Plastic Gloves and Produce


A produce stand in Mercato delle Erbe

I got scolded by an old Italian lady a few days ago. Apparently, it’s entirely unacceptable to bag your produce with your bare hands in Italy. I wasn’t aware of the intricate process required to purchase produce here:

  1. Don’t even think about touching the produce. At Coop, the local supermarket, there are lots of signs instructing you to use the plastic gloves provided. This is why I was scolded. At the outdoor markets, you must tell the stall owner exactly what you want and how much, and she will pick the produce for you – she’s the expert, after all.
  2. You must use the plastic produce bags. No use trying to save the environment here, the plastic bags are considered essential.
  3. You have to weigh your own produce. If you skip this step, the cashier will send you back to the produce section to weigh your items. Luckily, when this happened to me there was no line behind me so I wasn’t at risk of getting yelled at by another Italian lady.
  4. Don’t forget about the sticker. When you weigh the produce you must select the exact item you’re purchasing from the menu. When I was sent back to weigh my bananas, I made the mistake of selecting  ananas – pineapple – instead of bananas. This caused much mumbling from the cashier when I returned to check-out so he ended up going to the weigh station and just correcting it himself.

It’s as simple as that! It seems this Italian food rule has its basis in both the protection of the produce and the desire to reduce the spread of disease. When you think about it, it does make sense, but it also seems like an awful lot of steps to purchase a couple bananas.


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