24 January 2013

AUNTIE PASTA: The Food Scene

CHIAVARI, Italy – There was a moment this week when I actually thought I would be able to put together a post at least for the Auntie Pasta page of this blog, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Instead I’ve still been entangled in the web of bureaucratic folderol that has occupied most of my time since I moved here almost two weeks ago.

 One of the Food Truck Things
That’s not to say there haven’t been some interesting developments on the food scene however, starting with the fruit and vegetable market that takes place every day in the piazza behind City Hall. There are also a couple of rolling food trucks, I don’t really know what the technical name for them is, but there is one that sells meat and another that sells cheese and other dairy products.   

Yesterday there was another food market in Chiavari, a farmer’s market, set up in another piazza where honey, cheese and vegetables were on offer by local growers. There were not a lot of people at the farmer’s market, it could have been the hour or it could have been that is wasn’t well publicized.  I didn’t know it was happening and happened to find it on my way to the bank, but then again I’m always the last to know what’s going on no matter where I live so I’m not surprised when I don’t know when an event is taking place .

 A Cook's Paradise
In these early days of living here I am finding things on my way to somewhere else. It didn’t just happen yesterday with the farmer’s market, it happened last week too when I was looking for a hardware store and in doing that found a shop run by Sara, an Ecuadorian lady  selling food items from South America and another shop practically next door to her run by a really nice guy from Morocco whose name I didn’t get, selling Middle Eastern foods and spices as well as PG Tips tea and other English staples.

The grocery store situation here in Chiavari is rather odd. There are no large supermarkets, instead there are little mini-marts all over town. As in Saronno there are no Italian grocery stores here either, Italian in the sense of being owned by an Italian company.  Carrefour, which has at least four or five mini-marts scattered throughout the town is a French chain,  and Billa, which has the largest store in town although it is not large by any stretch of the imagination, is an Austrian food chain. There is one other store calls Ins, but I have no idea who owns it.

The Streets of Old Chiavari
Ins carries brands that I’ve never heard of, and they also have the cheapest prices. Billa is just as expensive here as it is in Saronno and the same goes for Carrefour. There is an outdoor fish market a block or so from where I live, and Billa also has a fresh fish department. There are also quite a few small, fruit and vegetable stands scattered throughout town practically outside my door.

What seems very strange to me is that here in Liguria I can’t find Ligurian olive oil in the grocery stores, and olive il is one of the regions primary products. All I can find are the mass produced olive oils of dubious origin which is prompting me to write to my favorite olive oil company and ask them where their products are sold in Chiavari.

The Streets of  Chiavari

The other thing in short supply is pesto, the stores do carry pesto but  I have been looking for pesto that looks like basil pesto instead of fluorescent green goop.  I finally found some at one of the Carrefour shops. Back before Carrefour took over the Italian GS store, the GS brand of pesto was better than any homemade pesto I had ever tasted. When GS ceased to exist, I reluctantly tried the Carrefour brand, and while it isn’t as good as the GS brand was, it was heads and shoulders above other ‘brand’ name pesto like Giovanni Rana.

My problem is I am a big store shopper. I really do not enjoy going from little shop to little shop each with a selection of three. It just takes too much time. But I suspect that is exactly how I’m going to have to shop if I plan on having regular meals on a regular basis.

So that is the food situation as I find it today. It could be I just haven’t found the right street yet, but I don’t think that is true because there are not that many streets to find in Chiavari. I do know there are some really lovely food shops here where they sell absolutely scrumptious things to eat, Olga’s being one of them.  Olga’s food is so good I may give up cooking – which is what crossed my mind the other day as I feasted on some of Olga’s lasagna alla Bolognese followed by fried fish that was so delicious it would bring tears to the eyes of any devoted foodie.

 And at the End of the Day...
So, as you can see the food situation in Chiavari is going to take some serious thinking and some serious tasting, and I can’t think of a better place to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Getting used to the grocery stores and the shopping was one of the biggest challenges for me when I moved to France. It's been a little over three years and I'm still experimenting with which brands I like, which honestly, I've enjoyed all of the trying and comparing... which can possibly be responsible for the French 15 I packed on!