May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor in the Toilet Paper Hunt

Searching for toilet paper in the time of COVID feels a bit like participating in the Hunger Games. Well, only in the U.S. In other places, like Peru, there is plenty of toilet paper. But, then again, I don’t suppose anyone in Lima has stockpiled it quite as much as in some other Internet-famous stories. This hunting for toilet paper has made me think quite a bit about toilets (read this article, if you have also been thinking about toilets). Of course, there is the basic psychological economic angle to this: when the… hits the fan, then at least the purchase of toilet paper is something one can do to take the situation into your own hands, so to speak. 

When I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the hairdressers who populated the earth, used tree leaves as currency. Toilet paper can be dear (a British expression for pricey) and I recall hearing about people using the Sears catalog as toilet paper.

A doodle I did about the worth of toilet paper. This scene actually happened.

If only toilet paper grew on trees. It sort of does, if you’re a cowboy. The Mullein is a plant called “cowboy toilet paper” because that’s what it was used as. 

In many cultures the idea of using toilet paper is odd, even unsanitary. Many places use water (In previous times in the Yemen, they used sand.) either in bidet, hose, scooper, or some other method. In ancient Rome, they used a toilet brush. In modern times, the Japanese toilet is famous for “contactless” cleaning including water, warm air, heated seats, and music. Toilets are one thing that have not evolved much as Bill Gates will tell you

Oddly, the other thing that is hard to find is Tabasco sauce. Maybe everyone is using the Tabasco to wash down their own cooking… and then they need the toilet paper…

Delivery in the Time of COVID – Lima Edition

As Peru enters it’s third (or is it fourth?) week of quarantine, buying groceries has become a challenge. To make it a little bit easier, I’ve compiled a google doc of places that deliver. I’ve sourced my information from my friends, colleagues, food industry contacts, an el trinche, and a C&W – Directorio Delivery 2020-V01.pdf.pdf.pdf.pdf document sent to me. I hope the readers of my blog who live in Lima (are there three of you?) will find this google doc of use.

I have only received delivery from a few of the places as my kitchen is fairly well-stocked and the local bodega, corner store, has most of the basics. I can’t recall the last time I ate so many mandarins or potatoes…

Speaking of potatoes, the microwave is an excellent way to cook a potato.

Organic Market in Bogota – Secret Garden Sundays

1933483_10154043988409618_6452458893857797466_oThere is an organic farmers market in Bogota. Every Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The address is Calle 69, 6-20, up from Carrera 7 (up the street from the gas station). The google location will show Impact Hub Bogota. The farmers market is located in the courtyard. From the street, you will see the white tents above the brick wall.

12968170_10154043988554618_3847116889824795280_oThey have quinoa in multiple variations, and acai food stand (move aside ice cream!), other ready-made foods, vegetables, soaps, and organic cleaning products.

12916956_10154043988744618_345777456803251367_oThis place is small and hard to find. There are only about seven stalls. The market has been there every Sunday for three years. Many of the vendors supply some of the restaurants in Bogota.

12525299_10154043988159618_1414647751940569563_oCheck it out. It’s like a secret garden market.

12916287_10154043988229618_3870378921313816089_o

Asian Vegetables in Bogota

Marinated perilla leaves.
Marinated perilla leaves.

The Chinese porcelain cat with the waving paw is the give-away. In the U.S., it’s called “napa cabbage” but in Bogota, it’s called “Chinese cabbage.”  Whatever it’s called, it’s almost impossible to find in Bogota, I guess because it’s not a normal part of the diet here.

Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.
Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.

I went on the hunt. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I feel like in the months that I’ve lived in Bogota, more and more grocery stores are offering “Asian” vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon, and leafy greens other than spinach. But, in most of the stores, the Asian vegetables are droopy and expensive (whenever I buy bok choy in the market, it’s never the tiny ones served to me at Gran China but I guess they, as a restaurant, get preference). It’s better to go to Paloquemao. In particular, “Peter’s Fruits and Vegetables – Chinese Products Available” which I call “Peter’s Chinese Vegetable” just because I think it would sound better. There are quite a few stands in the same area of the market selling asparagus, giant daikon, arugula, chives, and leafy greens.The last time I went, I bought two large backpacks worth of vegetables and it cost me 24,000 pesos (about $11). There is a separate lady who sells nothing by chiles. The other “Asian vegetable” which is hard to find even in the U.S., is perilla leaf. Maki Roll on Carrera 11 sells that.

Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.
Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.

As an aside, Peter’s also sells sweet potato (yams to Americans and “Peruvian camote” here — a sweet potato with an orange color, used in Peruvian ceviche and North American food) and kale. Some of the vendors even use the English words and if they see a foreigner, they’ll call out “kale” or “sweet potato” to attract customers.

Grocery Stores in Gulshan

As an expat, grocery shopping can be an adventure. But if you don’t want one, here’s a list of stores which come closest to what you would find in the U.S., Australia, or England. Many of these places are on my map of 99 expat places.

Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.
Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.

Unimart, Road 91, near Gulshan 2 circle: Opened July 2013. Wide clean aisles… The store is like a small Target or Walmart. It is in the basement with parking garages below. Excellent service. Everything from coat hangers, plastic flower pots, sports jerseys, kitchen appliances, clothes, fresh fruit, British pickles (no food dye), children’s shoes, men’s shoes, sports gear, bakery, etc. etc. Very clean and with wide aisles.

Dali, in the corner of DIT 2 (the horsehoe market across from the Westin): A good selection of fresh meat, vegetables, and the usual canned goods. Houses the Australian Butcher who will butcher to order.

Agora, in the Agora building on Gulshan Avenue, same building as Bamboo Shoot: This has pretty much everything. A little pricey.

Lavender, on the road behind the Landmark building which is the northwest quarter of Gulshan 2 circle: It has a fair selection for hefty prices. The second floor is great for nail polish, toys, etc.

Korean Mart, road 12 in Banani: They have everything from fresh tofu, vegetables, buckwheat, and almost everything you didn’t know that you wanted. It’s pricey.

Meena, Road 11, Banani (It’s a local chain so you will find them all over.): Has almost everything but not so much of it.

Like bingo night -- they will call your driver up from the garage.
Like bingo night — at Unimart, they will call your driver up from the garage.

Then there are some small shops that one could shop at which do not sell pots and pans:

White Hen, near Rok restaurant in Banani: This is mostly a deli and bakery run by the same guy who is the “Australian butcher” at Dali.

“Organic grocer” — is Southwest Gardens. They have vegetables, frozen fish, rice, honey.

German Butcher, on road 59 (I think): deli meats, cheese, bagels, fresh brown bread, and they will butcher pork to order.

London Sausage House, number 14 on my map of 99 expat places: It’s got deli meats, cheese, etc.

Some of these places will deliver as well.

Delivery truck.
Delivery truck.