Urban apartment kitchens in Europe are … petite… to say the least. Our refrigerator is bigger than a dorm fridge — but nowhere near the size of an American refrigerator. Our freezer holds ice cube trays and a couple of bags of frozen peas and a frozen pizza but that’s about it. In some ways, this is a good thing right now, because it puts the brakes on hoarding. It also means the shopping has to be done more frequently than once a week.
Yesterday was a Red Letter Day for me: I went to the pharmacy AND the grocery store (both a couple of blocks from the house), compulsively rubbing my hands with sanitizer like some crazed Lady MacBeth before I went in. In the pharmacy, I picked up a refill for a prescription and figured while I was at it, I’d ask about hand soap (nope!) and thermometers (Double-nope + wry shake of the head).
I then went to the larger, fancier grocery store in the basement of Corte Ingles, Spain’s department store, rather than our corner market, because our usual grocery store still doesn’t have rice or garbage bags or hand soap, all things we’ve run out of, plus I just needed to mix it up a little. I’m pleased to serve as your boots on the ground in Madrid and report to you that in the Corte Ingles on Princess Street there are no condoms. (They were on an end-cap display.) I was able to snag the last Magic Erasers in the store, though.
I also ran into a friend, and standing six feet apart catching up with her was one of the highlights of the day. She’s the first person outside of the family that I’ve seen face to face IRL since last Monday. This afternoon, another friend and I will study Spanish together virtually, just to hold ourselves accountable.
In the grocery store, the produce arranged on its tiered shelves was brightly-tinted and beautiful and I had to stop myself from buying too much of it, since I was going to have to carry everything home by myself (you can’t go to the grocery store with anyone else). For months, I’ve been threatening to buy an abuela cart to get the groceries home but the girls always recoil in such horror that I’ve put it off. Note to self: Next time, buy a thermometer and a grocery cart beforehand.
When we moved here, one of the first things I noticed (other than the heat) was what an integral part Los Abuelos (the grandparents) play in Spanish life. In normal days, they pull their abuela carts down the sidewalk behind them like little lap dogs, they walk their actual real lap dogs (who wear raincoats when it rains and sweaters when it’s cold), they block the sidewalk as they make their slow daily paseos (an abuela line?). Elderly couples walk holding hands. Elderly women walk arm in arm in groups, or slowly, slowly, with their patient caregivers. When the weather’s warm, they sit at the sidewalk cafes nursing cañas of beer or glasses of vermouth, and stand on their balconies keeping an eye on the neighbors. This winter, I particularly loved seeing the older women: furcoat-clad, wearing dark sunglasses, hair beautifully-coiffed, their regal bearing reminding that once they were just like the lovely stylish smooth-haired young women who breeze past them.
As one of my Spanish teachers said one when someone recounted a story about being lectured by an elderly lady at the grocery store or of one cutting in line, both of which are extremely common occurrences, the abuelas are a force of nature.
This — small, inadequate — is my applause for the abuelos y abuelas.