On my recent holiday to Spain, I decided to make a Thai green curry for us all to eat one night at the villa. So my mum and I went off to one of the many supermarkets in the area to get supplies. Chicken, no problem. Veg, no problem. Rice, no problem. Curry powder, no problem. Coconut milk….. no sign of it anywhere.

Where is the coconut milk??
I found an aisle with a few curry sauces, but no coconut milk. I found the aisle with a small selection of tinned veg, but still no coconut milk. So we plucked up the courage to ask someone. I think she was German but she spoke really good English. She said that they probably didn’t have anything like that, and that they have limited stocks of jars and packets on the whole, as the Spanish like to make so much of their food from scratch with fresh ingredients. She told us that there was a shop next door that sold wholesale ingredients for Indian and Thai food, and that we could probably get a small amount of coconut milk there. With visions of having to buy a crate of the stuff, we settled for a carton of coconut water which we found near the fresh milk, and made do with that. The curry was delicious!

Minimal ready-meals
The whole experience spoke volumes, that although you can by lots of crisps, biscuits and sweets in Spanish supermarkets, the ready-meal packets, tins and jars are few and far between. Although coconut milk doesn’t really come under the ready-meal category, it’s obviously not something that there’s much call for in Spain, and if you did want it you would go to a specialist shop for it.

Fresh produce
Every supermarket, even the tiny ones, have a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and most of them have meat and fish counters. In Spain, and much of the Mediterranean, the culture is based very much around food, and feeding their families with traditional meals made from fresh, wholesome ingredients. And some other countries in comparison (UK and USA in particular) seem to have lost their way, due to the massive variety of fast food, ready-meals and processed packet items that are so readily available, and so cheap. We have got into bad habits that are now becoming hard to break.

Back to basics
So my advice to anyone reading this, who wants to make a change, would be the same as always. Go fresh. Eat like your granny used to. Fill your trolley with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat (unless you are veggie or vegan!), dried pulses, nuts and grains. And stay away from packets and boxes of ready made, processed, flavoured or sugary items. It might mean that you need to go shopping more often to pick up fresh supplies, but you will reap the benefits in so many ways. Try it and see. And let me know how you get on!