For most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers. I think I'm still one, minus the hunter part.
For most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers.
I think I'm still one, minus the hunter part.
In a recent conversation with a couple of other women about where we do our shopping, I realized I get my food from way too many sources.
I go to a certain discount shopping club to purchase their very good French bread, their frozen bean burgers and a handful of other items not available at all elsewhere. I don't save any money by going there, and I couldn't do all my shopping there, but I occasionally save enough money on a specialty item to make it worth the membership.
I go to an out-of-town Asian grocery store a few times a year to get a certain type of aged basmati rice that only that store carries, plus other oddball ingredients regular grocery stores don't have.
I shop at pretty much every grocery store in town at some point or another.
Whatever I can get at the no-frills, bag-your-own discount store, I get. Basic staples like potatoes, onions, carrots, sugar, cooking oil, yogurt, bagged salads and, oddly, German specialty foods fill my cart every week. But that place doesn't carry everything I need either.
One large national chain store is the only store around that carries the "chicken" and "beef" products the resident vegetarians favor. I try to buy enough to last all month while I'm there.
Another chain store is close to my house and I go there any time I'm out of something and need it quick.
Another chain store is one I don't really like to visit, but it's the only place to find a specific type of granola we eat daily.
Then there's Community Service Agriculture. We joined a CSA last spring and got a package of whatever produce was in season for half the year. Everything was high-quality, fresh, delicious and healthy. It meant buying very little produce anywhere else, but we still had to hit the grocery stores for non-produce items.
There's a place just outside of town where we buy organic, free-range, scrumptious eggs, paying twice what we'd pay at any chain store. We also buy locally produced organic, hormone-free milk there, again paying a big premium.
If you're counting, that's eight places I visit on a more or less regular basis. Your average native woman gathering her food with a digging stick and a basket probably put less time and effort into feeding her family than I do.
Why do I do this?
Good question. If there were any one place that met all my needs, I'd go there. But there isn't. Of course plenty of people manage to do without aged basmati rice, soy sauce made in China, and green curry paste. Others are content with pesticide-laden produce, and don't particularly care if the bland eggs they eat are laid by chickens that are confined to cages.
But we want to support the local lady who lets her chickens run around outside, the dairy that raises its cows in a way I approve of, and the farmer who grows produce sustainably. Even though the majority of the stuff we buy is still produced in God-knows-what manner God-knows-where, we like that we're doing what we can.
But the shopping eats up so much time that I'd probably be ahead to buy and operate my own small farm.
Or just start foraging for roots and berries.
If I could just figure out where to forage for aged basmati rice, I might do it.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at email@example.com.