Okay, I realise since I've started writing this blog that it's all cheery, cheery "Vancouver is great, I'd hate to be stuck in Ireland like you" (sorry but this is the vibe I'm getting!) but, today, I've had enough.
I'm just back from the shop and it was the straw that broke the camel's back, or whatever other old age, biblical saying there is out there to describe how I'm feeling (and by biblical I don't of course mean "in the biblical sense" as that would just be weird!) but what is with the prices here?! Geez Louise (that's more my kinda saying), I thought Ireland was dear but this takes the biscuit (okay, so I can't stop quoting sayings now!!)
While Vancouver has ranked highly in worldwide "livable city" rankings for more than a decade, the cost of living here is exceptionally high and is one of the highest in Canada after Toronto. It really becomes apparent in - where else? - the food aisles of our local supermarket (how parochial of me I know) where the price of certain foods really blows me away, and not in a good way (what else would an Irish person abroad be giving out about I hear you ask, unless it's the price of booze?!)
First of all, dairy. Now, that very sentence, never mind its conciseness, may have put you to sleep but, fear not, I have many observational and exceedingly witty points to make about it!
Okay, so...who's feeding the cows such special grass that they need to make milk so darn dear?! It comes in varying sizes ranging from gargantuan 4 litre yokes that take up your entire fridge and are a workout in themselves carrying them home, to the normal 1 litre sizes I know and love. I would like to take this time, however, to point out that the Canadians have sussed the easy opening carton better than us Irish as I always manage to spill the milk all over myself and the counter in a bitter battle at home, whereas here I'm like a milk carton opening pro as it just slips open almost by itself, as if wanting to be opened!! I found this out to my detriment recently when I decided to carry the carton home from the shops one day from the top. And yes, I nearly cried over spilled milk!
Not only are the sizes fear-inducing but the percentages are doubly confusing! You've 18% at the top of the range (I'm assuming this is all fat?! What's the other 82%, water?!), all the way down to 3%, 2% and 1% and then of course you've got half and half which is half cream and half milk and, yes, as bad for you as it sounds it tastes delicious in coffee! Frankly, I've no idea what I'm doing but Simon refuses to drink the watery stuff and I refuse to drink clotted cream on my cereal, so by trial and error we've somehow settled around the 2-3% mark. I've no idea what that means, I just know I eat it on my Rice Krispies (which, incidentally, you can get here but don't even get me started on the price of cereal!!)
And then, there's the cheese. Okay, so I'm not going to pretend I'm some mega cheese buff who actually cares about this stuff, but I am partial to a bit of Camembert or Brie every now and again but this food stuff has been taken off the menu as it's so flippin' expensive! $7 is the cheapest you'll pay for a medium slab of cheese, unless it's on sale in Shoppers which we're always on the lookout for. Like two mice eyeing up the produce!
I don't know if these are some sacred cows, or if they're treated like in the butter ad back home being read to at night and shaded in the rain, but there's definitely something special about their gone off milk if it's costing us this much!
I, martyr that I am, REFUSE to buy any of it through sheer stubbornness, but my dairy-guzzling, calcium-crazed other half simply cannot resist!! And I wouldn't even mind but the poor chap's meant to be allergic to all things dairy!! But off he goes, sprinkling it willy-nilly on all his food and salads, while I sit there chowing down on my dry sandwich with a scowl on my face!! It hurts to deprive myself yet somehow I feel I'm getting one over on "the man"!!!
Speaking of dry sandwiches, what's with the lack of relish here? (You can tell I'm a joy to be around today, eh?!) I can't find anything nice to flavour up my sandwich, apart from calorie-laden mayonnaise or pesto which, quite frankly, plays itself out after a while. Yes, there's a whole range of weird burger relishes and pickled this and chopped up pepper that but no sweet, succulent, tasty, tomatoey relish. And in case anyone's wondering, what I'm talking about here is Ireland's best Ballymaloe Relish. Oh God, I miss that stuff! I've asked my mum to send me over a jar (thanks mum!) but I doubt it'll get here, as surely there are laws about sending food produce by post, particularly those liable to break?? (sorry mum!) I may even get onto Ballymaloe to tell them what a massive fan I am and to offer to become their "Brand Ambassador" for Canada (in exchange for free goodies of course!) and the funny thing is that I'm not actually joking!
