Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


All lost in the supermarket

Filed under : Food,New York City,Stores
On May 4, 2006
At 10:23 pm
Comments : 20

A friend of mine in another city, a sometime reader of this blog, found it amazing when I told her I had access to butter from four countries. But I was wrong. Actually, as you can see at left, my local shop (it’s not exactly a grocery store; more on this later) has at least 14 kinds of butter from such dairy-rich nations as Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, England, and (let’s just go ahead and give them their own country already) Vermont. You can’t even see it because the Kosher food has its own section, but there’s also Israeli butter. Can I count Land O’Lakes as a land? I guess not. But the selection’s impressive, no?

So let’s have another “you live like this, we live like that” exposition. There are three places to get groceries in New York City. We’ll look at each.

The one you’re no doubt familiar with, as was I when I was growing up in the suburbs, is the supermarket. Right now you’re imagining a vast, clean, wide-aisled fairyland where the latest things that you see advertised on TV are available in every possible permutation. Think again. For starters, ours are much, much smaller, as well as dirtier, and if you can get your basket (don’t bother with a cart) past another person’s ass without knocking over a slew of tuna cans, count yourself lucky. By the way, there will only be two brands and maybe three varieties to knock over. If you see a commercial for something fun like “lemon dill tuna,” don’t bother looking, it won’t be there, and while you’re peering at the shelf someone will knock their basket into your ass.

Here’s an example of a “super” market. Like most supermarkets here, it’s in the base of an apartment building. Like many, it’s on two floors (another reason you can’t use a cart) and there’s an escalator. Some have an elevator. Some are all on a lower floor and you have to take an escalator down just to get to the food. This is a Food Emporium, an “upscale” market. By upscale, they mean overpriced. I wanted to take a picture of a Gristede’s, which is the dominant grocery store around here, but it was out of my way, and like most New Yorkers, I won’t walk more than four blocks for a grocery store (there are bags to carry home, you know).

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the bodega (bo-day-gah).

Bodegas are kind of like 7-Eleven or Wawa except instead of a fruity slushy drink, there are vitality-supplements from Asia. And, as you can see, flowers. Here, your need for milk and Sun Chips without walking more than 30 yards from your apartment or subway is met by the entrepreneurial-minded immigrant who has a mark-up that Apu at the Quick-E-Mart can only dream about. You can see the name of the bodega on the awning, “K&S Market,” but I would bet you no one who has ever shopped there knows that. I certainly didn’t. I, like everyone else, call it by some variation of “the bodega on the corner near the pizza place.”

In between these two extremes are various specialty and independent grocery stores. Some are just mini-supermarkets, some skew to the health conscious, and some, like the one where I got the butter, cater to a more gourmet clientele. Here it is below:

Yes, it’s called Barzini’s. Please insert your own Godfather/Five Families joke. Here’s mine: “I thought that place with 14 kinds of European butter was a dream, but I didn’t know until this day that it was Barzini’s all along.” Yes, OK, I’ll keep working on that.

Anyway, I know you’re wondering so I’ll tell you. I bought the Breakstone’s.

Title comes from…

The Clash-Lost In The Supermarket


20 Comments for this post

  1. Jane says:

    I notice you make no mention of the men available at your grocery store. Muwahahahaha…I win, no?

    I learn so much from you! And I love the music!

  2. Becca says:


    And of course you win! Your gourd is so much more attractive.

    But when you need that Danish butter, well, I have that one all wrapped up.

  3. steph318 says:

    See, out here in NoWheresville, I would have gotten arrested for possible terrorist activity for photographing the butter department. And it’s Land O’Lakes or the Safeway brand.

    Different worlds, man, different worlds. πŸ™‚

  4. jillmvs says:

    You can have your culture, your mass transit, your wide variation of people…Life without Wegmans is simply not worth living.

  5. Cranky says:

    I totally would have bought the Presidente.

    And I started singing the song the minute I opened your blog. Finally, some GOOD earworms.

  6. Becca says:

    Steph, I staked it out until there was no one in the vicinity. I wasn’t afraid of security; I was more worried about being humiliated in front of other customers. “Look at that weirdo taking pictures of the dairy case!”

    Jill, wait, I’ll trade! Waaaaitttt!
    PS, I would also trade for a Publix or a Giant.

    Cranky, I didn’t want to buy butter from those cheese-eating surrender monkeys. But The Clash, well, I’d eat their butter any day.

  7. steph318 says:

    I was thinking about that whole weirdo thing, Bec. πŸ™‚ Remember the guy that was arrested for photographing the Bay Bridge? I can just see the psychos around here saying, OMG! She’s photographing butter AND grocery stores! She’s definitely a terrorist planning to infiltrate the butter industry!

  8. steph318 says:

    I love the idea of a grocery store under an apartment building. Gives whole new meaning to “Hey, babe. I’ve got to run down to the store.”

  9. Becca says:

    I turned off the flash and luckily my camera is teeny-tiny, but I was sure I’d be escorted out of the store and banned forever. And I need butter!

    My building doesn’t have one, but that’s OK; fewer unwanted rodent and insect pals that way. πŸ˜›

  10. Jan says:

    I’m offended.

    I’m an almost-daily reader of this blog. I’d say 4 out 5 days.

    I mean, I can’t compete with Bob’s reading of it (or with her hair — lovely, BTW), but I’m still offended.

  11. Becca says:

    Bob’s been here 8 times today, not that, you know, I have any way of finding that out.

    But you’re right. That is good. OK, come down here and I’ll let you buy yourself dinner at Whole Foods.

    Or, even better, I’ll out you as the “friend from another city” mentioned in the first line of the post.

    I hope that wasn’t too embarrassing. Sorry.

  12. Jan says:

    Bob clearly doesn’t have a GDT addiction to deal with.

    How would I find the time to fake working, e-mail all day long, post on the GDT *and* visit your blog 8 times?

    I’m only one person, Bec!!!

  13. Becca says:

    That is a conundrum, Jan. Thank goodness I don’t have these kinds of dilemmas.

  14. Carey says:

    Your supermarket description is very similar to grocery stores I have been to European cities like Prague and Budapest. I have also experienced bumping baskets in the too tiny corner markets there.

    I haven’t been to NYC yet, but it is on my list. Do you have a favorite time of the year that would be nice to visit?

  15. Becca says:

    Carey, this is true. We really shop like they do, as in, we buy enough for a day or two and don’t really stock up on a lot of bulk items.

    This is a function of both not having cars in which to carry all the bags and very little storage space. But it results in cooking with lots of fresh ingredients and enables me to decide on anything I want for dinner, not just limiting myself to what’s in the pantry (if I had a pantry).

    Yes, come on over! Lots of people like Christmastime and it’s really magical then, but it can also be really expensive. You definitely don’t want to come in the summer as the heat, humidity, and crowds can be oppressive. So, I’d say Fall or Spring would give you the best combo of value-for-money and good weather. Have a good trip and don’t forget to pick up some butter!

  16. Charo says:

    I’ve never had a butter craving until today.

    I might have to leave work early.

  17. Becca says:

    Well, but Charo, that’s just the beginning. You still have to decide which country will be providing the butter.

  18. Teri says:

    Is that sliver of shelf above the butter filled with cheese? It looks like cheese to me. This picture can’t possibly have been taken in NYC.

  19. Becca says:

    Best comment day ever!

    Teri, no, no, it’s fat-free cheese, I’m sure, and that’s not really cheese.

    Tom, thanks! Anyone who has a blog all about teeth is fine by me.

Comments are closed.