The Ritual of Grocery Shopping at Migros in My Grandmother’s Swiss Village

I’ve been visiting my grandmother in Unterägeri, almost an hour outside Zurich, for as long as I can remember. Visits to the quiet village inevitably include blissfully uneventful weekends spent playing rummy on the terrace punctuated by the thrill of ritual trips to the local supermarket.

To me, getting under a city’s skin begins and ends with a grocery store. I’ve wrestled throngs of tourists at Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge to reach a Coop and, while Tokyo may have a constellation of Michelin stars, my not–to–be missed culinary experience was the refrigerated onigiri at 7–Eleven. Still, there is no supermarket closer to perfection, and no travel routine more enriching than shopping at the Migros in my grandmother’s village.

Migros was founded in 1925 as a series of mobile supermarkets operating out of Ford Model Ts in and around Zurich. Today, it’s Switzerland’s largest retailer, with more than 700 fixed locations.

I walk the familiar route along the lake to the local outpost and roam the aisles, intoxicated by Swissness. Here, package designs are pleasingly minimalist, the dairy products are adorned with dirndl–wearing alpine belles and the chocolate assortment is staggering.

September 25, 2019
An illustration of a hand reaching for a plus sign shaped shopping back on a red background

Most of the food items are produced by the retailer, so it’s hard to find them outside Switzerland. The lady at the checkout raises an eyebrow at my haul. Packets of flädlisuppe (clear beef broth with strips of savoury pancake) and mostbröckli (a cured beef, somewhere between prosciutto and jerky). I buy potato chips in every country I visit, but there’s nothing quite like the Migros–brand Farm Chips: thick, crisp but not too crisp, with a dusting of rosemary.

It’s a quick trip this time. My grandmother is waiting and I get my impatience from her. I swing by the in–store florist to buy her a bouquet before returning along the lake for another game of rummy. When I’m back home in London and tear into a package of chocolate (made with real alpine milk), I always feel closer to my Swiss experience, and to her. For now, I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed (vacuum–packed rösti, perhaps?), but I know I’ll get another chance before boarding my return flight – the Migros at Zurich Airport is huge.