So my sandwiches are going relish-less and, not to be corny, but I don't relish eating them anymore!! I used to have bread and ham and whatever else I could get in there with my Ballymaloe, and now I'm sauceless. It's a sorry state of affairs!
Okay, so back to dairy (I bet you're happy!) I'm not going to get into it too much as I feel I've sufficiently given out about most of the produce in my fridge but, one more - eggs. Oh dear. Eggs are so "eggspensive" (comedy genius) that I find myself buying the average run of the mill NON-free range variety, even though one of the first lessons my Mum ever taught me was only to buy free-range eggs (odd what advice sticks with you isn't it?!) These chickens are probably the ones who are kept in the crowded, darkened warehouses featured in the appetite-destroying docu-film Food Inc. which I actually had to turn off as I don't think I could eat another animal after watching all that carnage, but I happen to like my steak and chicken so ignorance is bliss, right?! I can actually tell the difference between the good eggs and the bad eggs (if only I could do that in my social life!) but I refuse to spend $7 on a dozen eggs when I could be spending $3 and killing myself slowly from the inside out! I'm sure my as-yet-unborn children will be thankful when I die early and leave them enough money in my life insurance plan to chow down on the decent stuff!!
Speaking of my love of meat, that's another food stuff I'm having to limit because of price! For some reason red meat such as mince and steak is quite reasonable but white meat such as my beloved chicken is inexplicably dear. How racist! $17 for a few measly fillets should be against the law. As a result, I find myself and the boy living on pretty much a red meat diet, which goes against everything the diet books tell you! Ironic really that the chickens cited above are probably eating better than I am right now, but at least I have my pennies saved (and sturdy legs, ha, in your face chickens!!!)
Finally, although the Vancs have it down with the healthy lark, I'll give them that, they haven't quite hit the mark with the bad stuff. I find the chocolate selection here quite minimal, although maybe that's why everyone's so healthy! Cadbury's, which is a chocolate staple at home, does not have the same selection. And of course there's the obligatory Mars, Snickers and Twix (sorry for the product placement here...if you marketers want to send me a few boxes to keep it up, feel free!) which I assume are available in every part of the world, like McDonald's, but there's no Doubledeckers or Yorkies or Drifters. Mm, Drifters, my favourite - straight outta the fridge - SNAP - into the coffee, mmmmmm, salivating!!
No, here it's all Skittles and Maltesers and, I'm sorry, but you have to eat around four bags of those things to feel like they've hit the spot!! Then of course you've got the odd named bars like 'Oh Henry' and 'Sweet Maria.' Whoever came up with those names was obviously on drugs - or in love? With each other??!! - and even in Vegas recently we spotted a bar called 'Whatchamacallit' which did make me laugh! The problem here is that all of the chocolate bars taste suspiciously the same - all chewy, toffee, coffee or peanuty - but nothing you can really sink your teeth into, like a Moro or Toffee Crisp (mm, I heart Toffee Crisp!) We went to Whistler recently and one of the supermarkets had a 'UK aisle' where you could get these bars so I stocked up, of course, then ate most of them before I even got home!
And that's it, rant over. I love you Vancouver, I really do, I couldn't ask for more here but, seriously, get it together on the food prices. A gigantic watermelon for 59c just doesn't do the trick!
As for my comrades in Ireland, I know you have it bad with the recession and job losses and swine flu etc (the list goes on unfortunately!) but think of poor ol' me in Vancouver, sitting in the sun eating yet another burrito made with cheap meat and no relish or cheese, and spare a thought for my hardship...and maybe even send over a few quid in an envelope for me, circa 1900 in the rare old emigration times!
Don't hate me.
Peace out (and capitalism for that matter!)