel free to point out any mistakes, grammatical, spelling, where I've simply translated the Dutch and all other things that come to mind.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Can I just say that your English is far more impressive than my French?

    Thanks for your comment on my blog! I'll be excited to read your English posts-you'll bring an entirely new perspective to life here in Singapore. Most of my friends (online and IRL) are Americans/Aussies/Brits.

    The food bills. Yes. Ouch. I try not to listen or look too carefully when I pay them. We still eat like Americans, and the meat bill alone cause for tears.

  2. @Crystal: Hmm, I got a reply notification via email but the actual text doesn't show up here - but in case you're reading this anyway: thanks for your reply!

    Yes, our plan to turn into Asian foodies has hit a glitch as well... It's just easier to eat as we've always done.

    The meat is definitely expensive, but worst for me is the cheese. I started at the cheaper end, and have since steadily worked my way around to the higher end luxury cheeses imported into specialty supermarkets and stores... I suppose my palate is just spoiled :-( On the bright side, I never knew Australia had such nice cheeses!