Saturday, March 03, 2007
It's all about the glove...
Produce shopping in Italy is not for the fainthearted. It is not for the feebleminded. And it is definitely not for the uninformed. If you're going to be buying fruit and veggies in Italy, here's what you need to know:
1. The glove--Before you even think about touching an apricot or a green bean, you need to back away from the produce bins. Slowly. (We don't want anyone getting hurt). Now pick up a plastic glove (available next to the plastic bags). Put the glove on. Then, and only then, can you deign to touch the produce.
I learned this lesson the hard way with my newly-arrived-in-Italy friends, Dana and Cathy. We hadn't been in the country for more than a week when we decided to go for some produce reinforcements. As soon as our fingertips brushed the apple skins, the owner of the little grocery shop started yelling at us. Of course, we had no idea what he was saying at the time, but we did get the message when he pointed his stubby finger at the box of plastic gloves. I later came to find out that this man was particulary grumpy, so his reaction wasn't typical of 99.7% of Italian grocers. Okay, back to the topic at hand...
2. Read the sign--Near each produce bin is a sign with the name of the fruit or veggie, plus a number. Remember this number. Without it, you will go home produce-less.
3. Weigh it--Once you've bagged your produce, you'll put it on a scale, like the one in the photo above. Then you have to find the number on the grid (you do remember the number, right?). Press the number, and a price tag pops out that you'll stick on your bag. (Note: You can always print out two price tags and stick one on your toddler's hand--always good for at least 48 seconds of entertainment.)
You're now ready to check out.
Now, I'm sure you can see the folly with this system:
First, I don't know about you, but with a teething toddler who keeps waking up in the middle of the night, I can't remember more than two numbers at a time. So I have to keep returning to the scale every couple of bags so I don't forget the numbers.
Second, there's inevitably a bag that gets buried under my other groceries and I forget to weigh it. This isn't a big deal in a small store, as they'll usually just weigh it for you. But in the larger stores, it usually means I have to choose between the bag of pricetag-less tomatoes, or spending an extra half hour to go back and weigh them, and then standing in line all over again.
And since the extra price tag I stuck to the back of my toddler's hand is only worth 48 entertainment seconds, I'm sure you can guess which option I always choose...