laupäev, oktoober 20, 2007

Maxima ei ole minu sõber

Today I went shopping for food. I had just visited Aura Keskus to go for a swim, and so the most logical place to buy food was Maxima, right across the parking lot in the Zeppelin shopping center -- which is named after the German luftballoon, not the British rock group.

I have shopped at Maxima numerous times and somehow did not feel at ease. This is odd because it's layout and offerings are not too different from other large Estonian supermarkets, like Selver or Kaubamaja.

But what was it about Maxima that rubbed me the wrong way? I decided to look a bit closer and figure out why Maxima was putting me off. I realized after compiling my list of critiques that the main reason I did not like Maxima is because it is run by foreigners. And that was problem number one.

1. It's Owned by Lithuanians

In Maxima, my favorite Estonian brands were placed side by side with ones containing strange letters such as Ų and Č, text that looked like the author had his morning Maxima kool-aid spiked with acid. Who wanted to buy such things with names like vyšnia or obuolys? I wanted kirss ja õun.

2. Lack of Local Necessities

Because Maxima is owned by Baltic tribesmen, it is stocked aplenty with foodstuffs that they prefer, such as large blocks of generic "Maxima" cheese and all different varieties of pelmeenid. But when it comes to local products, they cannot be found. The Lithuanians think that if they only put a few different kinds of Wõro or Rakvere sausages out, they will meet the demand of provincial Estonians. But I wanted Wõro Grillsibula, not Metsavenna. The Metsavenna variety are too oily, the Grillsibula are just right. Moreover, important products, such as küüslaugu leivad (garlic bread, a must with beer) are hidden along side the Lithuanian products with the strange names. This faux pas leaves the Estonian shopper running for the nearest Selver.

3. Bad Disco

This is really the clincher. Every time I am in Maxima I am assaulted by loud techno music. The combination of my kid screaming for ice cream, a bunch of old ladies gathering in the center of the aisle to determine where they can find the nearest küüslaugu leiva, and the bad techno music is extremely deleterious to my shopping experience.

In a store based on Estonian capital, like Selver, I can expect to be serenaded by an orchestral version of Apelsin's 1981 hit "Aeg Ei Peatu". I can disappear into the frozen foods section and ponder whether I should buy Regatt ice cream or something else. I can weigh the difference between buying muretaigen and liivataigen(different kinds of dough). In Maxima they don't even sell muretaignas or Regatt! And they play bad disco.

Now I don't just want to insult Maxima. Their bakery is very good, they have excellent donuts, and they do carry a large variety of beer, wine, and hard liquor that is displayed in a very handy way -- right next to the checkout counters. Today I bought some more Staropramen. I think I am going to go crack one open right now ...

13 kommentaari:

J ütles ...

Well, I dont like Maxima either. Nor Säästumarket (= "Saastamarket" ). The reason is that estonians like places that have wider selection of similar goods and latvians/lithuanians/russians care more about low prices. "Hinnatundlikumad tarbijad" as they say in Estonia. ;)

Blogaddict ütles ...

In Tartu, are there any of high end gourmet food stores? (like Dean & Deluca or Balducci's in New York and Chicago)

Where would you go to find something rare that your recepie is asking for. Like saffron or truffles etc.? Or even nice little plum tomatoes that taste heavenly with fresh mozzarella and basil.

Flasher T ütles ...

Kaubamaja Toidumaailm, probably. (Better selection of the exotic stuff than Selvers per se, even though they're the same chain.) That or Rimi, but Tartu's Rimi is being renovated and is currently completely useless.

In Tallinn, it would have to be Stockmann.

Doris ütles ...

Ah, foreign food... Sorry to go off in a tangent but I just need to share...

I miss several things about Estonian supermarkets:

1) varieties of unpackaged vegetables. No, I do NOT want to pick which combination of vegetables in plastic goes best with my meat. I want to combine my own mixture. Apparently this is not possible in Amsterdam. You can only have potatoes, onions and cabbage by kilo. I rarely ever see uncut-washed-procesed carrots or leek or... For those, I need to buy a mixture of veggies. grrrr... I won't even go into the price of vegetables here. Let's just say that the cheapest way to eat would be chinese/mcdonald's takeaway every day. Welsome to the Western world!

