The scarcity problem you might have heard about is true. It can be difficult (but not impossible) to find certain grocery and household items. It’s worth pointing out that Caracas stays pretty well stocked compared to the rest of the country. Currently, the once-ubiquitous corn flour, PAN, is hard to find and rationed if you buy from a grocery store. Toilet paper is a rare sight these days on supermarket shelves, but can be found easily enough elsewhere. There are economic reasons for these realities: production is down, price controls, inflation, etc.; but I’m not interested in detailing all that.
What does interest me is the hunt. I enjoy making the rounds and building the relationships that allow me to purchase what others sometimes can’t seem to find. Recently, thanks to a tip from our friend Christa, I discovered a new Mediterranean market in our neighborhood. I don’t know how new it actually is, but it’s super clean and organized and though they don’t have the items that show up in the scarcity index, they do have some specialty gems.
Here are few (of many) items I had never seen in Caracas before today.
For an extra little glimpse into the economics, the first amount listed below the picture is what the item would cost at the official rate and the second represents the current parallel rate.
Sake: $28.50 / $6.50 ¦ White Truffle Oil $71.50 / $16
Red or Black Caviar: $22.25 / $5
Foie Gras: $58.75 / $13.25
I realize those items are not particularly Mediterranean. So here is a picture to represent the rest of the market which was full of olives, olive oils, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, teas, carob, rose water, tahini, halal meat, bulk spices and other things I wish I knew how to cook with.
Though it was an early Sunday afternoon, we were the only customers in the market and in the attached (and somewhat fancy) restaurant where we ate lunch. Hopefully they 1) welcome a bunch of customers at other times of the week or 2) are a front for something shady; otherwise, with the rate at which establishments open and close here, I fear that they will have shuttered before we return in August. I bought a couple bottles of Sake just in case.
Caviar but no toilet paper? What a great statement and interesting read on the economics of this country.