I knew grocery stores would be an issue. They always are. Because I am a grocery store junkie. I love grocery shopping the way some people love sudoku. Like "We need milk?! I'll go! Please.......ME! I'll do it!" When Liam was a baby, Mike and I would get in huge fights because he would notice that we were out of milk and then gallantly take it upon himself to fulfill the task without being asked. That really chapped my hide! I also used to get mad at him for mowing the lawn but that had more to do with equal parenting "opportunities" (picture a greasy-haired woman in a bathrobe standing at the window with an infant on her hip........you can't hear her over the roar of the mower but you think you see her mouthing the words "GET IN HERE AND TAKE THIS DAMN BABY!").
I don't love the historic concept of grocery shopping - two hours every Saturday humping it through the aisles filling two carts crossing off your coupons for Steak Umms and Pepsi Light with two kids in tow one of whom is begging for Captain Crunch and the other just begging to go home. No. Why torture yourself like that? Just give everyone a fiver and say "Bon appetit, family. You're on your own."
Food is good. It's yummy. It sustains life. It can be really beautiful. Why do we have to have to reduce it to such drudgery? I love the aesthetic experience of it all; the colors, the smells, the recipes, the artful interiors, the happy farmers, the elderly Lutheran ladies offering me samples and the adorable retired gentlemen who chat with me as they load my groceries in my car. I want to shop at a place with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and soft carpeting under foot. I want to shop in a place where people smile and say "Look at the starfruit!" - not shuffle along in their slippers with a ciggy hanging out of their mouth. If I'm going to devote such a significant amount of my precious time to this necessary task, don't you think I deserve that?
Obviously, I'm not talking about your average American superstore. Within 10 minutes of my old house in Minneapolis, I had 4 grocery stores that fit this description AND a Trader Joe's AND a Whole Foods AND my neighborhood natural foods co-op (which was not your mother's 1970's co-op where everyone smelled like patchouli and volunteered once a month in exchange for bulgur). Within 10 minutes of my old house, there were also 3 or more soul-sucking superstores........where I could save a lot of money. And cry.
But Kristin, you seem like such a woman of the people......why such a snob about groceries?
The short answer was mentioned previously; food acquisition is a necessary task that takes significant time and energy so I would like it to ADD to my happiness - not reduce me to slippers and a ciggy.
But here's the long answer:
When I was a poor graduate student at the University of North Carolina (go Heels!), I longed to shop at The Wellspring Market or Foster's Market (of the Foster's Market Cookbook fame). But I was frugal. Which was lucky. Because I was poor. Participating -in- medical- experiments poor. So I shopped at the two local superstores. Food Lion and - I'm not lying about this......the Harris Teeter. Which we, of course, called The Hairy Peter. My friend Alison called it the Hairy Tit but that was too gritty for me. Either way, The Hairy Peter really did feel like shopping in the crotch of the grocery store world.
I was such a loser that I saved my grocery shopping for Friday nights - woo hoo! I didn't realize how pathetic this was until my roommate gave me a message after I got home one night: "Oh by the way, Mike called. I told him you were probably grocery shopping. Because that's what you do on Friday nights." Ouch. Hearing it out loud made me think seriously about accepting that invitation to the Library Science Student Social Club.
But then something happened that would change my grocery shopping behavior forever; a special edition of Prime Time Live with Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson. The episode exposed the seedy, unsanitary underbelly of the supermarket world. And where did they do their undercover investigating? Hmmmm?
FOOD LION! And not just any Food Lion! MY FOOD LION! The actual, physical store that I patronized!
In addition to your run-of-the-mill "wipe your ass and then unpack the apples" transgressions, Food Lion employees were caught in dozens of disgusting, dangerous and really creative practices all in the name of getting consumers to buy crap. Including pouring BBQ sauce over expired meat and then repackaging with a new expiration date. Thank god I couldn't afford meat!
My first reaction: a little bit of throw up in my mouth. My next reaction was like Scarlet O'Hara frantically eating the carrot she pulled from Tara's soil......."AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, I WILL NEVER SHOP AT A CRAPPY GROCERY STORE AGAIN!"
And Minneapolis completely supported me in this pledge. With it's Lutheran sample ladies and chandeliers and its huge variety of goat's milk products.
So now that I live in the real world and not grocery store nirvana, what am I supposed to do? On the one hand, this is New Hampshire; aren't there lots of happy farmers and happy cows and happy chickens here? And happy vegans for that matter? Shouldn't that translate into happy grocery stores and happy farmer's markets? Or does corporate greed and the farm bill have a greater influence over my choices?
Stay tuned and I'll keep you updated.