I have a confession to make. It might loose me whatever gourmet street cred I have – what's life without a little thrill? – but here it goes: I have an acute fascination for markets and supermarkets.
Markets are fine actually, especially if you belong to the SlowFoodite eat local fraction, which I incidentally feel pretty close to. Local products, artisan made and all that. It fits perfectly in the XXI century cool people's food culture. But supermarkets? For many they are the evil empire, the globalisation machine at its worst, selling unhealthy and badly tasting products to the unknowing masses. I won't deny I have a food snob streak in me: if I have the choice, I would mainly buy goods coming from excellent local producer, but, being pragmatic, I do quite a bit of shopping in supermarkets.
Yet, whatever the criticism, supermarkets intrigue me (and I know I am not alone in this). Those who criticise them for being one of the ugly arms of globalisation should give a closer look. Sure, they sell the whole array of soft drinks, snacks, chocolates etc. that you find everywhere, but that's just one part of the story. To me supermarkets are to food what soap operas are to performing arts: they are the manifestation of pop culture, food-pop in this case. And as pop culture they differ from country to country in a multitude of peculiar and unique details, which give each of these stores a recognisable national mark. In Italy, for example, I am pretty sure I could tell you in which region you are just by looking at the cheese and cured meats counters.
You think it is obvious? Well, so do I, but I know not everyone sees it so. If, on the other hand, you thinks that's a load of bollocks try a little experiments next time you travel abroad. Before you leave home visit your local supermarket, then visit one in your country of destination. When you go home, have a look at your store again. Notice any differences? I bet you do, and those details are what marks your local place unique to your culture.
I love to play this game whenever I am abroad so I could not miss the chance to have a go at it in Tallinn.
The closest I got to a market was the row of colourful flower shops that marks the beginning of Viru street. Unfortunately too little time in the end to visit the real central market, Kesksturg. Instead, finding a supermarket was no problem.We just had to cross the road from our bus stop and get into the Kaubamaja department store.