The charms of Tenerife – Living with inconsistency

Posted: March 17, 2009 in Food, Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , ,

It might be an overused term, the ‘mas o menos culture’, but why is that I ask myself? The answer wasn’t long in coming. It’s used a lot because what else is there to describe a country where the only consistency seems to be in that things are inconsistent. Clearly there are other phrases, but ‘a mas o menos culture’ is one of the more affectionate ones.

Having never lived in mainland Spain, I don’t know if it applies throughout the land, but I suspect it does. It might be a stereotype of a culture, but just because something is considered a stereotype doesn’t mean that it isn’t in part accurate.

The situation which has prompted this particular blog is experiences of shopping at the local supermarket.

Over the years I’ve learnt to understand the rules of the game ranging from the simple ones:

A: Never trust that the label on the shelf applies to the actual product behind it.

B: Never, ever assume that the price on the label is what you’re going to be charged at the till.

C: When there’s a special offer it usually means that the original price shown is way higher than the price you paid the previous week and the offer price is now fractionally higher than the price you paid last week.

D: Buying big doesn’t save you money (e.g. a kilo of spaghetti is far more expensive than the price of two 500 gram packets)

These are a given. I don’t think for a second that anyone is trying to fiddle me (apart from maybe in the case of C). They’re simply examples of a mas o menos approach to labelling and pricing goods.

Once you become more experienced in the art of Tenerife shopping you learn to identify and accept other rules of the game:

E: If buying a bag of fruit or vegetables, it’s only reasonable to expect at least one is going to be rotten. How else would the farmer get rid of his inferior crops?
So for every bag of spuds, onions or whatever, one is going straight into the bin the second you get home before it contaminates the rest.

Then there are the unpredictable situations; the unlucky bag element; where you don’t know what’s changed until you get home. These are the true mas o menos gremlins. Examples of these include:

Greek yoghurts which change from thick yoghurt consistency one week to runny as milk the next.

Flour which can be fine one week and like road grit the next.

Loaves of bread which mysteriously change shape and size – and these are pre-packed.

And the best of all…vegetables which completely change variety.

I kid you not. This week the Bratvia lettuces were piled high in their usual spot. Neatly package with little labels confirming they were Bratvia lettuces. Nothing out of the usual there, except they weren’t Bratvias, they were icebergs every one of them.

Now, I don’t know if the packers think consumers are stupid; I suspect it’s more likely they ran out of actual Bratvia lettuces and thought.

‘These are close enough…mas o menos.”

You might think that this is a moan about the mas o menos element of shopping on Tenerife; you’d be wrong. I love it. It amuses me and also all these silly little inconsistencies show that humans still have a big, clumsy hand in proceedings.

I’ll take that every time over rows of unnaturally perfect fruit and veg and cuts of meat of exactly the same shape, size and weight.

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