Where’s the peanut butter?

13 Mar

Would you like crunchy or creamy (or creamy with bits of puffed rice)?

I went to the grocery store a few days ago.  My shopping list was pretty normal – yogurt, paper towel, laundry detergent, milk, peanut butter, etc.  One of the reasons I like my apartment is because at the front of the complex is a large EMART supermarket – so grocery shopping is very easy and I don’t have to carry my groceries too far.

Even though it is very convenient, I don’t always go each week.  Sometimes I will go to the foreign supermarket instead and every week I stop at my fruit seller a couple of times.  From the outside I had seen that it was under construction (like most everything else around me), but I hadn’t been in a couple of weeks.  I entered and the entire layout of the supermarket had changed.

The entrance – used to be on the left side – now it’s on the right.  Pots and pans, cleaning equipment are on the 1st floor instead of in the basement.  The check-out counters are now on the lower level, the bulk goods section flipped around.  Amazingly enough though, the store was pretty quiet and I was able to walk without being jostled too much.  Everyone seemed slightly in shock – looking for staples and wandering slowly through the aisles.  The general groupings of items were similar, but the layout and flow was all different.  Luckily I had my list, so I slowly worked through, checking off each item.

I was done with everything on the list (and a couple of extra things too), but I couldn’t find the peanut butter.  I finally resorted to asking a shop assistant.  It was with the salad dressing.  I suppose that makes perfect sense – to a Chinese person.  I think the reorganization is almost done, so we’ll see the next time I go back if that’s still where it is.

Looking back though, I know peanut butter is not a staple in all cultures.  When I lived in Spain the only place you could find peanut butter was the “American store.”  I think here, many chinese people use it to make peanut noodles.  I’m still a traditionalist – peanut butter toast, peanut butter banana sandwiches and peanut butter on ice cream sundaes, though I did have a disastrous experience with a traditional African peanut soup once.

Any stories about not being able to find a staple in a store?  Since I lived in Jackson the Meijers has been reorganized a couple of times and when I go back I perform the same wander that I did in Shanghai.


11 Responses to “Where’s the peanut butter?”

  1. Anne March 13, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I eat so much peanut butter. I am such an American :). I know this not the case for most people but I find grocery shop to be so relaxing on a week night. If I’ve had a bad day I wander my local HEB and get what I need plus browse. It’s a form of retail therapy that I don’t feel guilty about because I need to buy groceries! Of course a crowded store on the weekend is not my idea of fun. Glad you found that peanut butter!

    • gkm2011 March 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

      I liked to do that when I was in college – we went to Meijers in South Bend to “cruise the aisles.” I would not say the store is calming in China, but you do feel very industrious wandering through. Thanks for the comment.

  2. shardsofchina March 13, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Peanut butter’s easy enough to get hold of here in Shenzhen, though I’m not a huge fan of that local “Skippy” brand it’s a bit heavier than it should be consistency wise. But I can get 4 tubs of it compared to 1 imported American brand – so I use it unless I’m really flush.

    But Marmite which is a yeast extract and a fundamental part of a British diet is as rare as rocking horse droppings – I occasionally score some in Hong Kong, but otherwise I go through long miserable dry spells without.

    • gkm2011 March 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      I have heard of Marmite but I don’t think I have ever had it. I would guess that it is an “acquired taste.” I agree – Skippy is a bit different here than in the States, but it is readily available – even at Family Mart! Thanks for the comment.

  3. mona March 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    When I worked in China last summer, I began to truly miss American food. It’s good to know that I can get peanut butter this summer.

    • gkm2011 March 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Glad to ease your mind a bit! You can even buy it a Family Mart – the convenience stores, and sometimes they have jelly as well.

  4. Christa March 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Greta! A couple of years ago, my parents were in Norway for an extended period, so I got to go visit them for about 10 days. My mom likes to cook her classics for us whenever one of us kids are visiting, so one night I requested she make pizza with her homemade dough. We went off to the store thinking it would be a pretty easy list of ingredients: flour, yeast, tomato sauce, cheese. My mom was most worried about finding the yeast, so we set off to find that first. Of course, we couldn’t read any of the packaging, and there didn’t seem to be anyone in the store that spoke English that day. We found what looked like the baking aisle and tried to guess which one was the yeast. We decided on a box that had a picture of bread on the front, and some word that looked like it might have something to do with “rise.” Then we turned to get the flour. Wall of flour!!! There were at least 5 different options, all of which had a different colored bag and some ambiguous drawing of some form of wheat on the front. In the end, we decided to go with the blue bag since that’s what color the “all-purpose” is at home. When we got back to the apartment, we found that the flour we chose was some kind of coarsely ground rye flour. The yeast was right on though! It sure made for some interesting pizza dough that didn’t quite taste like Mom’s. That was my first time shopping as an illiterate person, and it really made me think about what a challenge even simple tasks can be for people who can’t read, and also how much we take for granted how transparent certain symbols are to us when they can really mean nothing to someone that has never seen them before.

    Enjoy your peanut butter! But with rice puffs? That sounds interesting…

    • gkm2011 March 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Hiya! Hope you’re well. Was the pizza edible with the strange flour? That is a great story. I am starting to be able to read a little now here, but even so, pictures do define many of my purchases. The rice krispy peanut butter is ok, just strangely crunchy, especially when I didn’t know the rice was there when I bought it. Good to see you here!

      • Christa March 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

        Ha ha! Yes, I can see how rice in peanut butter could be an unpleasant surprise… Unexpected crunch in a creamy peanut butter would definitely give me pause… The pizza was definitely edible. It didn’t really spread the way pizza dough is supposed to, so we couldn’t stretch it across any tray, but since we didn’t have a pizza tray, it worked out fine. The biggest difference besides the flavor was that I could only eat 2 pieces instead of the usual 4-5 of my mom’s light pizza dough. It was super dense flour! It was almost like eating pizza on biscotti. 🙂 Miss you!


  1. The third quarter review « 中国 Jumble - April 17, 2012

    […] Comments – I did a post on the renovations in my local shopping center and trying to find peanut butter.  This post really struck a chord with my readers and is my most commented post to date.  It […]

  2. Blueberries! « 中国 Jumble - July 3, 2012

    […] then, when last week I went into my local supermarket – EMART (where I had looked for peanut butter before) and in the fruit section there were lots and lots of small boxes of blueberries – for […]

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