I come from a long line city-folk who didn’t grow their own food but went grocery shopping. Daughter of a mayor, my grandmother’s city-slicker skills included being a professional singer and weaseling out of traffic tickets. Once when pulled over she asked the cop his name. “My, that’s a nice Italian name!” she said. “Italians are such lovely singers. I bet you have a wonderful voice.” He waved her on.
She knew the rules. Wherever she went, she wore dresses and heels, put up her hair and put on a hat, a necklace and fitted gloves, even for her daily trip to the grocery store. At age 65 she thought she was too young to be called “grandma” and wanted us to call her by her first name, Jo.
Mom was the opposite, in her Hepburn-style slacks and tenor voice unlike Jo’s soprano. When we kids were home Saturdays supposedly doing chores, Mom would disappear all morning and return with sturdy brown paper bags full of groceries. We’d find her unloading sodas, cookies and ice cream. She’d find us messing around and would complain we didn’t help out enough. In fact, she complained so much that I felt sorry for her. Being an obtuse kid, I associated her Saturday morning blues with her trips to the grocery store.
But years later I learned that although Mom couldn’t sing and schmooze like Jo, she’d inherited Jo’s love for grocery shopping. She finally revealed she’d always relished fleeing from our chaos and entering a sanctuary of neat and orderly aisles, bright and cheery shelves and friendly and smiling faces.
I’ve inherited this city-folk way. Even during winter when pondering places to rack up miles on a walk, I consider food markets. There are plenty to choose from if you have a car, each with its own characteristics. An indoor farmers market since 1852, Findlay Market is full of surprises. A local chain that was sold to its employees decades ago hires some of the slowest, sweetest, oldest people I’ve ever seen in retail. It’s big, never crowded and easy to get in a few miles. A smaller Midwest chain that resembles an indoor farmer’s market and a local market that began as a community co-op are both big enough for a mile or so if you keep circulating. Fresh Market and Whole Foods are good for meandering but at a slower place. The two organic food stores aren’t even big enough for a little walk.
I warmed up to the biggest grocery store of all after I heard my friend from India say that soon after arriving here she was on the phone trying to describe where she was. She turned, saw the big sign with its big blue K and relayed that she was at “K – Roger”. Kroger has since built a 100K square foot store where it’s easy to add up miles just looking for olive oil and trying to find the exit.
When it’s raining and cold, my neighbors go across the street to an oily, dank parking garage which seems to me like undoing any health benefits gained by walking.
It’s true, once upon a time I grew enough produce to process tomatoes and apples and cucumber pickles and dried beans. Must’ve been my rebellious phase.