I had a great idea the other day. What if there was a market where I could get everything I need and want in the same spot?! A great produce stand, fish monger, butcher, baker, dry goods stall, etc. You know…like a “super” market. Wait…
Yes, I thought the same thing. I guess that is what the regular supermarket is supposed to be. So I had to go home and do some research (after I went to two grocery stores, one Asian market, the liquor store, gas station and a specialty market). We all know what the typical grocery store/supermarket is like. Big, lots of variety (meat, produce, dairy), aisles of dry goods, some household goods, pet food and supplies, medicine (perhaps a full service pharmacy), clothes (in some) and liquor (where allowed). The basic appeal is to get everything in one place. One trip. One parking adventure. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to find a market that suits all of my needs. Wegman’s comes pretty close, but since I live in a state that doesn’t permit the sale of beer, wine or liquor in the grocery stores, my markets will never be all that “super”.
What more do I want, you ask? I want each food to have its own representative human. You know, like when one goes to the farmers’ market, there is a person at every stand helping you buy what they are selling. I’m not saying I want to be shouted at and sold to at every turn. Instead, I would like a person available. A butcher who really knows meat, baker who baked those goods, a menu planner in store..that kind of thing. Instead I feel like I am in a wherehouse of commercial products. Very little is fresh and unprocessed. Help is hard to find. To top it all off, in most markets I have to hunt for a cart (and hope it is clean), then hunt the aisles for what I want and need, check dates, ingredients, etc., find a cashier or worse…check myself out and pay and bag my own groceries with bags I brought with me into the store! It really is a bit too much for what I am getting.
My idea of a “super” market would resemble some of the more historic markets like the Reading Market in Philadelphia, the Union Market in Washington, D.C. and Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. I am sure there are many others, but you get my point. Additionally, I’d like a blend of the two. One of the things I don’t like about these markets is the fact that I often have to go somewhere else for a simple thing like mayonnaise. (No, smarties, I don’t make my own…yet.) I don’t mind paying a bit more for organic apples or grass fed, local meat, but I draw the line at $10 sauerkraut or $22 honey.
I like the attention of a stall merchant. I like being able to sample the cheeses and ask questions about what food would best accompany my purchase. I like the lack of redundancy in most markets. The grocery stores are often overwhelming with twelve types of rice and thirty types of pasta. At the market limits can be welcome. And since I like to eat what is in season, I’m ok with not finding peaches in January or cauliflower in July. I’d also like to see a better cultural representation in the market. Maybe half tradition (chickens and crabs in Maryland) and half trend (kale, kimchee, kombucha).
In my perfect world, I’d go to a boutique market, a grocery store, a liquor store, a produce/farmers’ market, international grocer, a butcher, a baker, and candle stick maker…and only park once, only pay once and be indoors the entire time.