I live in the Fort Greene, which is a coveted Brooklyn neighborhood offering accessible transportation, delicious restaurants and fun bars. It’s a place where many things are remarkably easy. You can buy designer vintage clothing at a bargain. You can walk into any restaurant after 3 p.m. and order eggs complete with a cocktail served in a mason jar. While I appreciate the many simple luxuries at my disposal, a breezy visit to the supermarket is not one of them.
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, my family cooked dinner most nights and we all sat down at the table together. Every weekend we wrote a long grocery list, then we all drove down to the Acme, Shop Rite or Path Mark – sometimes all the above, depending on who had the best price – to get everything we needed for our weekly meals. Shopping involved a leisurely stroll down the produce aisle, a stop at the deli counter to sample cheese. It was easy and accessible to purchase items at competitive prices, and because so, the fridge and pantry were fully stocked.
The old family routine hardly compares to how I shop for groceries now. There is one supermarket within reasonable distance from my apartment. (The closest alternatives, according to Google, are The Food Pyramid about a two-mile hike from my apartmen, or the Family Dollar store, which is hardly a full-service grocery store). Most days the supermarket scene is crowded and chaotic. Most days I feel lucky to leave with all limbs intact. Still, my boyfriend and I tread the 5-6 blocks with our trusted “granny cart” about once a week for necessary items like pasta, OJ, toothpaste and laundry detergent. We have a list. We get what we need. We get the hell out.
Like that of most Brooklyners and their Manhattan neighbors, my tiny kitchen survives via an assortment of mini-grocers, bodegas and nearby gourmet specialty shops. There is one on every corner, each with a steady stream of people shuffling through on any given weekday evening. These are places where urban dwellers can shop one dish at a time. This style of shopping lacks the competitive prices and variety but provides the convenience and leisure that’s missing from urban supermarkets. There is also the opportunity to spontaneously purchase gourmet brands and exotic products.
Last week I stopped in for a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and left with an additional pint of pistachio-flavored gelato. The gelato never would have gotten my attention at the supermarket, although I am now certain I cannot (at least for the summer) live without it.