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Oct 27, 2015

grocery shopping, lessons in hoarding

Cooking can be a stressful thing in any country and culture. However, there usually helps or shortcuts to make it just a titch easier. There are packets, powders, cans, and pre-sliced everything. If you run out of something or decide at the last minute you want something else, you can pop into any store or gas station and get it with relative ease. And how about those days when you don’t want to cook, or are craving something different? You can go to any number of restaurants and order it.

Cooking on the mission field is a strange mix of being the same and being very, very different.
So sweet and welcoming! It's like shopping with friends... and neighbors, and coworkers, and... Oh wait. :-)
For one, the store on the center is only open 2 days a week, and if you run out between shopping days, well… I hope your neighbor has some. Sometimes it’s feast or famine as far as shopping goes; and it’s amazing how quickly your mindset changes when you have to shop here. You see something that has been out of stock for a while, let’s say milk… You know you have 2 cartons at your house and a bit of milk powder in a tin, but you can plainly see that there isn’t much left in the store. You don’t think much about it and continue on. A couple of weeks later, however, you notice that they got a new shipment of milk in – and the shelves are full!

At that moment, it doesn’t matter if you were planning on buying milk or not, it doesn’t matter if you needed it, and it doesn’t matter if it costs $7. You buy it (and at least 2-3 extras) just because it’s there and you know they’ll eventually run out again. There’s a little bit of hoarding that is 100% necessary in order to keep your pantry relatively stocked.
Just a typical shopping day in PNG supply. How badly do you want a 2kg ham? #notthatbad 
There are some grocery stores in town that we can shop in if our store runs out of something, but it requires getting a group of at least 3 (including one man) and renting or borrowing a vehicle to make the 20 minute drive into town. Sometimes it’s worth it, and other times it’s just not– I managed to find the last kg (2 lbs) of cream cheese in the country (I exaggerate… mostly) to go on the bagels that I made but couldn’t eat because there was no cream cheese.
Mmm.... homemade bagels.
As an aside, does anyone else think bagels need cream cheese in order to be edible, or is that just me? Just me? Oh… nevermind then.

The cooking is pretty much the same as anywhere else in the world, with the exception that you have to make from scratch pretty much everything. There are no grab and go shortcuts to make cooking easier or quicker. Luckily for me, I really enjoy cooking and there’s something so enchantingly old-fashioned about making your own food from raw ingredients. I’ve learned how to make pizza dough, bagels, yogurt (from milk powder), and granola.

I know that not everyone feels the same way, but I think it is absolutely so much fun adapting to the idiosyncrasies of a new home country. It’s a good to be reminded that things work or don’t work differently than you’re used to, that this center is not “Little America” and it only makes you miserable to be upset about things that simply are and cannot be changed.

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