Impromptu dinner parties on Roatan are a regular part of the lifestyle here. It’s not uncommon to get a phone call (or Facebook message) just a few hours before, letting you know who is hosting, and what you are requested to bring. Last one I attended, I was asked to bring: a bag of ice, and a pineapple. One my way to the get together, I stopped beside a fruit & veggie truck, selected which pineapple I wanted (without getting out of the driver’s seat), he passed it to me, I paid for it, and drove away. Next stop was the variety store for a bag of ice. The clerk said, “That will be $25 please.” I smiled, handed him a bill, and asked if he could make change for a 50… Lempira. He grinned, and said, “You can’t blame a guy for trying.”
Recently, I hosted a dinner party, and decided, for this one, I would supply all food and drink. It was an extra special occasion for me; a housewarming party at my new digs. Actually called it a house-cooling party, I didn’t turn on the air-conditioning—or anything silly like that, it just sounded more appropriate for Roatan.
Hosting this party required more than a stop at the fruit & veggie truck and the variety store, a full menu had to be compiled. Now, if you are as lucky as me, you have a friend who is an excellent cook, knows the list of ingredients required without looking them up in a cookbook, as I would have to do, and having another friend, who is the queen of baking desserts was a bonus, but a full fledge grocery shopping excursion was still necessary.
There are plenty of options for grocery shopping on Roatan, with a Roatan twist, of course. When you enter a grocery store, it looks typical North American: shopping carts, brightly lit aisles and sections: dry goods, produce, dairy, and freezer section, even a bakery & deli counter. However, weather, and other factors, will dictate how well stocked the shelves are; you have to be prepared to improvise or make a last minute menu change.
Some typical North American experiences while grocery shopping will not be found here. There is no weekly delivery of flyers to your home (thank goodness), listing all the specials of the week, no coupons to clip either. Grocery stores, only recently started doing “in store specials” but none accept coupons. They are very diligent about expiry dates though, and will discount items that are close to the expiry date. When decided if the savings is worth taking the chance, be sure to take into consideration for dairy and meat products; the time your (must be kept cool, applies to ice cream too) groceries spend in your vehicle while in other stores, and during the drive home, speeds up the spoiling and melting process. The bonus is the non-perishable items that have an expiry date stamped on them. I was looking to purchase a box of white wine (boxed wine connoisseur, don’t you know) and wound up saving a lot! I didn’t know boxed wine had an expiry date, but sure didn’t complain when I saw the discount sticker reducing the price from L265 to L100!
When you get to the check out, there are the typical displays of odds & ends, candy bars and gum. All strategically placed to entice you while you wait in line. Fortunately, no supermarket tabloids will be on display, but you might find your copy of The Roatan New Times. As your items travel on the belt, if you have purchased un-typical produce (imported) be prepared to tell the checkout clerk what it is called, chances are they have no idea, and will spend a lot of time trying to find it on their list. I’ve run into snags a few times when it comes to this, since I know what items are called in English, but not Spanish. While that is going on, your groceries are being (excessively) bagged for you. The “reduce plastic bag waste” hasn’t caught on here—yet! You can bring your own re-usable bags, just be prepared to guide the person bagging your groceries, to not put them in plastic bags first and then into the ones you brought. The other thing you have to assist with is how the purchased items get stacked in your vehicle—that’s right, we get carry-out service!
On the Island of Roatan, typical North American style grocery shopping is a new concept for those who work in the stores. I try to remind myself of that when I’m getting frustrated because the clerk doesn’t know the name of the product I’m purchasing, or puts the bag with the loaf of bread, under the bag with canned goods in it. While I appreciate the familiarity of North American style grocery shopping—I never want to re-embrace the “typical” being grumpy and unfriendly while grocery shopping on Roatan.
Shopping on Roatan at Honduras Weekly
Listen to the Roatan Vortex Hour on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com for Saturday, Sept 10 – Now & Then, Here & There