Home > Buenos Aires, Food, Shopping > The teetering crates

The teetering crates

People in Buenos Aires tend to shop locally and at independent shops. For food, I am happy to report that the porteños have yet to give in to supermarkets. Supermarkets do exist, there is a Jumbo for example which as the name suggests is a hypermarket where you can buy anything from cheese to chihuawawas. The french supermarket Carrefour is testing the water with a number of stores around the capital and some local supermarkets such as DISCO have opened a few stores mainly in the upmarket areas such as Palermo.

But the average porteño goes to his local Chinese shop or local butcher, fruit & veg man (Verdularia) or bakery. The chinese mini-markets are popular and plenty. There is at least one in every street. You don’t have to walk more than 5 minutes to come across one. Evidently their prices are often better than the supermarkets as they probably have some sort of a cartel buying in bulk.

The local Chinese mini-markets always have a small space in the front which they sublet as a Verduleria. As fruit & veg is quite a different commodity to refrigerated, frozen, canned, bottled varieties of stuff, I assume they want to keep it separate. In the heat of Buenos Aires the fruit and vegetables, which are mostly organic go off much more quickly and I wonder whether this is the reason that they sublet this part of the business to someone else.

Almost always, the mini-markets’ staff are Chinese but the Verdulerio is a porteño. Unlike the UK supermarkets, there isn’t a huge variety of fruits and vegetables available, but that’s because people here still eat seasonally. The Verdulerio has a small space in which to operate from as he basically has the entrance to the mini-market so it needs to be clear for customers to walk in and out.  All day the Verdulerio must tend to his fruit and vegetables and make sure they look fresh. This means he has to peel and throw out the browning outer layers of lettuces; he has to pick out the dying stalks from the bunches of herbs; and he has to turn the rotting tomatoes so they all look perfect in the crate.

The lack of space and a constant stream of people buying the fruit and vegetables means that the Verdulerio must replenish his stock often. Outside every mini-market you will find fruit and veg crates piled up and teetering seductively at each passerby, inviting them to dare touch in case they all topple over!

  1. March 8, 2011 at 18:11

    I love the teetering crates ! We have them in some markets in my neighborhood in Recoleta and I am always worried the dog will topple a stack .. Love your blog, love your photos !

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