I drove into Denver today for a doctors appointment. On the way back my husband Alex and I decide to stop at Costco. It’s not that far out of town but it’s still easier mentally to make the trip out to a box store when it’s on the way from somewhere. As someone who identifies as a prepper Costco is one of my favorite places.
I didn’t have anything specific in mind that I wanted (other than a few winter preparedness items), Alex and I just like walking the aisles of Costco. I worked in retail for many years so I enjoy seeing what brands have convinced the king of American retailing to stock their products. Because of their unique stocking and sales methodology it’s almost always an adventure.But it’s also a fairly good indication of where taste is at in America.
America is ready for the holidays if Costco is any indication. Despite it being the second week of November it was decked out in full holiday season merchandising. And not just peppermint bark (which I bought) and colored lights. Costco thinks we want a gourmet Christmas. We saw an entire truffle packaged with a grater. We saw entire cured Spanish hams. We saw tins of caviar stocked in the cheese aisle for $50.
I always wondered if the story of Khrushchev knowing the Soviets has been beaten when he toured a grocery was apocryphal. Apparently no one knows for sure if the visit happened. But it is true that supermarkets only exist in their modern form because America subsidized the farming and agriculture system as part of a farm arms race against the Soviets.
As amazing as a supermarket is it can be a bit horrifying to visit an American grocery store. Fresh markets that focus on meats, dairy and vegetables always feel like a race against time. Using traditional retailing methods of completely filled aisles bursting with perfect merchandise shouldn’t work when the product was once a living thing. And yet that’s exactly what we have. It’s astonishing the variety of items we stock in an American grocery. That we subsidize and allow for food waste when we still have hunger seems a grave injustice. We have food deserts. And yet our grocery stores are full.
Costco only sells in bulk so it’s mostly given over to packaged foods and dry goods. If you want fresh food you better be prepared to buy several pounds of it. I bought 2 lbs of blueberries. It’s going to be a challenge to eat it all before it goes bad.
Given that most of the news has been focused on the current supply chain crisis it felt odd to stand in a store surrounded by incredible luxury. Maybe it was the calm before the store. I did go on a Tuesday so maybe it has just been restocked after a busy weekend. Maybe folks just aren’t ready to buy their gourmet foods for the holidays yet.