Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Yes, even in Africa one has to grocery shop.  In some places, that means going here and there from market to market trying to find all the ingredients for that particular recipe that you are determined to make because you've been craving it for the last 2 months.  In Nairobi, there is a magical place called, "Nakumatt."  There's a large bronze elephant in front of each of its stores so I'm thinking that maybe "Nakumatt" means "elephant" or "for people who eat like one."  I've never really taken the time to ask.

I read that the owner of the chain wants Nakumatt to be the "African Walmart."  Now I'll leave the political pros and cons of that for you to discuss, but on a personal level finding a store that has just about everything I could want in one location WITH prices marked requiring NO bartering…well, it's heaven on earth to me.

Today I needed to do "big" shopping.  Big shopping was the phrase I would use when Emileigh and Aria were younger.  Once announced, there would be a collective groan until I told them that they too would get to help me shop and would be given opportunity to choose one special item.  This morning, I asked John if he would like to join me to which he replied, "I will go if you would like me to go."  That's code for "I don't really want to go, but if it's one of those empty-nest-you're-going-to-be-sad-to-be-alone moments then I will put aside my preferences and go with you for the greater good."  I hugged him and told him that I would be fine on my own.  I saw the tiniest glint of relief in his eyes.  

The carts in Nakumatt are somewhat small compared to what I'm used to.  In Walmart and Target, the carts are mega so that women like me can do all their shopping in one fell swoop and not have to return for what we hope would be at least 2 weeks.  Nakumatt's carts hold about half a week's worth.

There are very few American brands at this store.  British brands are plenty, but that requires a new set of vocabulary.  Biscuits are not biscuits.  They are cookies.  Caster sugar?  Not sure. Bitings? Even more unsure.  Serviettes?  Napkins.  Hagas?  Don't want to know.

Thankfully, I recognize the Diet Coke, but I lose more time trying to figure out if Quaker Oaks Apples-n-Syrup Porridge is the same as oatmeal.  Staring at the box doesn't help…no pictures.  It's assumed you know what the heck you're doing when you're there.  (They've assumed too much.)

The Kenyans seem to love their chips.  Wait.  They are not chips.  They are crisps.  Chips are fries.  Crisps are what we know as potato chips.  Two rows dedicated to them.  I notice that they have a variety of flavors I haven't considered:  tomato, steak, chili lemon, kabob and something in Swahili I can't pronounce.  Some bags even include packets of ketchup with them.  Yikes.

The meat department always throws me off because everything is in kilos.  I try to do the math before ordering, but I get unusually nervous during this transaction with the butcher and end up with enough chicken to start a small franchise.  Rats.  

The produce section is very similar to what I'm accustomed to WITH the exception that everything is weighed and priced IN the produce section.  If you do not remember this or know this (no signs anywhere), you will go to the register to pay and have the cashier roll his eyes back in his head as he sends runner after runner back to produce to get your many bags weighed and priced.  (You will also receive MANY dirty looks from the patrons behind you.)

Nakumatt also sells dishes, sandals and appliances.  They are very close to achieving their goal of being Walmartesque.  The one thing they haven't really adopted is "Everyday low prices."  I'm still shocked at the cost of cereal (anywhere from $6-12 a box) or a simple cotton blouse for $40.  What they DO have that Walmart doesn't is a giant wooden spoon for stirring large amounts of stew.  Four feet long giant.  The wooden spoon display ranges from sizes of 1'-4' long.  Now THAT is a spoon selection.  They also sell pots to match the size of spoons.  I like to entertain, but I can't picture what would warrant a pot and spoon that big, though it would be SO cool to have.

Not to brag, but I even have a Nakumatt Shopper Card that gives me little discounts here and there.  It makes up a bit for the fact that I had to leave behind my Hallmark Platinum Card when we moved over here.  (Anyone from Hallmark want to give it an entrepreneurial run over here?)  Just last week I got a discount of 54 shillings with my card.  That's around 67 cents.  Yeah, that's how I roll.  Extreme couponers eat your heart out...

There's even a guy to bag the groceries AND carry them to my car.  How awesome is that?  

Yes, Nakumatt you have made these past few months quite pleasant and very educational.  Parting is such sweet sorrow… (There are no Nakumatts in Egypt.  Alas, back to Scavenger Hunt Groceries, Ltd.)


For another exciting grocery episode, click here.

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