Sunday, 23 September 2007


A couple of months ago I wrote about my total failure to stay upright outside Tesco.

'Alma' is the other side of the Krakow supermarket coin.

Unlike Tesco, this place features soft, buttery lighting and tasteful displays of imported grissini, cantuccini and extra virgin olive oil accompanied by Dean Martin crooning over the sound system. The overall impression is a bit like Italian Waitrose done Polish-style (try and get your head around that one...).
From time to time I get creative in the kitchen, although if I'm eating alone it's just as likely to be Marmite on toast. Last night I got a craving for expensive imported items, which is how I found myself at the Alma fish counter (decagrams and lack of mathematical ability notwithstanding) ordering fresh tuna with the help of Car Guy (see 'Slander'), who has the dubious advantage of having been born Polish.
We watched as the junior fishmonger behind the counter carved away at the end of the tuna with relish.
- A bit thinner... I said nervously, as the first slice, weighing in at around half a pound, thumped wetly onto the chopping board. The boy began sawing anew.
Around halfway down the second slice we noticed the price tag.
- Hang on... how much is this?
- uhhh let's see... sixty zlotys (about ten pounds- which is fine and normal in West London maybe...)
Suddenly my appetite for tuna evaporated.
The boy had to go and fetch his supervisor to cancel the transaction, and we had to think of another fish to go with my tomato sauce.
Fortunately, this supervisor turned out to possess a wealth of knowledge on the flavours of various types of fish and methods of cooking them. Which I suppose is only right and proper in a fish salesperson, but was somewhat surprising given that as a general rule customer service is taking its own sweet time to catch on in this country. I tried to keep alert for useful adjectives and to look as though I understood most of what was going on.
After about ten minutes and some handy information on baking salmon*, I decided to take matters into my own hands:

- What about chicken?

Both car guy and the fish lady looked at me. The fish lady spoke:
- Or chicken, yes, chicken would go great with that.

We moved along to the meat counter.

Another great thing about Alma is that there are always free samples for tasting. Something is always on 'promocja'. This Saturday, they seemed to have excelled themselves. It began with kiełbasa near the poultry counter. Not usually a fan of Polish sausage, still I had to try one or two pieces just to be sure.
Near the freezer cabinets there were nachos and dip. A trip to the biscuit aisle was an excuse for hit-and-run scoffing.
In spite of all the distractions, we still made it to the checkout.
Cheese! We forgot spreading cheese.
- I'll go, I said, this is my local, I know where it is.
I was a cheese-seeking missile on a mad dash to the dairy aisle. At least, I was until I passed the German tasting table on the way back. Several minutes later I arrived back at the checkout, sheepishly rubbing away at the telltale chocolate smears around my mouth. Car guy was not fooled.
There was one customer in front of us.
- It's down that aisle. I said. You have time. Go. Go!
He sprinted off and returned some moments later with a small tower of cheese, ham and rye bread.

All was going according to plan until the checkout girl pointed out that I had omitted to weigh the vegetables.
- I'll go, I said, meaningfully,
- Mmph, said car guy, through a mouthful of sandwich, and set off once more.

When we finally stepped out of the lift on level two, the car was sitting forlornly and conspicuously by itself in the middle of the car park.

*less than useful when you have to use a chair to hold your oven door shut, rendering baking of any kind something of a fire hazard.

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