I’ve shopped numerous times in the two neighborhood grocery stores now. Yep, I’m an old hat at it now, and I don’t even perspire with nerves any more. Well, most times I don’t.

But I do make store clerks smile or giggle. Loath to carry a dictionary, I spend many minutes trying to figure out what certain foods are. Most have similar names to those in English, or I can decipher what they are just by looking at them or by looking at the photo on the packaging.

Abacate? Avocado. Milho? Corn. But what the heck is an alcachofra? Couldn’t tell by the can label. Turns out, it’s an artichoke!

I made one produce clerk giggle when I mimed asking her how to eat a particular fruit. It was yellow, shiny, and looked almost waxen. I mimed asking whether I should peel the fruit or just eat it as it was. She giggled and made a chopping motion. To verify, I mimed not peeling it first. Nope, just cut it. Turns out, it was a starfruit, as became apparent when I cut it. I’d never seen one whole before!

On the other hand, I know what a persimmon is. Well, I thought I knew. Now, I am a much wiser woman than I was before. I now know there are different types of persimmons: astringent and non-astringent. I’d only had my first persimmon in October at my parents’ house, when I ate one like an apple. It was heavenly. So when I saw them in the Mambo grocery store, I bought two and served one up on our first Sunday morning here. Tom was hesitant to eat it, but I said, “Trust me, you’ll love it.”

He still trusts me. But, by all rights, he shouldn’t. We both took a bite. Immediately, all moisture was sucked out of our mouths and our heads seemed to shrink into dried husks. I wish I had photo of his face! I’m sure mine was the same: puckered, shocked, and horrified. Well, now I know. Look for the non-astringent variety.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour roaming around the Carrefour grocery store, looking at labels and trying to figure out what new foods to try. I left with a package of Japanese-style peanuts…not exactly risky. Although, for about two minutes I did have an intriguing piece of deep-red shrink-wrapped something or other in my hand. Couldn’t tell if it was a kind of fish, or dried fruit, or something completely alien. But it cost about R14 ($7.80), so I didn’t risk it. Perhaps next time.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that Brazilian paper towels do not measure up to Brawny towels in the U.S., and that tissues (aka Kleenex) are more like tissue paper we wrap gifts in than they are like U.S. comfy nose tissues. And I guess Brazilians don’t use much black pepper, because I can’t seem to find any anywhere!

We heard yesterday that our UAB (unaccompanied baggage, flown by air) has arrived, which means we’ll likely get it early next week. In it, we have all kinds of American staples: peanut butter, pancake mix, and our favorite cereals. It’ll be nice to have those, just so I’m sure what we’re eating!

Funny, with everything so different and unusual, we’ve discovered that our comfort food is Japanese food, especially sushi. We have a great place just up the street from us. Sushi Neba. I think it’s going to become “our place.”

Meanwhile, at least once a week, I’ll try new foods in the grocery store, or at the street markets (feiras, when I find out where they are). First, fruits!