For the love of groceries

Grocery shopping, the most basic and primitive of chores, has become one of my favorite things to do. From selecting vegetables to comparing pasta, from finding a deal to discovering an unneeded treat, everything about grocery shopping is exhilarating to me. It’s like a new hobby.

Grocery storeIt sounds lame. But I was actually excited to grocery shop today. Like, I penciled it in as something I wanted to do in my spare time, a treat for myself, like searching for pumps is for a shoeoholic or books for an avid reader.

Since our local HyVee has moved to larger domains, the experience has become more of a melting pot of Sioux Falls’s population. You see every piece of the community, coming together in one common area. Everyone needs food, and the cheapest place to get food is at the grocery store.

This microcosm of the city is something rarely seen anywhere else. You don’t get this at a clothing store or restaurant, or even at many of the nation’s larger retailers; these stores are specialized for a specific demographic, so clientele is rarely as diverse as the city itself. In fact, sometimes it’s even hard to find at the grocery stores – after all, one group typically shops at Byerly’s, another at Whole Foods, another at Cub, etc.

But at Sioux Falls’s largest grocery store, and during a time of no farmer’s market, this is the place to be if you want to be seen by every slice of the city’s lifeblood.

You could be seen several times, if you work things right. Run the aisles in an opposite direction as a fellow shopper, and you’re almost sure to run into them again and again. Come around the corner – there you are again! The same woman, the same child, the same groceries. Eventually, you know nearly everything about that person based solely on the food they consume – their likes, their dislikes; everything.

And the aisles themselves are packed with choices. Lovely, wonderful choices. Sure, you’ll never have a need for 99% of the groceries in the typical supermarket. Yet, there they are, surely being purchased by someone, their stock rotated in and out on a weekly basis. Who buys clam juice? Who considers 100-year eggs a delicacy? Who in their right mind takes home 15 pounds of pre-made deli mashed potatoes?

Someone. That’s who.

Make a plan ahead of time, though. Going into a grocery store aimlessly leads to confusion and over-stimulation. You can’t shop and think on the fly – the acts are utterly contradictory, one focused and pointed, the other public and wasteful. But make a plan ahead of time, and you’re home free, open to revel in the idea of choosing the chili-flavored olive oil or Nacho Cheese Hamburger Helper without actually pulling the trigger.

The grocery store is a mix of cultures. It’s a window into the world, a world joined together by eating. Everything, from basic egg bake to gastronomical wonder, begins at the grocery store, and everyone begins their meal not at the table or at the stove but in these hallowed halls. It’s one place where every sense is used, where tasting and smelling and touching are as sacred shopping necessities as sight.

Think about that the next time you go to the grocery store. It’s not a chore. It’s an adventure. And what an adventure it is.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 16th, 2008