Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shopping for Groceries at a Wal-Mart in Mexico


So, we went to Mexico for a few days, to Los Cabos, which is a conglomeration of small towns at the very southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.  We chose Cabo for two reasons: Warmth. Golf. (The golf was for my husband.)

 The whole place was a bit odd. Back a decade ago, itt was riding a huge surge of resort development, but that crashed along with the economy.  So as you drive the 30 miles or so of beachfront between San Jose Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, you encounter first some really high-end luxury resorts, then some open desert, then a half-built, abandoned structure, then an Applebee’s, then another gorgeous resort, then a Holiday Inn, then three vacant lots and a Subway.  It goes like that.  My husband compared downtown Cabo San Lucas, a happenin’ place if you happen to like tequila, to Gatlinburg, but “with more bars and strip clubs.”

 We didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.

 We rented a condominium, which meant we could cook for ourselves, which meant, of course, that we had to buy groceries. Now, I love going to supermarkets in foreign countries. I will absolutely go in just to browse. (I love open-air markets, too.)  When we arrived in Cabo, slightly jet-lagged and very hungry, we were told that the best place for groceries was the local Wal-Mart.

Indeed.  Now, picture a bright sunny tropical day, and a Wal-Mart that resembles a cave, because only half the lights are working. Picture a bunch of Mexican people going about their routine shopping, but enough Americans that the store actually hires a couple of bilingual people to roam the food aisles and aid the confused.  A very nice woman asked me to let her know if I couldn’t find anything.  Her male counterpart shouted to my husband, “Hey, man, you lookin’ for the tequila?”

 No.  We were not. But we did buy some Mexican wine that went down nicely. Who knew?

 I loved the produce section, with 3 kinds of limes (we bought 2, standard limes, and teeny tiny limes) and papayas swaddled in brown paper and vegetables I’d never seen. I loved the bakery, with weird baked goods I bought and ate and still didn’t understand, and the cheese section--I always love the cheese. I was disappointed in the fish. Despite the nearby ocean, Wal-Mart’s fish looked old and suffering. The meat section was a bit dicey, too--green chorizo?-and I bought what I thought were skinless boneless chicken breasts only to find they’d been deceptively packaged with skin and bone still attached. 

 They sold tequila right next to the checkout counters, I supposed to tempt Americans. We still didn’t buy any.