Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Search for the Ice Tray

It's easy to take for granted certain things that i'm used to being able to find anywhere. One thing that i developed an almost immediate craving for was popcorn. Not the microwave crap, but kernels. I want to make it on the stove and add butter and salt, the way the Indians used to. Like most things, i eventually found them at a special store dedicated to things Chinese don't need.

Another example: ice trays. I started with the local grocery, near my house. It has three floors and one floor is all housewares and clothing. It's ice-traylessness was overwhelming.

Next stop: the foreign grocery. You can find all kinds of great comfort food, cereal, spaghetti, Tabasco sauce, tortilla chips, salsa, and real cheese, as well as forks and spoons. But if ice trays are what you seek, you'll find this place woefully deficient. They did have those medicine dispensers that separate all your pills for the whole week... and i seriously considered just breaking off all the tabs. But it was far too expensive to justify. So I asked my friends where to go and they pointed me to Ikea, which is the equivalent of a day-trip. No, not going all the way to Ikea for that.

I had one more idea: the department store. I'd been there one other time when i needed a pitcher for sangria. It's huge and 6 floors and it's huge. Chinese department stores are unusual, but interesting. In the shoe department for example, there might be Nike, Adidas, and Puma sections, and an employee will be stationed in one section, working on that brand, not for the department store. Each section is responsible for selling a certain thing or brand. The employees there work for that little section and that section leases it's space from the "department store". Maybe. All of this is speculation.

Anyway. The top floor is housewares and i remembered the place i got the pitcher dealt exclusively in plastic stuff. So i went there and browsed. Not locating it on my own i explained i wanted "a thing to make ice". Coupled with the sound effects of twisting/crunching an ice tray to break the cubes and the tinkling sound of dropping into a glass, i conveyed my desire. She dug deep into the random items and pulled out probably the last ice tray, glorious specimen! For $9! Which i was delighted to pay! For this was surely the last ice tray in Beijing.


1 comment:

Jenny said...

re:Communist department stores... Granted the Chinese economic system has morphed into something all its own, but the Soviet department stores were similar to what you described (multi-story and highly departmentalized). The goods were all sold by the government, but each department was wholly contained. In Russia you don't get a shopping cart and pay at some central place. You pay as you go. At least that's the way it used to be.