Okay, bear with me.
Today we’re going to complete our stroll through Superdescuentos Morales, Vieques’ largest grocery store.
One of Morales’ most noteworthy features is its deliciously chilly “cold room.” This is a U-shaped annex to the main store, entered through one set of automatic sliding glass doors near the cash registers and exited through another, where fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat and the random bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne are kept.
The temperature is probably around fifty degrees in there. On a hot afternoon, after we’ve wrestled our way through the crowded, sweaty aisles of the main store, it’s sheer heaven to complete our shopping experience in the cold room.
Sometimes, I confess, we even linger.
Not that there’s much to linger over.
Michael and I have always loved our green vegetables. Broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, you name it, we’ll grill it, steam it or stir fry it with the best of them.
But green vegetables are decidedly NOT a staple of the Vieques diet. Occasionally we’ll find a bunch of fatigued-looking broccoli wasting away in the produce section, and once or twice we’ve come across a head of cabbage that looks like it was rolled down a muddy hill to the market.
But usually we end up buying frozen vegetables…
…just to get our greens (this was before we discovered the “vegetable man” near the hospital or, even more recently, the farmers’ market near the GE plant, but more about them later).
Also, counter-intuitively, we seldom find lemon or limes at Morales. You’d think citrus fruit would be a dime a dozen in Vieques, but not so much. Instead, we’ve learned that the limones (small, tart limes) growing on the tree in our side yard are perfectly acceptable in a vodka tonic.
Then there are the lines. If we arrive on Saturday we know we’re in for a very long haul. It seems that most people on the island, not unlike working folks everywhere, do their grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon. We’ve grown used to standing in line for as long as half an hour behind shopping carts piled high with household staples, frozen pizzas and huge bags of rice.
Offsetting the wait is the generally festive mood of the crowd. Invariably there’s an incident—someone will drop and break something, a credit card will be refused, a mother and child will squabble over a candy bar—causing everyone to stop what they’re doing and watch with rapt interest. Then, just as quickly, the spaghetti sauce is mopped up, the bill is settled with cash, the child gets his chocolate, and the whole incident is forgotten, making way for the next spectacle.
The locals love to observe the passing parade. And if you pay close attention, it can be oddly rewarding to watch them watching each other.