Today I take you the supermarket. My choice of supermarket is never fixed. It is determined more by the kind of ingredients I need for coming days then any other consideration. Lidl, citymarket, prisma, siwa and a standard K or S-market have all strengths and weaknesses.

Today I need some olive oil. That kind of rules out the smaller supermarkets. I like to have some Greek olive oil. Not as a matter of principle, but to help the Greek economy a bit. European solidarity you know. It is precious thing nowadays.


There are also other reasons. When I was in Crete on a trip several things about olive oil were explained to me. One thing was that practically the whole island is covered with it. Greek gets EU-subsidy for that because olive oil is healthy, but it is impossible to cheat. Satellites make pictures of the island. So EU-bureaucrats know exactly how many trees you have and how much it can produce. Picking the olives is very labor intensive so people tend to rent their plot to others. They deliver it to the factory and give the land owner part of the produce and the money.

Because sun light can spoil olive oil the Greeks keep the olive oil in cannisters, not in bottles (One of problems that began to occur when the crisis started is that the quality of the olive oil in cannisters has gone down. The cannister nowadays stands for unreliable olive oil). Most of the bottles are for export. Greek bottles are usually quite dark, whereas the Italian ones are total see through. I often wonder why. Don't the Italians have the same problem with sun and olive oil? Are they rich enough not to care? Or is it a cultural difference? Another mystery is the role that the Greeks attach to the acidity of olive oil. The degree of acidity in olive oil indicates the free oleic acid content. Olive oil is edible when it has an acidity of 3.3% or less, but as a rule of thumb you can say that the acidity should be no more than 1%, whereas superb olive oil has to have an acidity of 0.3% or less! Acidity indicators are prominent on all Greek bottles, but when I look at the Spanish and Italian bottles I can find none. Maybe Italians attach less value to the acidity than Greeks do.

On the Italian products the D.O.P (Denominazione di Origine Protetta – Controlled designation of origin) sign is prominent. This, I know, is far more important to them. I once ran into a heated discussion with Italian family of mine about it. Why would Parma ham have to come from Parma? Can't we simply regard it as a kind of ham that can be produced anywhere in EU? Now German pigs are sent to Parma to be slaughtered there so we can call it Parma ham. It seems a bit fake to me. Of course that was not the case! I was wrong! But why I was wrong I never really understood.

Feelings about food run deep, also in Italy. But I found a perverse joy when an Italian olive oil factory on Sardinia had used Greek olives! The yield in Italy had been bad that year. So they turned to the Greeks. Big scandal! Because they still put an DOP-label on it. For all I know the quality of the olive oil might actually have improved that year, but the Italians did not see it that way. National pride. It's a big thing. Crazy guys those Romans I hear you think. In Finland everything is so much better!

hyvaa_suomesta_-merkkiYes, Finland's DOP sign is the swan. If possible that swan would be put on every potato, but you can do only so much. The swan is on every milk container. It would be terrible if some of that milk would be Swedish! Or worse yet, Dutch or German! Fortunately we can afford paying Valio for their monopoly, so we have no problem there.

My eyes gaze over the vegetables. The signs indicate “Hollantilainen”, Espanja, Suomi. Sometimes “Israel” or “Puola”. Apparently Finland is not as self-sufficient as it thinks itself to be. I know that the Spanish crop might be here because Dutch farmers have bought firms in Spain. The same with Norwegian fish. The salmon in their fjords is produced by Dutch owned firms. The relationships in the world of food production are blurred. Who owns what? I don't have a clear picture, but I can only shake my head at people who think that their patriotism would help the country. The world has grown too interconnected for that.