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