The Way to Shop

posted in: Ruminations | 6

I meant to mention this cute article that was in the NY Times a week or so ago called “In Search of Grocery Gems.”  In it, the author Julia Moskin discourses on a full cart-sized selection of packaged food products, finding most of them to be unsatisfactory, unhealthy, but a few of them, “gems.” 

Moskin does an admirable job of filtering out items with high fructose corn syrup and dismissing them–some surprising culprits including most of the cracker shelf.  The items that she applauds, however, such as McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, Walker’s Shortbread, and Rao’s Tomato Sauces, are surely not surprises to any New York gourmand.  In the end, I’m left with a cautionary tale: trust no one, and you get what you pay for. 

I enjoyed this article because I think it defines a culture of fear that New Yorkers, especially the eaty-outy ones, have toward their local grocery stores.  As if examining its products were a dangerous task, one to be left to experts, and buying groceries alone were a last resort, not easily trusted.  The way she dissects these products reminds one of taking stock of evidence at a crime scene.  

I’m sure there will be a direct correlation between the sales of Morkin’s recommended products and the aftermath of the article.  Even I’m tempted to spend $8 on one jar of Rao’s sauce if it’s supposedly worth it, and I don’t even buy jarred sauce, only canned tomatoes to make it with.  But I think that the Times is right to assume that so many city people are nervous buyers of “regular” or “grocery store” food that they need a trusted guide to hold their hand with them through the aisles.  Many of my friends, you know who you are, included.

Now, if only there were someone daring enough to venture into the bodega stock . . .

6 Responses

  1. Yvo

    Hey! thanks for dropping by. I’m never sure whether to respond to comments on my site or on the other person’s site, but in response to your question about the chow mein, I didn’t really go into details about it but I do mention it. I don’t go into detail because I’ve botched it up the twice I’ve tried to do it, heh, but according to my mother, you dry the noodles very, very well and then just pan fry it in a bit of oil, until it’s as crispy as you like. The last time I did it (pictured in the entry you commented on), I messed it up because, according to her (she wasn’t there, but I described what was wrong with mine: soggy, just came out oily in a big soppy mess), I oversoaked the noodles and then didn’t dry them enough. The next time I make them, I’m going to try my darnedest because the oversoaking thing is a tough call, in my opinion. Other than that, the rest of the recipe is fairly easy, and depending on where you live, much cheaper than going out to get it. (My favorite place for this dish now charges close to $9 for it! but I know I can get it for $4-5 in Chinatown, and it’ll be decent, but not the best.)

  2. Pepper

    I remember reading that article and enjoyed it as an insight on how one individual who really cares about food shops, not so much as a guide (of course, I live far far away from New York). What I think is ironic is that many people are growing more interested in food and wine, but are unwilling to explore and develop their own tastes when it comes to unfamiliar food. Think this applies equally to ordering and eating in restaurants as to food shopping, though I do not have your local perspective.

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