Apparently I have raised a supermarket snob — Gill. Although, having said that, L’il Sis and Crazy D also qualify with their insistence on buying organic, free-range, non-doped up, happily euthanized meats and pampered produce. But I was somewhat surprised that Gill was so picky about supermarkets — what with her love of strange and often rotting Chinese fruit and generally sketchy markets (the sketchier the better)…up to and including the butcher she found in a parking garage near her London flat.
Her latest move in Bristol completed, she decided to fill her almost-but-not-quite full -sized North American style refrigerator, with food from the local supermarket. Crushed when she discovered it was not a Sainsbury’s but rather an ASDA, she nevertheless ventured forth. There was no choice. She likens ASDA to Walmart and has a visceral antipathy to buying food in such a down-market establishment.
“But lots of people buy food from Walmart,” I argued. “We even had dinner with friends who cooked us delicious steaks from there. Perfectly fine…”
“Yeah, if you like plastic!” Gill vented. “Those stores smell like plastic…and dirty feet.”
“Well, I’m sure all the food comes from the same warehouse.” I pointed out. “And the same farms. Do you really think the farmer is going to separate the cows in his fields so the ones with green tags are for Sobey’s, the red ones for Loblaws, the blue ones for Walmart? I don’t think so. And if grocery stores can sell furniture, appliances and clothing in addition to food, I guess Walmart can sell food.”
“Well, I bought a chicken at ASDA, “she continued. “It was like those special sale, scrawny chickens you once bought from The Store That Shall Remain Nameless and took back…they were science chickens and looked creepy. This chicken I bought also looked creepy — the meat had a weird texture…very un-meat like.I couldn’t eat it.”
“Well, this from the girl who eats her chicken with a microscope and scalpel, looking for veins and cartilage to discard. I can’t recall one poultry meal I’ve cooked that you haven’t tried to dissect…up to and including the $75 organic Christmas turkey.”
“It wasn’t just the chicken. The produce aisle was bad…that was the part that smelled like a gym locker. It reminded me of the sketchy market inToronto that we used to frequent–the one where all the prostitutes hung out– when we were desperate for food. It was where salmonella and listeria went to prosper and propagate. I may be a snob, but I’m past that now. I’m nearly 40…I have standards! Having scurvy does that to a person.” (For those readers who missed that episode, Gill came down with scurvy during her first year at university…and yes, I know, it was eradicated centuries ago. Gill is and has always been ‘special’.)
“Of course you do, dear. Well, since you live in a smaller city near the sea, perhaps you will be able to find some small markets — fishmongers, vegetable stands, you know. Like the Mennonite farmers we have here.
“Oh, you’re making me homesick, Ma! I love the smell of fresh manure in the morning, the sound of the Mennonite horses clip-clopping along the roads, the scent of fresh fritter oil wafting over the market. And Mr. Martin, my favorite Old Order vendor. His maple syrup is to die for.”
“Well, you paint a rosy picture, dear. But everything changes eventually. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven by the local Tim Horton’s and haven’t been able to find parking because the Mennonite buggies got there first! They love Timmy’s donuts. And there are always Old Order buggies at Walmart. The Mennonites are smart business people and they know a bargain when they see it. And they know how we, the yuppie suburbanites, are suckers for ‘kitsch’. I swear, if they dressed their chickens up in black bonnets and aprons, we’d buy them in droves just to get the ‘authentic’ experience, no matter how ridiculous it seemed. As I’ve often said, I’ve been eating regular, non-organic, hormone-filled, drug laden food for my entire life and I’m still standing…sort of. Just close your eyes, plug your nose and go to ASDA. You’re a strong person.You’ll be fine.”