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“I don’t remember my first visit to Central Park or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I do remember my first trip to Fairway,” Bianca Bosker wrote in 2020 of the grocery store in New York City.
My grandmother, who had been forced to flee her home in what was then Yugoslavia during World War II, had spent nearly two decades as a stateless person … Fairway, to her, was a place of surreal abundance. She could roll her black-metal grocery cart down the hill and roll it back up stuffed with old- and new-country fare: an Entenmann’s Danish ring, Kraš Napolitanke, Thomas’ English Muffins, Hungarian salami, panettone, hot dogs, ajvar, cornflakes. And the deals! She’d sit me down at the kitchen table and, beaming, haul out new brands of wafer cookies to marvel at how little she’d paid.
Bosker’s description of the supermarket “pilgrimage” she made with her family growing up has stuck with me. It’s a reminder of the expansive power of “mundane” activities, especially for people who appreciate them deeply. Supermarkets are full of everyday wonders, such as the steady availability of fresh produce—or a fantastic discount. They’re an opportunity for children to explore and learn about food (and about how not to crash into people in their kid-size carts). But they’re not free of issues of class inequality and consumer choice. Today’s newsletter is dedicated to the space of the supermarket, and how people behave within it.
On Grocery Stores
The Paradox at the Grocery Store
By Adam Fleming Petty
What people really need is less choice, not more.
The Indignity of Grocery Shopping
By J. Howard Rosier
Annie Ernaux examines the malaise of the modern supermarket.
The Pandemic Shows Us the Genius of Supermarkets
By Bianca Bosker
A short history of the stores that—even now—keep us supplied with an abundance of choices (From 2020)
One thing you won’t find at the grocery store, miraculous as it may be? The most American fruit.