If you ask any German living abroad what food they miss most, they will tell you bread. For the Spanish, it’s fish. They are puzzled when they arrive in countries like Germany or the UK and can’t find sixty different types of crustaceans laid out in all their colourful glory at every supermarket fish counter. The paltry fish offering in the UK and Ireland is particularly disconcerting to a Spaniard, because on an island, there surely should be lots of fish…?!?
Spain has the second biggest per capita fish and seafood consumption in Europe - In 2012, they managed 28kg (down from 33kg in 2007, as a result of the economic crisis). The Portuguese chomped their way through 47kg, and Taiwan, the world’s leading consumer, clocked an incredible 85kg per capita. The UK mustered just 13kg, Germany 9kg (about the same as Australians) and the US a meagre 5kg.
Every Spanish supermarket features an enormous fish counter, situated a hair’s breadth from the entrance. So, the very first thing that hits you as you enter is an overpowering stench of fish. Now, if a UK or German supermarket decided to follow this strategy, it would be out of business in a week. Personally, I love fish, and I do enjoy gazing at Spanish supermarkets’ vibrant fish displays, but the smell turns my stomach every time.
In UK and German supermarkets the (comparatively) miniscule, sterilised and deodorised fish counter is usually situated somewhere at the back. And, in striking contrast to the Spanish scenario, as you step through the sliding doors, what usually floods your olfactory system is the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread. In German supermarkets, it’s the bakery that’s almost always by the entrance.
This is no accident – it’s is how grocery retailers in Germany and the UK entice shoppers into the store and attempt to ‘enhance the shopping experience’ of the weekly trolley trudge. (Translation: they try to make you hungry so you buy more. Works well with bakery, not so much with fish, though …).
Despite the delectable wafts emanating from the bakery section, however, there’s no proper baking going on in there. Oh no. Every twelve minutes, some gawky seventeen-year-old wrapped in a blue hairnet bungs a tray of factory-made, pre-baked ‘baguettes’ in the oven, and hey presto, the glorious smell just keeps on permeating the aisles. The fish never stood a chance.
Do any of you have any (wh)iffy supermarket observations to share…?