Feb 2, 2011

Shopping - no that therapeutic



Ok, let me revise that statement. There are two kinds of shopping that I LOVE to do , and those are :grocery shopping and shopping for holiday decorations/craft supplies. Everything else I consider pretty much a chore.
Clothes shopping is the worst, as that tends me to be depressed and frustrated afterward, considering that I don't weigh what I feel and want to weigh.

But that's OK, all things considered. When I was little, I don't think there was such a thing as "shopping for pleasure". Not in the Soviet Union, at least not where we used to live. In fact, it was a battle. Back in those times (the "glorious 80s"), there was NOTHING in the stores. You can have a list of groceries you want to buy, and you would go to a store and it would have nothing. And by nothing I mean literally - empty shelves. The store could be out milk just as easily as being out of butter, or sour cream, or bread, or whatever else. Not being our of one kind of milk (which, by the way, now sends me into a tizzy: "How DARE they not have the soy milk brand that i love!") - not having any milk at all.

Women did the shopping, and it was not unlike actual hunting. First, you would get bags and containers, because you had to bring your own. The stores did not have disposable plastic bags to give you. The milk was often sold right out of the big cistern. Some products were packaged in jars (like juices were often sold in 3-Liter jars, imagine carrying those home) and bottles, but you always brought your own bags. Sturdy, heavy bags. Because you would buy food to last, since there is no way to tell when you will find it again.


If you had friends in town, it was customary, no - your duty as a human being to let your friends know when a particular store sold something (no cell phones bthw). If a store happened to get a shipment of fresh anything, and you got "the call", you must drop everything and run. Run like the wind to buy it. Of course, by then a line would form, but that's OK. Because there would be a good chance that you would go home with something.

If you got no "call", you had to hunt for "it". Expression to "run around shopping" did not mean a care-free pleasant experience of instant gratification. It was literal running around town with heavy bags, hoping to find and bring something home for your family. You had to plan your trip, going from store, to the store, to the store, until you find what you needed. I recall as a child I had to literally lug pounds and pounds of stuff across town back home. It really stunk when the rice was available at the store all the way across town. I could take a bus, but usually - I didn't have the bus-fair, and waiting for a bus in Siberian winter - well, you might as well walk at that point.

This situation was not just with food, but with pretty much anything. Have you ever stood online for..books? Not just in line to check out but outside in negative degree weather for possibly longer than an hour? When the bookstore would get classics in, or the adventure series, we would always go and try to get what we could. I don't recall for sure , but I think books, like certain foods were actually rationed. You got coupons for certain things like rice, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, flour, and you could buy them only with those coupons. Those coupons were like money around the holiday times, when everyone was trying to trade the sugar ones for other stuff.
Things like Sausage or cheese for example you could only buy in certain quantities - 200-300 grams per person. If you wanted to buy more, you have to bring your family, friends, anyone who's willing to be the "sausage receiver" for you.

The stores would close for lunch mid-day, but the lines would still line up way before the doors open once again - very often that would be when the "exotics" would be sold very quickly. And by exotics I mean things like fresh fish, bananas (holy crap that would be like a miracle), frozen pineapples, nuts, or even socks. You just never knew what you might find!

So, you can imagine the shock of walking into our first supermarket when we came to US - how would one know what to buy, with so much variety? Maybe that is why grocery shopping always was and still is one of my favorite pastimes. I can go in any store that I like, pick the food of my choosing. And if they don't have something that I want, then, sadly, I am simply spoiled.

4 comments:

Kim Foo Young said...

lol anna - i love these jaunts down your history. very interesting. i cant even imagine it. lets spend an extra long time at the farmers market this weekend :)

Rhiannon said...

makes me so greatful for what we have today :-)

Katherines Corner said...

I have lived in countries where the food shopping was scarce too. Isn't it just wonderful to go to the markets in the US and know that you can get something fresh! Thank you for linking up to the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop linky party xo

Evelyn said...

Wow! A great reminder for all of us to be more thankful for what we have. I found you on this Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop Linky Party. I am now following you and would love a follow back. Please hop over and check out my blog

My Turn (for us)

http://myturn-evelyn.blogspot.com

Thanks, I enjoyed the visit!

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