Categories
Emotional Work

Day 487 and Grocery Stores

I love settling into a new home by going grocery shopping. I’ve had the opportunity to be in a new city for an extended period twice now this year. And each time the joy I’ve taken in going to pick up groceries is palpable. Going shopping for food is my happy place.

I’m in Bozeman with dear friends and one of them noticed just how excited I was for the grocery run. We had a mostly empty fridge and I made a beeline to the nicest grocery store in town. It was a hybrid fancy yuppie grocery wrapped inside a big box grocery store. It’s a chain local to the pacific and mountain west called Rosaurs. I highly recommend it.

A grocery store is a powerful space. I’ve written before about my love for the American grocery store. I think it’s unique in its position as a functional and emotional retail space. It needs enough structure and repeatable patterns that anyone can shop a store and have an intuitive sense of where the basics are merchandised. But grocery relies on novelty and newness as much as any other retail store for driving order size and additional Martin.

The presentation of new brands and new products is fraught. The need to display something new competes against the need for repeatability and ease of locating core items in grocery. Grocery can be seen as human nature reflecting core tensions as it balances desire and safety. We yearn to feel nurtured by food but also crave to be stimulated by new tastes.

I spent an hour and a half wandering the aisles filling out my grocery list. I had done meal planning and had specific needs for the weeks meals. But I am also an inveterate shopper looking to feel excited by what was on the shelves.

To this day that I can look at any item in the store and buy it remains a surprise to me. It’s a luxury that never fails to delight me. If I want to get something I can. There is no budget or restriction on me like I remember as a small child. And yet I still couldn’t bring myself to buy a full size Turmeric spice jar. Reflecting back childhood emotions I didn’t even realize I had. A small reminder of how much seemingly mundane acts like grocery shopping can reflect much bigger things.

Categories
Politics Preparedness

Day 313 and American Grocery

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.

An entire Spanish Serrano ham for $99 at Costco

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.