Monday, July 31, 2006

To Market

Julie from A Finger in Every Pie had a deep, thought provoking post about grocery stores, local food, and consumer tradeoffs when it comes to purchasing. It's really very good and if you want to read it yourself-here's the link:

Personally, I relish a little wrestling with my own conscience (works up an appetite). I did manage to absorb her points and I would like to expand on what she says in a way that will sound very spoiled. To soften the blow, I would like to preface the post with Thank God I have a choice in anything-much less where I eat, what I eat, and who I buy from. I am privileged beyond reason just to be alive and live where I live.

Now-on to the elitist snobbery:

For five years we lived in a small town-close to everything but not really anywhere on it's own. When we first moved there, it was nigh impossible to get any produce that wasn't cardboard. Tomatoes bought in the summertime were shipped from Canada. Why would southerners prefer tomatoes shipped from Canada? I mean no ill-will to Canadians and appreciate the exchange rate when necessary. However, a tomato that can be shipped from anywhere is unrelated to a tomato that that tastes like the sun. So produce was difficult to source but you could always grow it yourself. Sorry, I'm digressing rapidly into a discussion of produce quality.

Want specialty meats or breads? Ethnic ingredients? Wine? Organic? How about just unprocessed? Forget it. Out of necessity (my definition), I began shopping at multiple grocery stores. My weekly shopping grew into an all out planned assault. I would shop locally for as much as possible-staples, household supplies, canned and frozen veggies. Then, I would drive 40 minutes to a wholesale warehouse for diapers, meat, snacks. On the way home, I would spend the best part of the day at a specialty market. Or two.

Our small town grew while we were there and the shopping got better. The ethnic foods in particular increased by a hundredfold-especially things with Latin flare. It is now possible to find jalepenos and organic milk in the most upscale grocery store in town. Now that I've moved, my local grocery store stocks most items-including organic, ethnic, specialty, and reasonably decent produce. However, I realized while reading Julie's post that I still visit a minimum of 3 food markets a week. Hmmmm......

I am also reading Jamie's Kitchen: A Cooking Course for Everyone ( The opening chapter is about how to shop. He recommends telling the vendor when the display is just not up to par.

All of these influences led to a convergence in my brain. Why don't you see reviews on markets or grocery stores? It's not that much different than a restaurant. For me it's probably more important than restaurant reviews. I might visit a restaurant once a week. A new restaurant-once a month max. But imagine if a foody recommended a grocery store to you. Told you all the highlights (and lowlights). Part of shopping is the experience, the possibilities, and ultimately the choice. You might see a grocery post soon!


ec said...

Where are you getting the time to read blogs that are that long? It's summer! Go outside.

I would love to see your grocery/market reviews. It is a fantastic idea. Keep them short, my winter attention span won't be here for months! ec

Anonymous said...

Yes, why are there not posts or reviews on grocery stores. They are just as if not more important than those of resturants or local hang outs. You should critic the store manager when a display is just making you want to buy a product or products. Why also would you not haggel on price for foods. It is done every where else in the world except the US. You do this for cars, houses, bigger ticket items and such so why not even for food. Try dinning out in Europe and haggle with the waiter for the price of you lunch or dinner. Find out what happens. You might be amazed. I would like to say that I have done these things with the traveling abroad that I have not done. I have a few friends that have done so though. I have family that tell me about it in Eastern Europe. Got off on tangent about price of food. Soory, but while the price and reviewing of foods are important I think the one thing that will always make us inquisative about a food is how it looks. Presentation is a key factor in food making, and more impressivly important the EATING.


Davesgirl said...

Ahhhh, what a wonderful idea. I hate shopping at certain grocery stores and many just don't understand. I would love to write a review for you about the Trader Joes coming to Cary.

ec said...

Still waiting on those grocery reviews...Maybe it's the old timey sphincter girl in me but I like the layout to be rows...up and down rows..that's it, just rows...except for the produce area striving to be a little market-ish...I want the rest of the store to be well labled rows. That grocery we stopped by had cluttered up and down rows and some sideways rows and some wide ones and some narrow ones...very disorienting. I couldn't tell you whether or not they had a good selection of things as I had a hard time finding what I needed. e