Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Short Food Rant, Just in Time for Thanksgiving

Last week one of the leading Czech newspapers, Hospodářských noviny, came out with a story slamming Czech food suppliers for the low quality ingredients they use in some of their products here. HN compared the same products in Germany, manufactured by the same parent companies, and found that the reason food tastes better on vacation is because, as we’ve always suspected, it is better. In Germany, ingredients are higher quality – less byproduct, more real. And, get this, on several occasions the German food item was found to be cheaper to buy than its weedy cousin sitting in supermarkets in the Czech Republic. Outrageous.

But not surprising. Stories about low quality food in supermarkets have hit the news before: for years a rumor floated about that the big grocery chains shipped their bruised fruit and veggies from Austria and Germany to their Czech Grade A bins. We gave up buying vegetables and fruit in the big stores when Caroline was born, and now only shop at our neighborhood’s Vietnamese green grocers. They seem to care about quality, and sell tomatoes that have flavor, and onions that aren’t flabby. We shop at small stores specializing in meat, cheese or bread for the rest of our groceries. And then there are the farmers‘ markets. You can see why I’m such a fan.

Many Czechs take a more extreme approach, and leave the country for their groceries. In a recent poll, 1/3 of Czechs report that they shop abroad for food and clothes. Not for all items of course, but that’s still a lot of revenue crossing the border every day. Stories like this give me hope that eventually the big retailers will wake up to the departing revenue, adjust their prices to a regionally competitive level and offer the same quality product that their parent companies offer abroad. After all, I’d rather shop at home and spend my vacations exploring something other than the jam aisle in SuperU.

8 comments:

Michal said...

Thanks for the post, Julia ... something needs to happen in this respect ... I, for one, I am getting very selective in what I buy ...

Michal

Lucy said...

Oh good, I like a good food rant! Hope things get better, must be infuriating to feel the country's being treated as a kind of poor relation or dumping ground. Interesting stuff.

Oh, and your chicken in apricot broth sounded really good - recipe?

Barrett Bonden said...

Try Carrefour. It has aspirations to becoming the Waitrose of French supermarkets.

But I confess a sentimental if rather tenuous attachment to Super U. Most of our holiday shopping was done at the Super U in Lodève but occasionally we went to the Hyper U in Clermont-l'-Hérault. "Is it called Hyper because it's bigger?" asked Zach, and our hearts swelled with pride at his completely off-the-cuff question.

Julia said...

Michal - thanks for stopping by!

Lucy - my chicken in apricot is a variation of a recipe I cook all the time, but I make it up so it tends to come out a different dish each time. I'll take notes next time I make it and see if I can write it down for you!

BB - Of course I love French grocery stores, including the SuperU. After a holiday, coming home to Czech supermarkets can turn even grown men morose. My dream would be for the SuperU to come to us rather than remaining an exotic experience.

Julia said...

Carrefour is nice too though, and isn't there another chain as well? Going to the grocery store in France is always one of the highlights of our trips.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

That is crazy. I recently heard something similar about New York City--the best place for good produce is Chinatown. Even around here the tiny Mexican grocers and Hmong grocers sell better vegetables and fruits.

Ellen said...

I do find it bizaare that it's even less expensive to grocery shop in Switzerland. (And let's not discuss the incredible services one gets here ;))

Julia said...

Ee, Czech meat is definitely cheaper, but yes, it is remarkable that good jam and tea are less expensive in Zurich than in Prague.

And even the Super U can't top coop@home's services, thanks to you!