Nearing the last day of our European race-cation which included 1 week in Klagenfurt, Austria and over 2 weeks in Karel's home town of Znojmo, Czech Republic (with only 2 of those days as an overnight trip to sight see in Prague), I thought it would be fun to reflect on my many eating experiences that I have enjoyed, while on vacation.
It's going to take me a while to put all my food pictures into one blog (I'm thinking I'll let the food pics do the talking) so I wanted to share what it is like to grocery shop here in Znojmo, Czech Republic.
While I love eating new foods and meal creations when traveling, I find it important to understand the culture behind food. Whether it's understanding the agriculture (which is an important sector of the economy) or simply learning how to the food gets from farm to table, it's all very exciting to me.
With the "local" grocery store just a block from Karel's mom's flat (and in route to his dad's flat), we visited the store frequently. Sometimes it was just for some fresh bread and pastries whereas other times, our shop included items for Karel's mom (to make our lunch - she started cooking around 8am each morning) or some light items for dinner.
As for shopping for produce, we often stopped by a market, either in town or on the side of the road.
And, we did a little shopping form nature (Mother Earth doesn't charge!) while riding our bikes.
The mornings are very busy at the grocery store as lunch is the biggest and most important meal of the day. The town pretty much shuts down for lunch and it's typical that most people stop their day (working and at school) for a sit-down lunch.
To get your cart at the store, you insert 5 or 10 crowns (or 1 Euro) into the cart to unlock the cart. When you return your cart and insert the key, your coin pops out. This eliminates loose carts in the parking lot and having an employee go out to the parking lot to return the carts to the front of the store.
If you only need a few items from the store, like meat, cheese, bread and/or pastries, you can shop at the front of the store as there are two counters with these items.
The grocery store is set up similar to what I am use to with the produce in the front but the main difference is that you (the customer) weigh your own produce when you select it, versus the check out person weighing everything for you. You put your produce on the scale, select the type of produce and then the machine prints out a bar code which you stick on your bag.
This makes it very quick and efficient at check out.
There is no shortage of fresh bread and pastries at the store. Shop late at night and there is little left.
Everything is made daily and spoils quickly so shopping on a daily basis for fresh bread is just part of this culture. Buying bread in the bag once a week is not typical, although there are a few "packaged" breads.
While the pastries make your mouth water, they are not overly sweet. This is a nice change from the typical pastries that everyone associates with being overly sweet and packed with sugar.
You bag your own bread and can mix and match in the same bag. The check out person knows which bread is what so it's very efficient at check out .
Here's the packaged bread section.
I absolutely love the deli and cheese section at the grocery store, which I think is pretty typical here in Europe.
Rather than having one person behind the counter, slicing each cut of meat or block of cheese, everything is ready in the morning.
There's at least one person per section in the meat and cheese area, and they simply use their hands (with gloves) to grab how much meat and cheese you want, weigh is, wrap it and you are on your way.
(For reference for pricing, 1 US dollar = ~24 Czech Crowns. Food is very inexpensive for us here. But keep in mind that they use the metric system. Gas, on the other hand, is very expensive).
Beer is cheaper than bottled water.
And speaking of water, you can choose how many water bottles you want without having to buy a big packaged of water bottles. Mineral water is very popular here in all types of flavors. You don't have to worry about food dyes and artificial flavors as they are banned by the European Union.
Of course, there is a section of candies and chips and other cereals but aside from the chocolate candy bars (which bring back found memories for Karel), we haven't bought much snacky food, if any.
There's a huge frozen section of meats and cheeses and yogurts.
At checkout, you pay if you want a bag (about 5 crowns) so it's typical that everyone brings their own bags. Also, about 80% or more of people pay for everything in cash here. Credit cards are not very popular.
After our grocery store trip, we walk home with our bags and get to cooking and eating.