Sunday, August 2, 2009

Recreational food shopping.

The grocery list is an important communications tool in the Knitternall home. Each of us adds to it during the week, and I edit when I work on menus, check the pantry, and add essentials.

  • Chocolate syrup (please?)
  • Dishwasher stuff
  • Chocolate ice cream (please?)
  • TP!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Grown-up cereal ("grown-up" underscored several times)
  • Chicken piquant - 4 small chicken breasts, 2 lemons
  • Veggie bacon (2 points)
Depending on what's on the list, I head to Wal-Mart, Publix, or Kroger. Wal-Mart is first pick when we need lots of cleaning supplies and dog food. Way cheaper. Publix is my go-to store most weeks because it's close by and familiar. Kroger is less convenient, but has terrific sales on meat, poultry, and frozen foods. I visit Costco once a month for bulk items such as toilet paper and frozen chicken breasts. These shopping trips are straightforward, routine, and necessary. They've also become much more expensive lately.

People in Dunwoody like to talk about food shopping. They share special finds at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (the salmon! the oatmeal!), praise a Fresh Market crown roast that was both investment and indulgence, order their Thanksgiving smoked turkey at Olde Hickory House, and fret that a favorite goat cheese provider at the farmer's market won't have the special blend they love. The lemonade cake at Wright's Gourmet is a must-have for a teacher dessert buffet or church committee meeting. The creative people at Trader Joe's suggest combining this sauce with that chicken to create an affordable, easy, tasty dinner. A high protein cereal is out of stock at the natural foods store, to the dismay of its fans.

This sensory enjoyment of food shopping is a mark of our affluent culture, and a shock to visitors from other countries (and less affluent parts of America) where food is necessity, not recreation. Not everyone is comfortable with this affluence, hence the growth of backyard gardens, the local food movement, and interest in back-to-basics comfort food.

People seem to fall into two camps: planners and spontaneous shoppers. Undoubtedly, the planners save more money and always have what they need on hand. Spontaneous shoppers grab what looks good, have duplicates of things they forgot they had, and make multiple runs to the grocery store. One friend always shops on Sunday morning because it's quiet, less crowded, and she can calculate her spending and savings in peace. Another picks up dinner on the way home from work because she can't plan ahead whether the family will be together that evening.

I wonder what life would be like for all of us if we couldn't be planners or spontaneous . . . if the food we ate was the food we had. The answer isn't just in third world countries. Drive a few hours north, to the Cumberland Mountains region of Tennessee, for a taste of reality for many, many people.

Just thinking . . .

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