2) choice of meat products. Holland really is a dairy country (although I'll get to complaining about the abysmal condition of yoghurts here shortly) so getting ham that tastes like ham or sausages of more than two different tastes is simply impossible. And when I mention that I would like the sausages to be a little different then I get the look of "crazy foreigner, sausage is sausage, what are you talking about, different tastes? Sausage is supposed to have just the one taste. The other taste is for loonatics anyway."

3) for all the cheeses and other milk products they have here, the selection of yoghurts and puddings and hapukoor is truly horrible. I can have about 3 different flavours of real yoghurt. For more flavours, look for the Activia products which aren't really yoghurt, they're more like laxatives sold in tiny packages so as to produce more waste and just generally tease you. Hapukoor they do sell but in 125 ml cans. Who eats that little hapukoor, I would like to know?

4) Most supermarkets have only one brand of coffee. What's up with that? I mean, it's an ok coffee (the one known in Estonia as Merrild) but if I want some variety, the only option is to go to speciality shops and pay like a maniac... And I drink a lot of coffee.

Kaisa ütles ...

Doris,
I feel your pain. Although in the UK the situation with fruit and vegetables is better, the yoghurt variety is abysmal here, too. You get greasy lumps and toffee yoghurt and stuff that is just disgusting. In Estonia, any yoghurt you picked up was OK at the very least or absolutely delicious at the very best. Here it's just BAD.
By the way, was the news that they'll start selling A Le Coq Premium under the name Viru Beer in the UK just an urban legend? Haven't come across it so far...

Andres ütles ...

I think they will be selling it as A le Coq Export. Wiru is the trademark of Viru Õlletehas which is situated in Haljala and has nothing in common with the Tartu brewery.

Andres ütles ...

OH WAIT... I am misinformed :(

http://www.postimees.ee/210907/esileht/olulised_teemad/tarbija24/toit/284477.php

Flasher T ütles ...

A. Le Coq Premium Export is the slightly stronger variety of Premium that they sell in those 0.33L pyramid bottles. You can buy it in Estonia well enough. :)

Eppppp ütles ...

Kristi Luik wrote a good story about how crazy are Estonians for yoghurt (in Citypaper, I read it online), unfortunately I cant find it right now. Very funny piece.

Luarvik ütles ...

My thoughts exactly about Maxima. Something is off with the concept of this chain. Whenever Maxima comes up there's always someone who's slightly puzzled about the whole things - me included:)

Wahur ütles ...

I think their worst problem is service. From what I've heard their salaries are really low, so everybody with some sense tries to find something better asap. As a result those tired, uncouth, not-Estonian-speaking, not-really-knowing-their-job girls at the counter are not exactly from the feel-good department. Those few times I've been in Maxima, I tend to get flashbacks about Soviet-time shopping.

Cat Power ütles ...

Doris, Kaisa,
Yeah, I sure know what you're talking about. In Denmark, the same situation with vegetables (and to some extent, with everything else - Danes seem to be absolutely obsessed with those "buy three, pay for one" offers). With dairy products, the situation is somewhat not-so-good; yes, sausages taste weird, I made seljanka the other day and tried to use some local viiners in it. No good, tasted like pink moist sawdust. And I don't even start with the pickles - you can only get those extremely sweet-sour slowly-tortured-with-vinegar pickles here.
I could go on forever with this forced change of consumption habits, really...

Luarvik ütles ...

When I lived in NYC, Brighton Beach was the place to food-shop. You wouldn't BELIEVE the pickles and kali there. Truly super. Plus (smoked) meat smelled like meat and other food items were generally digestible - top notch Russian cuisine that in some of its forms felt strangely homely and "Estonian". When abroad try out Russian stores for normal food :)