This singularly appetizing photo is of several cardboard boxes of mabawas - chicken wings again. What the photo doesn't show is the large yellow and red sign just above the food, saying "DO NOT OPEN THE BOXES". Written in French, which most people here understand. Obviously not all - either that, or they don't care, or they don't realize the importance of the cold chain.




Cold chain hassle is pretty much a permanent feature of Mahorese supermarkets. In all the supermarkets I've been to, I've always seen odd bits of food spread willy-nilly about the supermarket, such as shampoo in the tinned food aisle or apples sitting among bottles of wine. However, most supermarkets seem to be fairly careful about frozen stuff. In Mayotte, with its average temperature of 30°C outside (brought down to 26 or 27 by air-conditioning), you would think they'd be even more careful. However, there always seems to be a problem with the frozen food. It starts off with the imported containers, which are of course refrigerated and plugged in, but which still spend at least a few days, at most a few weeks, outside in the sun while waiting to be delivered. Either the frozen food is distributed all over the supermarket by careless customers, or the freezers are half-open, or the large boxes of frozen meat (chicken wings, lamb or beef carcasses, whole chickens) are gaping open. On top of the cold chain being shattered by this sort of behaviour, it doesn't exactly entice future customers to buy whatever it is.




However, in order to be able to actually purchase any food here, frozen or otherwise, said food does need to be present in the supermarket. Which sounds obvious, but which is far from always being the case.

When shopping in England / France, you make a list, bring a few bags and walk or drive to the supermarket, where you methodically buy everything on your list, plus maybe a few extras, the odd special offer, and so on and so forth.

When shopping in Mayotte, as you have done plenty of shopping in England / France, you make a list, bring a few bags and walk or drive to the supermarket, where you try to buy everything on your list. Except that the supermarket has obviously decided otherwise. Here, there is no such thing as buying everything on your list. Instead, you will buy whatever the supermarket happens to have. Container deliveries are fairly hit-and-miss, so at no given time is everything on your list going to actually be present in the supermarket. Last week, there was no ham and no lardons (chopped smoked bacon), and there still isn't at the time of writing. Two or three weeks before that, there was no cheese for two weeks.. We've been looking for frozen minced meat for the last month and a half, it seems as though it has gone out of existence. However, there are a lot of chicken nuggets. There hasn't been any steak for four days, but pork chops have suddenly appeared. When I arrived in Mayotte in August, there was even Cadbury's chocolate at the top of the sweets aisle. That went fairly quickly, and I haven't seen any since. Special offers here are promotions on food or products which are very near to their sell-by date, sold at half their usual (very high) price. They left France two months ago, but by the time they get here, they've almost expired.

You do not come to the shops with a shopping list. It's just not the done thing. There's no point.