I’m the eldest in a family of 5 children, a pretty average sized family in 1960’s Ireland, and we were like “steps of stairs” not much of a gap between us. There wasn’t a lot of work in Ireland in the late 60’s early 70’s the ” troubles” as they called them were kicking off so us Catholics in the North had to travel for work. My dad was away a lot of the time, so my mum was run ragged basically functioning as a single mum.
We had no car so we walked everywhere or cycled if we could lay our hands on a bike, but grocery shopping was the bane of my mothers life. By the time I was about 8 I was the chief shopper for the house. It was easier for her to send me to the shop rather than load up the pram ( no double buggies in those days) with the other three or four who couldn’t walk the distance. I loved it.
Initially she would make me write the list out before I went. She would dictate and I would write because I couldn’t read her joined up writing at this stage, and off I’d go. I was a very good shopper, hunting out the bargains within the constraints of the list, and improvising as I gained confidence. By the time I was 10 there were no lists It was simply ” get something for the dinner for the next couple of days and we are out of washing powder”
I approach shopping in Cairo with the same mentality, don’t go with a list as you won’t find all the items, certainly not in one shop, simply head out with the remit to find something for dinner for the next couple of nights. Imported goods are ridiculously expensive so I stick with the local varieties which can lead to some interesting taste sensations, not all of them good.
Temmys cereals are a case in point, with the exception of their granola which is excellent, don’t go there. I am sure they would be banned in the UK or any country that actually gave a toss about the health implications of additive and sugar overload. If you see your preferred imported brand then stock up as the next container load is likely to be stuck in Alexandria for a month or 2 resulting in multiple text messages announcing the news that weetabix is now in Alfa Market.
Stick with the seasonal fruit and veg and if you must have strawberrys in December then freeze them in May. A decent size freezer is a definite bonus but it is still reliant on a steady electric supply, so be prepared for a mid august feast of all those little treats you have salted away once everyone ratchets up their air conditioning and the inevitable power cuts come.
Wash all the fruit and veg very carefully particularly the lettuce as, according to my husband anyway, it’s the lettuce that gets you with the pharohs revenge not the copious amount of beer required to wash it down.
Milk can produce quite heated debates within the expat community with the Dina farm variety being the brand of choice. Decent milk is vitally important as it can make the whole cereal experience much more enjoyable although not if taken in conjunction with the aforementioned Temmys. Milk is also vital for a decent cup of tea. Now Egyptians have it with mint and I am an avid fan of this also but some days I feel the need for a big mug of the builders brew variety. I like that deep orange, milky, high in sugar taste that reminds me of cold winter mornings where you have used the remains in the kettle to defrost the car windscreen.
There are now an increasing array of niche retailers catering to the tastes of the expat community. I must admit I do like to nip in to check what they have but with the exception of HP sauce and other odd bits and bobs I am not a fan. The quality of the products is much better but although I’m Irish and not a Scot I am just too tight to pay the prices. I am Happy with Seoudi for their bakery and fish section, metro for their deli counter, excellent hummus, and I have a friendly butcher there now who knows not to give me the bright red steaks that look pretty, but the dark brown ones hidden at the back that any discerning chef knows will melt in your mouth.
Pork, in all it’s forms is my favorite meat, not so much the roasts and gammon but that lower end of the pork market, sausages, bacon, and salami I simply love. Just thinking about it I’ve decided that pork deserves a whole section to itself, so goodbye for now