You Can Find Anything At The Deli Counter

In many of the large grocery stores we have gone to here in Uruguay, the deli counter has been impressive. Many of the stores also have an entire wall dedicated to deli style serving counters. Also, the deli counter is not just relegated to prepared meats and cheeses.

The following photo is from our neighborhood Devoto grocery store. It just goes on and on.

The deli counter consists of (in order from closest to farthest away in the photo above):

1. A selection of fish.

2. Prepared food. They have individual, daily prepared, single-serve meals of pasta and sauce, tortas, chicken fingers, rice, etc…

3. A section of desserts. A wide section of desserts. They have pastries, both savory and sweet, and a huge selection of small cookies, candies, and bite-size cakes (for reference, the woman with the basket in the above photo is admiring the baked goods collection).

4. A section of handmade cakes, a full 12 inches of round chocolate and dulce de leche deliciousness.

5. A section for pasta. All grocery stores make their own pasta despite there being a slew of specialty pasta stores in every neighborhood (called a Fabrica de pasta). You can purchase boxed fresh pasta with the rest of the packaged pasta in the refrigerated section, but you can also order pasta at the deli counter. I haven’t figured out if there is a difference yet!

6. A ham section. In the U.S. this would be the deli meats section, but in Uruguay it’s the ham section. A normal grocery store here has a selection of 20-30 different kinds of ham (none of them peppered or honey-baked, just regular ham). There is sometimes a selection of salami (maybe 5 different types). And you can buy what look to be individual hot dogs, which are probably actually some kind of fancy sausage (although most sausage is bought already packaged from the refrigerated section).

7. A cheese section. Most of this cheese is mozzarella which is fairly common. The rest is either Colonia or parmesan. Colonia seems to be a general term for a cheese that comes in a lot of different varieties: colonia farming, colonia suiza, plain old colonia. All the cheeses, parmesan excluded, are rather flavorless. There is absolutely no equivalent to a good extra sharp cheddar cheese from the U.S. There are imported cheeses in the refrigerated section like brie, cambefort, blue cheese and sometimes gouda, but they are extremely expensive and sometimes not very flavorful either.

8. A beef section. Name a part of the cow and they will have it at the deli counter. Want ground beef? They have that too. They also have Asado meat (a cut of the ribs), a variety of filets and steaks, and tongue (yep, it’s true – they use it in a traditional dish called guiso).

As you will notice, there is the complete absence of a poultry section. You can get packaged chicken in the refrigerated section, but a specialty store probably has a much better selection.

Also, each of the separate sections have a little take-a-number machine. Each section has one or two dedicated workers serving behind the counter. Even so, sometimes there are hoards of people waiting. No one ever seems to mind, they just take their number and wait.

The Neighborhood

I thought I would take this opportunity to show everyone what the neighborhood is like around our apartment. At the first place we stayed I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable wandering around with my camera and acting like a tourist. The neighborhood we are in now seems much more friendly and affluent and I feel much more comfortable here.

Some stats on our apartment:

– We are two blocks from the beach

– We are 6 blocks from a Devoto (a large grocery store chain)

– We are 3 blocks from the nearest chivito restaurant

– We are within 2 blocks of, not one, but four bus stops

– We are within walking distance of Shopping Montevideo (a large shopping mall, about a 20 min walk)

– We are 1 block away from the farmer’s market on Fridays and 6 blocks from a farmer’s market on Wednesdays

– We are within 2 blocks of a bank

– We are 3 blocks from the nearest place to buy fresh empanadas

The neighborhood is mostly apartment buildings that have about 6-10 floors. Almost all the apartment buildings have lobbies with doormen. This means that no matter where you are going or at what time, you are being watched. This may sound a bit creepy, but it’s actually quite comforting to know that if something happened, someone would have seen it and be there to help.

There are a lot of people in the neighborhood which means that the sidewalks are sometimes busy and the streets are sometimes hard to cross (that is mostly because pedestrians don’t have the right of way) during rush hour. Many of the car garages have warning alarms so that pedestrians know to look out for a car coming in or out. These warning alarms always seem to go off late at night or early in the morning. Go figure!

Most of the apartments have balconies or at least large windows. When the weather is good, there is an abundance of laundry hanging out to dry on those balconies, or sometimes the rooftops.

The trees that line the streets are tall, reaching to the 9th floor in some places. At this point, most of the leaves have fallen or are on their way to the ground.

The beach is friendly. People walk and take their dogs to play there most days, weather permitting. It is a great place to throw a frisbee or have a little beach ultimate tournament. The city takes pretty good care of the beach. They rake the sand every once in a while and haul off garbage that the tide brings in. The Ramblas runs along the beach and makes a great place to walk, run, bike, or just enjoy the view while sitting in one of the many benches. I frequent the Ramblas most days for my morning run. There are always people using it!

The neighborhood also seems to have an abundance of construction going on. Fixing the sidewalks seems to be a common occurrence. There are also a couple large construction sites where whole apartment buildings have been demolished and new ones are being put up. Unfortunately one of these sites is catty-corner across the intersection from us. Despite the citizens of Montevideo being generally late risers, this apparently does not hold for construction workers. We wake up to the sounds of construction quite frequently, although it doesn’t seem to bother me much.