At about 9 o’clock the other morning I found myself popping into the nearest supermarket for milk. Having grabbed a couple of litres I strolled up to the end of a big queue at the checkout, a queue populated largely by people with packets of Knorr, frozen mincemeat and prepacked vegetables.
Three minutes later I left the shop without any milk, partially because I had to be somewhere else and didn’t have time to queue, and partially because I had come to a sudden realisation.
Recently I have been hugely disturbed by the feeling that I might just be falling out of love with food. While I was waiting in a painfully slow line towards the checkout, I worked my way through a little mental checklist:
Do I still love eating food? ✔
Do I still love cooking food? ✔
and then the problem became clear:
Do I still love buying food? ✖
There it is then, I
have had become complete disenchanted with the act of shopping for food.
I don’t buy more than I have to in supermarkets, I buy vegetables and meat from greengrocers and butchers, but there are still far too many times when I find myself in this depressing queue, sniggering yet feeling saddened, by the crap the people in front of me are buying
A plan of action
Having come to this realisation and still being without milk (and having an eight year old who loves the stuff), I decide that a plan is needed. I have to do something to change my food shopping habits so that I can start to enjoy it again. It’s been a few years (and a few countries) since I really loved shopping for food, it is just that I haven’t noticed that something has been lacking until this particular morning.
So, a plan is needed, and preferably a radical one, something that will create real change and not just a temporary buying of milk in a different place. Something a bit extreme, maybe.
I’m not about to go on a big tirade about how supermarkets are evil, because they aren’t. I’m not about to launch into a vitriolic attack on big businesses taking away custom from family businesses, etc. I believe that supermarkets have their place, and that they are bloody useful actually, I’ve just decided that I am going to try and do all of my shopping without going to one.
Part One – The quest begins
Not surprisingly given the way that this whole episode started, my first problem lay with milk.
Meat you buy in a butchers, veg in a greengrocers, wine in a wine shop, etc. but where do you get milk? I ended up getting it in the butchers of all places, but I did pay almost 30 cents a litre more than I would of in the supermarket, which was a bit painful.
The second problem was in buying anything at all. I can wander up to the checkout in any supermarket with whatever cash I happen to have and not have a problem. My local little fruit and veg man on the other hand couldn’t change my €50 note, neither could the bakery just down the road from him. Temporarily thwarted I retreated home to look for small change and contemplate which shop might be able to break my fifty for me.
A few hours later I was out on my mission again. In the off license I picked up the first Spanish chardonnay that I’ve ever tasted, which is fantastic and cost no more than anything I might of grabbed in the smarket. In the grocers I spent 10 minutes discussing different varieties of orange and came away with a big bunch of fresh mint for free (since used for Moroccan tea). I bought green assam tea in the tea shop, and got beautiful fluffy warm baguettes from the bakery just down the road.
After siesta I went on the hunt for some olive oil, I’d planned to buy some fantastic locally produced oil in a vegetable shop that I know not too far away, but when I got there they didn’t have any of that wonderful honey-yellow goodness, so I ventured just across the road to a shop specialising in ‘productos ibericos’, where after a bit of a chat and tasting of a couple of different extra virgins I came away with something fantastic, with a very mellow start and a lovely bitter aftertaste.
In less than 12 hours I had realised what it was that I was missing about food, and had enjoyed my daily shopping more than I have for months or even years.
Coming soon: Part Two – The Juice Hunt