Grocery shopping in New Orleans

Last year I started doing a tour of some of the farmers markets considered best in the country by various sources: Austin, San Francisco, Montpelier, New Orleans, and of course, New York.

I love learning about a place by checking out what grows locally, what people eat there, how they shop and generally how it’s the same or different from what I’m used to.

Though it wasn’t a farmers market trip, I got some of that same insight last night when John and I made our first trip to a big, strip-mall grocery store in New Orleans.

This isn't even all the rice and beans at Rouses. It's just what I could capture in the frame.

I have never seen more rice and beans in my life. Mark Bittman would have been so proud of the variety in both rice and beans. (Although he’d probably be happier if more of the rice were brown instead of white.)

And the equipment and spices and such for crawfish boils? Both impressive and offputting. If I were going to do my first boil, I think I’d stand there paralyzed by the options unless family or friends showed me the way.

I love eating but I also love the insight food gives to culture. And when a big, corporate-looking grocery store serves up an amazing array of hot sauces, some of which I’ve never heard of, and multiple options of muffaletta olive salad, I feel like I could tell you where I am even without leaving the store.

What brand of crawfish boil do you like? Do you want the pro boil? What size container? They have you covered.

What does your favorite grocery store say about your local culture?

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Categories: food and drink, lifestyle

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6 replies

  1. I notice this in what counts as “big” grocery stores in our neighborhood. Associated on Fifth Ave. and, to an even greater degree, Steve’s C-Town on Ninth Street carry a lot of food for Mexican/Latin cuisine: Pozole, plantains, cactus leaves, yuca root, all manner of tortillas, chiles, moles, etc. So at first glance they look like any other big grocery store, but upon closer inspection you get a sense of the customers they’re catering to. I wonder if this is part of why most grocery store chains are local or regional, but not national: to easily adjust to the local palate.

  2. well, you MUST learn the phrase “makin’ groceries” that’s how we always said it in NOLA. It come from the French ‘faire’ (to do, to make) and there was even a great commercial from the 70’s “makin’ groceries Schweggman’s stlye” that was just part of our growing up there!

    http://www.old-new-orleans.com/NO_Schwegmann.html

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62681176056

    There are some awesome things about shopping in NOLA, and the fact that you can find alligator meat, frozen crawfish tails etc. in the ‘icebox’ is a testament to our culture. “Makin’ groceries’ was a weekly adventure and yes, sometimes that would include crab ‘berl’, hot sauce, french bread and of course beer/wine/liquor…

    “Makin’ groceries baby!”

    (let me know if you want me to hook you up with ALL of my NOLA peeps”

    • Lenny,

      After five years in New York, I still feel like a faker when I say “soda” instead of “pop” so a few weeks is unlikely to be enough to convincingly say “makin’ groceries.”

      BUT it’s a great local phrase. Where else do you hear that?

      Now that I am back in the land of the living,I hope to hear more of how people talk here and pick up on those great local phrases.

      Colleen

      And of course we’d love to meet your friends!

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