Several years ago, we stopped at the small alimentari, food market in the outskirts of Fiesole, Borgunto to buy some eggs on the way home. This particular market is so small, if there are more than 4 customers, you have to wait your turn outside. The owner is usually there, providing his personal touch—you simply tell him what you want and he collects everything together for you.
Cheryl smiled as she pointed to the eggs in packs of four, thinking how novel it is that you can buy such small quantities. But we were expecting overnight company, so she told him that we needed two, “Abbiamo bisogno di due, we need two”—meaning two of the 4-packs. “Va bene, okay,” he answered and opened one of the packs and plucked out 2 eggs! Rather than a second package of eggs, he thought we wanted fewer—and that was just fine with him.
We were touched by his courtesy and kindness. How much could you possibly make selling two eggs at a time? In the US we get so motivated by quantity and profit, we would likely consider the effort to remove two eggs from the box not worth it. Then . . . what could be done with the other two? In the Italian small towns, they must have a number of people who want only one or two eggs. And they want fresh! Waste not, want not! Since that time we have actually seen eggs sold in two-packs, but they are relatively hard to find.
The other day, Cheryl was reading an ad in a local flier that caught her eye. To appeal to the young partying crowd, the Esselunga, the large supermarket chain in Florence, is offering a super deal. If you buy one six-pack of birra, beer along with another three-pack (yes, you heard it right: 3 bottles packaged for those who don’t want six, but need more than one at a time), they will throw in two margherita, tomato and cheese pizze, pizzas for free. Let’s do the math: 9 beers and 2 pizzas=a party! What a great idea! In the US, we probably would be more likely to see a special where you buy two six-packs of beer and get a third one free. In our spirit of “more is better,” cases of beer or multiple kegs would be in order. And we could even think that amount might be enough to get a party started and then plan to make a run for more later.
How refreshing it is to see some restraint and moderation. It’s a tough lesson for Americans to learn since we’re trained in the art of “bulk shopping,” where you come away with gigantic bags and boxes of anything you want—you name it. In Italy, even if you could buy such quantities, there wouldn’t be any place to put them when you get back home. So, a two-pack of this and a three-pack of that is all you really need to live la dolce vita, the sweet life.