Sunday, October 11, 2009

Making groceries

James and I went to Carrefour today to pick up some groceries, and ended up seeing Julie and Julia instead, which cast life in Singapore into sharp perspective.

The biggest supermarket in our area is a French-owned conglomerate, which means that we can pick up "Western" items like cheese, sausages, unscented eco-friendly detergents, cous cous, charcoal briquets, and El Paso brand tortillas (oh how far the mighty have fallen!). I heard Carrefour pronounced Ka-fou by a cosmopolitan local friend last night, but we still call it "Care-a-4." Stupide americaines...

The aisles are wide and well lit. Today, touts with bullhorns announced one-hour specials on Korean grapes, bone-density screenings, and ready-made Swiss rostis. Durian gets an entire section apart from the regular produce. The first basement offers the sorts of items one might find in Target (but mysteriously, whatever we are shopping for-- lamps, gardening tools--is never there).

In short, making groceries here in no way resembles a trip The Met on Henry Street, followed by a visit to Scottos or Smith and Vine, followed by Fish Tales, followed by Mazzolas, followed by the green market on Carroll Street, and the many other stops on our peripatetic daily shopping trips in Brooklyn and Union Square. That said, the reason we live in this neighborhood is the extensive wet-market a few blocks away, which we visit with the same frequency we did our marketing at home. So it's all good.

But some things necessitate a visit to Carrefour, which is located on the ground floor and 1st basement of a 9 story shopping mall called Plaza Singapura (which we pronounce with a Spanish accent for no reason whatsoever). This mall is but one of many malls on Orchard Road, an avenue which features 10 blocks of 9+ story malls facing one another, many of which also have grocery stores on their bottom floors and cineplexes on their top ones.

Each floor of Plaza Singapura has a theme: for example, go to floor 5 for hobbies and crafts, floor 6 for music and instruments stores, and a floor each for books, young fashion, imported fashion, home improvement, etc. There are four food courts, each catering to a different taste: mall restaurants, local hawker style food, fast food chains, and the desserts/snacks chains.

Today, I was feeling a little post-shoot malaise. Anyone feels low when a week-long trip is followed by a long work week of catchup, though in my case, this feeling is compounded by nostalgia for the those 7 days of joy, fulfillment, and energy that accompany successful creative output. Add in meeting beautiful new people and trying new cuisines while staying in five star accommodations and you'll understand the catch in my stride. So I planned to enjoy a book of poems written by my landlord at the Starbucks, and then join James in a bit of grocery shopping.

(Caveat: Before you indulge my feeling sorry for my slump today, I should admit that I had a great week at the university and then I spent Saturday: at a poetry reading from 1-2:30, then a dessert date at 3:00 with my female colleagues, then we met friends at Siloso beach at sunset, then J and I watched part of a movie on our couch, then we met up with friends for falafel and foul on Arab street, had a nightcap at a jazz club, and still managed to catch a full night's sleep. So don't let me whine.)

Instead, we wandered up to level four to look for a lamp for my office, stopped by the faucet store to a price a hot water heater for the kitchen sink, and did a quick pass though the sale at the fabric store on level five. Since we were all the way upstairs, we decided to visit the cineplex on level 7 to see what was on. There was The September Issue, but frankly, Gourmet's closing this past week has me just too aggravated at 4 Times Square to enjoy a movie about the work (and waste) of putting together a magazine. But Julie and Julia was in sneak previews 5 minutes! so we bought tickets and went in.

I got a little teary in those first few minutes because I simultaneously missed our life in New York, Paris, my mother (Meryl reminds us of her), and Julia Child, who I just love, even though I haven't successfully made a single one of her recipes. I remembered how we used to shop for groceries in Brooklyn, how our apartment (much less than 900 sqft!) also looked crammed with worn but comfortable things, how I also got pearls on my 30th, and oh, all that beautiful fall produce I'm missing! I remembered the first time I read the Julie/Julia blog and marveled at the tenacity of her idea. I remembered the first time I went to Dean and Deluca, and the rooftop parties--it was at my first roof party that I met my dear Parisian friends, who would in time, teach me about markets and picnics and productivity.

The movie is slow in parts, too long by a quarter hour, and delightfully sappy as all get out, but my thanks and my two thumbs up for capturing that moment. (But did we really dress like that in 2002? for goodness sakes!)

After the movie we sat at an outdoor table at Toast Box for butter and jam/butter and ham sandwiches and pretended we were on the continent. Then we did our shopping at Carrefour and tried to enjoy the irony. At the checkout line I bought the last copy of the last issue of Gourmet. Then James made beet salad for dinner, followed by my zucchini bread and some brie.

Bon appetit!

1 comment:

Raphaƫlle said...

I do remember too my first rooftop party in Brooklyn (think it was the last too). You climbed the ladder and literally burst out on the roof to meet James, smiling and radiant, and you seemed just the coolest person in the party. Today is the first day of fair weather in months in Paris : it would be great to have you there to drink a noisette and enjoy the mildness together.