Grocery prices here in Chile, like everywhere else, are going up, up, up. I mostly buy food from the fresh market, but the things I routinely buy at my local grocery store (the Santa Isabel on Huerfanos, though there are three within a six block radius, all of them Santa Isabels), have been going up and up in price. Milk is up to 659 CLP a liter ($1.27, but that’s only because they’re artifically inflating the dollar at the moment, a month ago that was $1.35). This in a country where the minimum wage is less than $400 dollars a month.
The crisis is no worse here in Chile than it is in other places, and I’m sure we’re better off than many countries because even though petroleum prices trickle down to the consumer, we grow most of our own fruits and vegetables.
But what I’ve really come to talk about today is the yapa. A yapa, like the Louisiana lagniappe is a special little added bonus that comes with what you’re buying. For example, at the place that I buy mushrooms in the Vega (fresh market), they often give me a little bundle of chives. They weigh the mushrooms, look at me conspiratorially and say, y la yapa! (and the bonus!). In the market it’s kind of random if you get a yapa or not. Sometimes it’s an extra red pepper, or more of what you were buying, sometimes it’s nothing at all.
Now back to the supermarket. I’m sure that Santa Isabel, which occasionally calls itself Santa Yapa, is feeling the effects of consumer woes, where people are buying justo lo necesario (only what’s necessary) as they try to make their monthly paychecks alcanzar al fin de mes (make it to the end of the month). So in an effort to motivate people to buy a little more, Santa Yapa has had its stockboys busy as little bees, taping items together with sticky cellotape emblazoned with the word “oferta” (sale). For instance, the other day I wanted to buy some whole wheat crackers, and I came upon a display that had three-packs of Bagley Whole Wheat Crackers (now without transfats!), and there was an extra pack of crackers piggybacked to it.
If you buy crackers, it makes sense to add more crackers as a yapa. Sometimes it’s spaghetti with prepared sauce, or cleaning supplies with new sponges or rags, and I recently saw a giant box of tea with a knockoff tupperware container taped to it. But the strangest yapa of all time was definitely the OMO (laundry detergent) with the red wine.
On that day, I had gone to Santa Isabel just to buy laundry detergent. It’s heavy and I walk or ride my bike, so I made a special trip just for the five kilos of pure cleaning power. And that day, taped to the laundry detergent, just like any other yapa, was a medium-quality of red wine (I think it was Misones de Rengo). I wondered what the implications were:
You work hard washing your family’s clothes, and we know you like a drink every now and then. Toss one back while you’re doing your part for the family.
We know you’re a klutz, and there’s no way you wouldn’t spill this wine on your new tablecloth. But OMO detergent will clean that mess right up.
All I know is that that the next week I had a big (but not very fancy) dinner to go to, and I carefully peeled the tape off the wine bottle and proudly donned clean clothes made springtime fresh with the power of OMO and I felt absolutely yapaful.