Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Baking soda

While the pastries in Montevideo are delicious, my daughter has missed homemade chocolate chip cookies. No problem, I thought. There is excellent local chocolate that I can break into chunks. We already had eggs, sugar, butter, salt, and flour. I found brown sugar and vanilla extract easily enough. All that was left was baking soda. At this point I was stumped.

We bought some baking powder and my wife said I should just substitute baking powder for the soda. I don't remember much from my college chemistry classes, but I do recall that not all white powders are identical. I even remembered that baking powder was baking soda with another chemical. Anyway, I wasn't willing to make the substitution, even after I found this web advice.

So, it was back to the store. I went up and down every aisle looking for bicarbonato de sodio. It wasn't with the flour, or the sugar, or the salt, or the baking powder. I realized how much I rely on stores in the US to follow the same basic layout. In Uruguay, not surprisingly, the layout was different. The other thing I realized how much I looked for the yellow Arm & Hammer box to signal baking soda. Even if I was going to buy the store brand, I'd find it next to the Arm & Hammer. Packaging is an important form of communication, but I'm usually not conscious of it.

It turns out that most grocery stores in Uruguay don't carry baking soda because it's sold at the pharmacies. (Although this package is from the Disco supermarket in Punta Carretas.)

Baking powder is easy to find. Notice the illustration on the bag-- it's a picture of another container. The package becomes the information.

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