Like many expats, I'm just back from my summer visit to the UK. Coming back here to Spain after a lengthy stay (five weeks) in England always, inevitably, gets me thinking about what I miss most.
One of the main things is the sheer variety of products available in UK supermarkets, not to mention the variety of supermarkets themselves. OK, so here we have Carrefour, Mercadona, Supersol, Mas, Dia and Lidl, but I don't think I'm being unfair when I say that they don't really match up to Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, M&S and Waitrose, where you can get so many different types of knickers, pyjamas, fancy crisps, cakes (don't get me started), exotic fruit... and a wetsuit (usefull for swimming in chilly English seas) - all together in one place. And very reasonable priced (especially the kids' clothes). With extra-wide parent-and-child parking spaces. Bliss.
I buy all my jeans in English supermarkets as they have a far more extensive selection of styles than the fashion stores here (or maybe it's because I'm middle-aged and don't suit the super-skinny style, preferring loose "slouch" or "boyfriend" styles) - they also have extra long ones, perfect for wearing with boots in the winter.
Even my parents' local Co-op has three different types of organic muesli, red peppers stuffed with cream cheese, a variety of not-from-concentrate fruit juices, and endless types of fresh bread, including plenty of interesting seedy brown stuff.
I go mad with excitement every time I see a new product in our local Carrefour. Wholemeal bagels? I bought four packets. Vegetable spring rolls? Now a frequent meal in our house, to accompany stir-fries.
One type of food which has always been less available in my local supermarkets is organic produce. Various small shops stock dried goods - grains, pulses etc; Carrefour has eggs, jams, tomato triturado, some pasta, long-life juices and various other goodies, but they were all scattered around with their specific sections. They also do a great French brand of yoghurts, called Vrai, with soya ones, full-fat, low-fat etc.
A few weeks ago, just before I went to the UK, I was delighted to see their new Bio section - all the organic goods grouped together. This was part of a massive (as in long, rather than gob-smackingly innovative) revamp. As you can see from the photos, there wasn't a huge variety - lots of pasta and grains - but in the fruit & veg section there have suddenly appeared tomatoes, peppers, apples, courgettes, carrots and other five-a-day delights.
I'm sure that when I go back there in the next few days, it will be even better - with a wider choice, and more new things to try.
Another local option is an ecological shop, about 20 minutes' drive away. This one has a great range of fresh fruit and veg, as well as some delicious chocolate, and was planning to stock cosmetics as well the last time I visited.
The other place for organic produce is El Corte Ingles/Hypercor, which has always had a reasonable range of fresh fruit and veg, and now apparently stocks more other goods too. I will have to check it out and report back. There is also the organic market in Seville.
The irony about the scarcity fresh organic goods to buy in Andalucia, of course, is that this region grows more organic produce than any other in the whole of Spain. So where does it all go? Abroad, that's where - Germany, France, the UK. Why? Because there's not enough of a market for higher-priced organic fruit and veg here. Yet.
I'd love to hear from you about your experiences of finding organic fruit and veg here in Andalucia. Are you bothered about eating "eco"? Do you grow your own? Or do you buy it? Do you have a reasonable variety of organic produce to choose from, and is it unaffordably expensive? Or perhaps you just buy it for your children, as some of my friends do.