Shopping for groceries in Bahia de Los Angeles is full of interesting contrasts. Since it is so close to America, the shelves of the five major (all tiny) food stores are stocked with American products not seen in other parts of Mexico - even the big places like Mazatlan. Here you can find molasses, brown sugar, David brand sunflower seeds and Kirkland brand everything. Yet, while you are happily snapping up G&H Dark Brown Sugar, you can find quite a few other items "not seen at Safeway" as Jack sarcastically states.
Take for instance this skinned cow head with attached horns. It first showed up in the tiny freezer section of Guillermo's tienda about a week or two into the summer. It was gently placed on the cement floor, on top of a piece of cardboard with a plastic bag filled with it's innards next to it. Since it was tucked into the corner, the first time I glimpsed it in the dark room, behind the 20# bag of carrots I was reaching into, I gasped. But then over the following seven weeks, each time I inadvertantly glimpsed it while heaving around and restacking the boxes of veggies, looking for oranges or celery, I would still be surprised. Even though I KNEW it was there. But that last shopping expedition, when I was grabbing up handfuls of fruits and vegetables for the last sailing expedition up to Refugio, I screamed. Its eyes had by now fallen into its head, the tongue was lolling out blackened. Truly a gruesome sight and one I will never forget. What meal do you cook with that as the main ingredient?
And that wasn't the only thing that was "not like Safeway." I still remember picking through a pile of apples in a refrigerator in one LA Bay store last year, and coming upon ones with fresh rat bites (were the rats in the freezer section with me????). Or walking through the aisles of another store and dodging four cockroaches busily moving around the bags of bread. And another cruiser had the fun of watching a street dog peeing on the box of fruit just unloaded from the delivery truck outside of one store. A decaying cow's head just inches from the carrots? Ok, as long as the carrots were from the TOP of the bag.
And that is the fun of traveling off the beaten path - it keeps you focused on the fact that this is a great big world and there are lots of ways of doing things. Is Safeway food safer? I doubt it. One thing is for sure - I now religiously wash every piece of fruit or vegetable that comes on the boat in an iodine bath - and I will when I am back in America, too.
3 hours ago