Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Spain 12: Buying the very expensive cookies
In Toledo, we kept passing this elegant cookie and candy shop. We were cold and we like cookies, so we went into the shop. We had already browsed in some of the clothes stores on the main drag, but the stuff we could afford was made in China, so you know. Besides, we already have clothes.
We already have stuff. We don't buy souvenirs any more, unless you count cheese as a souvenir. I count is as Necessary for Life. We got our rugs in Morocco, but that was house accessorizing. I bought the coasters in Germany because I finally found some that would keep moisture off the table rather than just accumulating it in a puddle at the bottom of the coaster until it all ran out onto the wood surface.
Well, maybe we buy souvenirs. I suppose it depends on how you define "souvenir." We bought a folding pocket knife for the kid who feeds our cats. That's a souvenir - hopefully not a souvenir that will make his mom tell me he can never catsit for us again because we keep buying him inappropriate presents. He's 13. That's old enough for a knife, right?
What we mainly buy when we are traveling is food. We want to try the local foods. Our only non-tapas restaurant meal was at a small restaurant in Toledo where we had stuffed piquillo peppers, bean soup that was so good that even SH, who does not like beans, liked it, tortilla, and a local pork stew.
Almost everyone eating in the place was a tourist, but maybe that's because it was only 7:00 p.m. and only losers eat that early in Spain. SH and I were the only tourists who weren't wearing tennis shoes. We were almost the only ones who weren't wearing beat-up jackets that said "Harley" on the back. I guess I should have known that Harley Davidson had such an international reach, but to see a man with an English accent wearing a Harley jacket in the middle of Spain was a bit odd.
Yes, I am a snob about what people wear when they are traveling. Yes, I am the person who goes to the grocery store, the hardware store, Target, and the library in her gym clothes after her body pump class. I'm a hypocrite. Except that when I travel, I try not to look like a slob. I just don't care so much about looking like a slob at home because at home, I don't bear the burden of representing all Americans.
Where was I?
Oh. Right. Food. Food is our big thing when we travel. We have enough stuff in our house, except for cheese, and after trips to Spain and to Pittsburgh, we are actually good on cheese for a while. (Yes, I know. Cheese to Wisconsin, coals to Newcastle.) We always want to try something interesting.
So we thought we would try Spanish cookies. They smelled good and they were being sold by weight out of bins, which we all know means bargain.
There were about a dozen flavors, various combinations of chocolate, vanilla, and nut. The clerk offered us each a sample of a small, chocolate-filled cookie. It was good, with oozy chocolate in the middle.
Now we had to buy something. We had tried the sample. We were obligated.
I never feel that way at home, but apparently, many people do. Did you know sales increase 300% when you sample an item? I read that number somewhere so it must be true. Sometimes it is - sometimes I sample just because I am hungry and because eating is my main hobby, but occasionally, I will taste something really yummy and not horribly expensive, like the Sendik's crab dip, and buy it, even though I have never put "crab dip" on my grocery list my entire life.
"How many cookies in 100 grams?" SH asked the clerk.
"Oh, four or five," she told him.
One hundred grams cost three euros, we think. We just remember the shocking total.
If we had just done the math, we would have thought, "Hmm. Four dollars for three ounces of cookies. That seems rather expensive."
But we didn't.
We gathered our six cookies and threw in a few pieces of nougat (six euros for 100 grams ouch).
We had chosen these items. We had touched them with our plastic-glove encased fingers. We had to take them.
"Eleven euros," the clerk told us cheerfully. Actually, she said, "Once," but you know what I mean.
Eleven euros = fifteen dollars.
She handed us the very small bag containing six cookies and four pieces of nougat. SH looked at the receipt. The cookies had weighed 200 grams, not 100, which meant that instead of six cookies for 100 grams, we got three. These were some heavy cookies.
We couldn't give them back. We were too embarrassed and in too much shock over the price.
Fifteen dollars for six cookies and four pieces of nougat. About $1.50 apiece.
"That's not so expensive," I suggested as I swallowed hard.
"It's expensive," SH, the man who spends $$ on beer and wine, which is far more wasteful than spending it on baked goods.
"Not if you think about what you would pay for gourmet cookies at home," I said. Except we never buy gourmet cookies or indeed any cookies at home because store-bought cookies are not as good as homemade, especially my coffee chocolate chip shortbread cookies or my ginger bacon cookies.
SH and I are not big spenders on little things. It is hard for us to swallow spending $15 on cookies, even gourmet cookies. We should have bought two cookies and been done with it, but we thought it was a bargain and who wants not to take advantage of a bargain? Not us.
So our greed to get a Deal got the better of us. We got what we deserved, except for the part where the cookies weighed twice as much as the clerk told us and how are you going to argue about that? I have a hard enough time challenging that sort of thing in English, much less in Spanish.
We decided just to enjoy the cookies and be done with it. When we returned to the hotel, we sat down to eat some of our worth their weight in gold cookies.
They tasted like dust.
We turned to each other and gasped. "The sample cookie was a lie!" we said. We were disappointed: our fancy Spanish cookies were not all that. Fortunately, I had little Nutellas from the breakfast buffet, so all was not lost, but we learned not to judge a cookie by its sample. Next time, we'll stick with chocolate. That's always safe.