Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Corner Grocer

This afternoon I read a blog which made me realize how far the pendulum has swung for me in terms of grocery shopping in my adult life. The author was describing a new Harmon's Grocers which had opened up in her neighborhood. It has a huge deli, seating for 300 people, cooking classes, and more.

There was a time when I, too, shopped at fun grocery stores which intrigued the shopper. Back in the flying days, when I could wrangle a once-a-week trip to London, I formed my grocery list to accommodate a stop in at Sainsbury's and some of the local corner shops. Bubbles & Squeak, steak & kidney pies (before Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, aka Mad Cow Disease), wonderful curries, and teas.

Even before my trips to the UK, I had interesting marketing experiences while living in Egypt. There, I honed my skills at dealing in the black market for flour, learning when the chicken boat would arrive from Brazil, negotiating an agreeable price for veal (which the market man and I BOTH knew was really full-grown, adult {and tough} water buffalo), althewhile ignoring the fact that there was a cat or two or three licking the dripping blood off of the very-recently slaughtered carcass (a la Moslem tradition - the slaughtering, not the cats).

Back in the flying days when I had to pick up "hours" of flying. Some of those "hours" meant sitting in New York, waiting for a flight. I shared an apartment with some other flight attendants back then. Being a Midwesterner, I had no clue how people in New York City shopped for items. It was as foreign to me as shopping in Cairo or Europe. I would venture to bet that NYC has not changed its ways in 20 years, and still the customers are at the mercy of their corner grocer.

When I needed to pick up more hours in my flying years, I would bid for trips to Los Angeles. This was a boon for me, the young mother of two who now lived in Michigan. Not only did my kids grow up eating Bubble & Squeak while dressed in adorable Laura Ashley dresses (because Laura Ashley was always a stop in my weekly trips to London), they got to play in the snowy north and then come into the kitchen and snack on almonds fresh from the trees, and fresh fruit that we might not readily have in the great white north. I didn't pick Los Angeles trips just for the groceries, but it was a perk to a working mother to be able to knock off one "chore" while on a trip, and thereby having that job crossed off my list when I arrived back home. I realized that I must have looked interesting, leaving the plane with the rest of the flight crew, with grocery bags stacked on top of my crew kit. But think - I worked my week's hours, and got in the grocery shopping for the coming week, sans kids, and who in their right mind wants to grocery shop with two toddlers? Talk about a win-win-win.

Most flying schedules were monthly. If I bid for a destination for the following month, it meant I would have 4-5 trips there, in four weeks. So, when I bid for Spain, it meant great seafood (Barcelona) and leather shopping (Madrid), plus a trip to
El Corte Inglés for groceries for that week. Hola Paul! Hola bebés! Would you like some paella?

Rome. I don't recall where I shopped in Rome, but I do remember the pastas and the wines that I would bring home. I think I was more interested in the history and art - I do love that place - but that's when I learned "my" lasagne recipe, after researching many
ristoranti.

And now, back in the US, and here in rural Kansas. Huh. What a change. Twelve miles out of town, and I have developed a fairly good organization of household and grocery maintenance. Not foolproof - I have had the odd needs of calling a neighbor for something, but for the most part, I do quite well. Quite well, or do without, I suppose. This week, that Spouse o' Mine was out of town. Today, I really, REALLY wanted pizza. Pizza from a pizza joint is off my list of healthies, and so I made my own. It felt odd, making it midday and all by my lonesome, but I wanted pizza. If it were on my list of healthies it would still be a 24-mile drive away. So I pulled out the yeast and flour and pizza stone and went to work.

And so, here is my experience with groceries.

Fun and work, work and fun.


2 comments:

Gill said...

The chicken boat from Brazil?

What a fun way to shop each week.

Melissa said...

What a terrific way to get the grocery shopping done when your kids were little! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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