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At last I have found what I was looking for. Maria called one of the places at the wholesale market far in the South of Quito, where they told her they had hazelnuts, macadamias, and skinned peanuts. I had looked in the supermarket, in the open air markets, and in a number of stores I know of that sell pastry and cake making supplies and ingredients.
At one place, where they have skinless peanuts and blanched peeled almonds, I asked the man where he got them. He wouldn´t tell me; he basically said “To protect my store, I can’t tell you.” It’s understandable in what is really a small town of over 1.5 million people that he wouldn’t tell me, where the number of people looking for these items is very small and word would get out quickly about where to buy these products cheaply. He did tell me though “Where you find one thing, you’ll find them all.”
My in-laws took me to the wholesale market this morning. We found the place Maria had called right away. They didn’t have any of these items.
After a bit of questioning a few of the cashiers, one finally told us they carry these products only around Christmastime. This is typical in Ecuador; if you don’t ask for the precise information you are seeking, you may often get the answer you want to hear, but upon further investigation, you’ll find you’re missing all the facts. In this case, we should have asked “Do you have macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and blanched skinned peanuts in stock at this time?” It’s not a lack of goodwill on anyone’s part, it’s just that people don’t think things through. In this case, the person who gave the answer didn’t think that we might want those items right now. And when it comes buying things, that is, the sales/capitalist mentality, well, it’s just sort of non-existent. So no one, taking this case as an example, would think to say “Well, I don’t have them right now, but I can get them for you.” Or to say “I don’t have them but I will come Christmastime.”
Anyway, a man from the same store told us where we could find these items. He drew us a primitive map on a slip of paper and explained where to go. Before we left the market, I asked at another five places, and none of them carried these items. Neither macadamias, nor hazelnuts, nor skinned peanuts are something people regularly consume in Ecuador, so it was no surprise that none of these places had them. However, they did have 100 lb. sacks of rice, flour, wheat, corn and other grains for very low prices; 100 lbs. of sugar for $25.
We headed back towards home with the intention of going another day to the recommended place, but I suggested that Chichi and Carlos, my in-laws, just drop me off nearby and I would get a taxi home. So they decided to stop and Maria’s mom accompanied me. We had to ask at one place where they had no idea what the store was we were talking about; I rechecked the map and we continued around the block. Just when we were within 30 yards of where we had started, we came upon said place. I don’t think it is the same one the man at the other store had told me I would find everything at, because everything he had they didn’t have. But they had most of what I was looking for.
Inside it was one of the typical old-style Ecuadorian grain stores, with large sacks of various types of corn, rice, wheat, other grains, achiote (annatto seed), cumin, bay leaf, noodles, and other staples filling most of the floor, with a small aisle so you could move around. People were coming and going frequently; this place racks up a lot of business. It was dimly lit but well enough so that you could see what you were buying. The macadamias and other nuts were in smaller displays up on a shelf. In a back room that led to a warehouse space, there were more sacks, shelves with wine, liquors, soap, detergents, and other stuff. The counter by the cash register was covered with a large jar of maraschino cherries, another of pickled mushrooms, another of dried orange peel. There wasn’t a place to lay a hand down. A young boy asked me what I wanted and offered me the hazelnuts to try. You can stick your hand down into any of the sacks displayed on the floor to check the quality of the items you’re buying.
I picked up 5 pounds of hazelnuts at $6 per, almonds at $5 per pound, walnuts at $4.80 per pound, peanuts at $1 per, and macadamias at $5.50 per pound. In the regular fancy supermarket, almonds were costing me approximately $4 for a half pound. Most of the other items are substantially more expensive too. I knew this wasn’t the same place the guy at the other store was talking about, as they didn’t have peeled almonds or the same type of peanuts he carries. So I’m still curious to find out where he buys. But this is more than adequate for the moment.
On the drive back, I spotted a store selling chemicals, food additives, and flavorings. I dialed in on my sell phone and found the price of glucose was $1.53 a kilo. Where I had been buying it they were selling 625 grams for almost $4. So less than half the price. I didn’t get much else than this trip done today, but it was more than worth the savings I will get out of it now that I know where to buy cheap.