The main grocery store is a mile from my apartment (see map). Like most things in Norway, it’s not open Sundays; therefore meal planning is critical. This particular Saturday, I opened up AllRecipes within 10 minutes, I picked out an oatmeal cookie, chicken pot pie, and tortilla soup recipes. In the process, I mentally relocated back to Texas and created an afternoon grocery story adventure. But why the elaborate meals?? Well, I had company in town, and I needed a break from the cafeteria food at work. It’s criminal what is pawned off as a “burrito”. Worse, it looks deceptively delicious. Two bites later my tongue politely asked me to stop assaulting its taste buds. I obliged and confirmed Norway doesn’t know what Mexican food should taste like. But it does make a good appearance!
After generating a grocery list of 15-20 items, I estimated I had 30+ lbs of groceries to bring home on a warm 20 degree afternoon. Oh, the value of a well-built bike with panniers (or saddle bags). Before I left, I bought a 2009 Long Haul Trucker by Surly and outfitted it with racks and 4 Ortlieb panniers. It takes a good picture. And it also carries a lot groceries… that is, if you can make it to the store. You see, by nature, bicycles resist roads covered in fresh snow. Lacking spiked tires, I had to do a fair amount of walking just to get to the store, which gave me enough time to think of an alternate route home.
To compound my frustration, I walked in the grocery to discover that carts require a deposit. Of course, I didn’t have any coins on me, and I wasn’t in the mood to carry my saddle bags around to find one, either. So, I asked someone’s grandmother for help. Even though she didn’t quite understand my English, my face said it all, “Can you spare a dime?” Or, in Norwegian, can you spare $2!! Yeah, I have tried (unsuccessfully) to stop converting currency even though it makes me cry.
Finally inside the store, I learned that even though 90% of the country speaks excellent English, they don’t always know the words for “baking powder” or “chicken broth”. Why would they when chicken broth costs $5 per CUP. Do you see why price conversions lead to tears? Don’t ask what houses cost. Anyway, I did find a very helpful stocker named Magnus, who helped me find all the Norwegian equivalents to what I needed. I’ve been back since, and Magnus is quickly becoming my good friend. I just hope it’s mutual because I have lots of questions.
Check-out in Norway is “You buy it, you bag it” system. So, speed is valued, and slow baggers will build a queue of shoppers. Looking dumb and foreign helps slightly, but trying to a picture of the fiasco isn’t exactly well-received. But I did anyway… the blur is reflective of the experience.
Four bags and $115 later, I rode back home on the main road. As cars zipped inches from my left shoulder, I repeated promises forbidding me to ride to the grocery until the snow melted.