Monday, December 10, 2007

Consumer Heaven

Last Wednesday a new market opened in my neighborhood. There are three Oliver's in the county now, and this one is only .9 miles from my home.

I'd been apprehensive about this, considering it an elitist sort of place, with too many things I don't need at prices I can't afford. But because they have local food and it's within walking distance, I've been practicing getting over my reverse snobbery at one of the other two.

What I had learned was that if I shopped for seasonal produce and specials it would not be so bad. Then I learned that if you shop before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and if you are an older person, you get a 10% discount. This began to look pretty good.

I went on opening day, stopping by on my way back from errands farther afield. The store felt like the casinos in Reno did when a senior tour busload had just been decanted. And it was jammed. Difficult to park, difficult to get around, difficult to see many things. I did have the pleasure though of running into some acquaintances from southern California who retired up this way a decade or so ago. I learned that the crabs - first of the season - were from Crescent City, and just by ducking down a less crowded aisle or two, I saw items on sale I never would have thought of at a high end market - like cat food. I also felt covetousness beginning to kick into gear... As my neighbor said - it was hard to get out of there without wanting everything in the store.

On Sunday, realizing I was out of cheesecloth in which to wrap fruitcakes for storage, and needing some exercise, I walked over for a second visit. More pleasant surprises: local tortillas on sale, local honey available in bulk, coupons and samples of local goat's milk yogurt. And the unbleached cheesecloth was cheaper than the bleached - imagine! Usually when less has been done to an item in the market, it costs more.

(They still didn't have any dried pears - see my entry of December 2 - but I had managed to get some at a fruit stand in the west county in the meantime - so the fruitcakes are done and swaddled.)

The saddest part of this trip was that even on the afternoon of a crystal clear 60 degree day I saw only one other pedestrian in my half-hour of walking. I am thrilled to have a place I can walk to that feels like a food field trip, and this is not exactly a low density neighborhood. Why isn't everybody out there on the streets, exercising and grocerizing?

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