Searching for Applesauce in Johannesburg

I’d like to shed a few more thoughts on local food, or, rather, the process of acquiring it. It’s the weirdest things I have trouble finding here in South Africa. I wouldn’t have been offended if there was no Nutella, or lemongrass, or Tahini, or any kind of ethnic food. Yet those things are surprisingly easy to find in most supermarkets, while other items I consider staples have been on my iPhone grocery app for months, without any luck.

Applesauce is one of those items. How can an entire country not know about applesauce? A country practically founded by farmers (boers) no less? When I finally hunted down a jar of applesauce, it was no bigger than a small can of tomato paste, and the applesauce was indeed a sauce, very soupy. My kids have elicited dubious stares when they brought Motts snack packs of applesauce to school, which were leftovers on my former Costco overflow garage shelf. People just don’t know applesauce here. In the store section where I would expect it, all you will find is huge jars of apricot jam.

Other similarly elusive foods are baking chocolate, or even chocolate chips, which is especially disconcerting because there is no shortage of the most wonderful chocolate, my favorite being all things Lindt. Maybe South Africans don’t like to bake? Because I’ve also had to search for yeast at times. One thing I simply have not found is Pillsbury (or any) ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls. They were on Sunshine’s birthday breakfast wish list, but this year we had to make do with scones, which are really what Americans call biscuits. Biscuits here, on the other hand, are what we call cookies. And then there is a whole other category of cookies called rusks, which you will find an entire aisle of in every grocery store. They are very dry hunks of baked goods with a biscotti-like composition but not quite the taste, and are best eaten by dunking into your coffee liberally to soften up. Rusks, Biltong, and Boerewors – the South African’s diet.

Meanwhile, I’ve started making my own applesauce. It is kind of sad that it took Zax’s insistent pleading, and my inability to find it anywhere, before I began such a basic and easy thing as making applesauce. Cut up a bag of apples as they are, cook in a bit of water with some sugar and a stick of cinnamon until they fall apart, then grind through what I only know from my German childhood as a “Flotte Lotte” (“Racy Tracy”? Not sure how you would translate that…) to get rid of all the peels and seeds, and voila, you will have an applesauce much better than you’d find in any store, South African or otherwise.

Nevertheless, Woolworths or “Woolies” has become my favorite grocery store by leaps and bounds. You just have to get used to it (and yes, find out where the applesauce is hiding…).

Note: I have since been notified by my good friend L.A. (I’m SO glad people are reading my blog!) – who took it upon herself to defend the honor of South Africa – of all the places to find baking supplies. Turns out that there is an entire store here at Fourways dedicated to the topic, called Kadies, which takes pride in being the “1st Retail Baking Supplies shop with our own website in South Africa.” I officially apologize for any offense I might have caused to all South African bakers and will go and check out Kadies shortly. Maybe they also carry applesauce?

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