Soapboxes & Shopping Lists


Unlike many other common people, I derive great pleasure from buying my
food only at local area farmer’s markets.  I buy sustainable fruits and
vegetables that have not traveled more than 18.382 miles, artisan
handmade cheeses (doesn’t always have to be farmstead but it couldn’t
hurt), handcrafted sausages and humanely, compassionately raised beef
and poultry. And then I immediately drive home and post my pictures and
write about my experiences, joining the select few that have the income
and means to buy themselves  an unattainable culinary superiority.

And boy, it feels sooooooooo good.

only kidding, people! That was my attempt at good old-fashioned
sarcasm, but you’d be correct if you sense a bit of my annoyance with
the type of person who truly believes this way – even if they’d never
admit to it. Truth be told, shopping for food is indeed a political
act, a powerful choice we have as consumers to put our money where our
mouths are, literally, and practice what we preach. I applaud that. I
just don’t applaud the holier-than-thou attitude that sometimes
accompanies it.

More often than not, those great big bright
boxes of artificial light and canned music known as conventional grocery stores are the only real choices for food purchases. Those on
fixed budgets or those who are geographically challenged don’t have the
access – or knowledge – that many of us have (you West Coasters know
what I’m talking about), and it breaks my heart to hear or read how
some of us place value judgments on an entire group of people based on
their shopping patterns. No, I’m not pushing supermarkets, but I’m not
condemning them, either.

So the person who prompted this entry,
I applaud your decision to shop and eat locally- we’re more alike than
you think. But please remember that not everyone has the opportunity
and income to eat as well and you and I do, and we should never ever
fault them for that.



Now that I’m off my soapbox I’d like to lighten things up a bit with The Grocery Lists Collection, a site that posts found shopping lists. It’s like kitchen voyeurism, seeing the things people need – or don’t need (who makes a list for things they don’t need?).  Check it out, it’s pretty damn amusing. 


  1. says

    Hear hear! I live in the boonies (VERY not urban area) and I live in a jewelbox-grocery store “wasteland”.

    I have to drive 1.5 hours to get to the nearest Whole Foods. When we make the trip its after budgeting the high price tag. I dont gloat. I love the quality, I love the general feel, I love the deli. I hate the price tag of the food and the driving there. I could not shop there often, just as a treat every so often.

    The rest of the time I pick through the local stop and shop, am just glad its there at all (even that is 30 minutes away).

    I used to live in the South End of Boston and it truly was a lesson in urban food-poverty. The only food option for miles was this little corner market with grade D fruits and vegs (only because the owner didnt see the need for much more, perhaps there wasnt!). The best selling item there was lottery scratch tickets (am not saying anything bad about that, just that the tickets were the main reason for people to visit.. that and junk food)

    Food quality could not be a priority. We were on an even tighter budget then so having food, period, was a good thing. Whole Foods (Bread & Circus then) was just NOT an option.

  2. says

    Very well said. Even here in Northern California, if you have to work on the one day a week when your local farmer’s market is happening, you’re out of luck. If you’re a single mom, or a working mom, or a working dad, or just a busy person, it can be enormously stressful (and incredibly expensive) to eat fresh local food.

    The last thing people need is guilt on top of the stress.

  3. says

    Why–that sounds like us! AND, we built our home last year using recycled pallets from our local wheat grass farmer and it’s powered with reclaimable energy from discarded cell phone batteries.

    I love the grocery list site. I find it entertaining and I’m not entirely sure why.

  4. says

    Ew… I don’t like holier than thou attitude on any front. Food is the worst because everyone needs it and not everyone can afford it. I’m in the grocery wasteland of the Financial District, so I rely on FreshDirect a bit more than I’d like (I actually like grocery shopping). I really like grocery shopping but not in Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s because they’re both so busy all the time. Anyway, great post, and maybe I’ll find one of my grocery lists on this site…

  5. says

    I agree that it is ill-advised to ram your own ideals down other peoples’ throats, and don’t expect other people to live the way I do. But for someone like me who chooses to always find the time to shop at the market, has the necessary passion for food and cooking, has the knowledge and enough income to cover this habit, it would be a shame for me not to eat this way, especially in bountiful California where we truly are blessed with incredible produce.

    Many people could afford this type of food and make the effort to find the time to source it but they don’t – they’d rather be lying-in or hiking or whatever… That’s their choice.

    My personal choice is to support local sustainable farming and I think it is a choice that deserves to be respected just as much as any other.

    I am the opposite to Jennifer. I am a busy person but finding the time for making food from fresh produce is the one thing that keeps me sane and unstresses me.

  6. says

    you, my fine friend, are a scream. When my RSS reader shows you have new posts, it always brings a smile to my face… what will Matt say today???

    I find it funny that you actually did need to spell out your sarcasm in this post… because, you are right, there are many blogs that come across as a bit holier than thou… I’m sure it’s unintentional by the authors most of the time… it’s just all too easy to think that the tone you set is light and informative and have it come across as preachy. But, of course, that’s why your blog is so wonderful… you never cease to inject it with fun and humor, and of course, the gorgeous photography.

    Thanks for the link to the grocery list site… I hadn’t seen that one yet! It’s PostSecret for the foodie set :-)

  7. says

    It’s funny… I’ve just been thinking that I needed to post about the bag of marshmallows in my pantry, lest anyone think that I am of the “eat local or die” crowd.

    Admittedly, I do try to encourage people to check out their local markets… unfortunately, the scheduling is often wonky for folks who work 9-5, but the prices often can’t be beat. This spring, I saw asparagus from CA for $6 a pound at the grocery store. The farmers market in the same town had local (Maine) asparagus for half that.

    And of course, the taste of fresh veggies can’t be beat, which is one reason why I grow my own (thrift being another). I hope I never see the day when having a vegetable garden connotes food snobbery.

  8. says

    My closest farmer’s market is about 25 minutes away (on a good day). I love going to it, but haven’t been in about 3 months.

    Like most folk, I find that it would be far too difficult to live purely “local and sustainable”. I buy convenience products… I have shopped at Wal-Mart (that was a long time ago, don’t be a hater!)… I have told a cashier that the mushrooms in her hand were portobellos, when really, they were chantrelles.

  9. says

    My closest farmer’s market is about 25 minutes away (on a good day). I love going to it, but haven’t been in about 3 months.

    Like most folk, I find that it would be far too difficult to live purely “local and sustainable”. I buy convenience products… I have shopped at Wal-Mart (that was a long time ago, don’t be a hater!)… I have told a cashier that the mushrooms in her hand were portobellos, when really, they were chantrelles.

  10. says

    It’s funny that as a culture we’ve moved from eating locally and wholesomely to eating for convenience. Previous generations didn’t have the choices that are widespread in these days of instant availability of almost anything. Kobe Beef? Sure. Italian Truffles? No problem. Open your wallet wide enough and there isn’t much you can’t get. Aside from cost, the highest barrier becomes access. Farmer’s markets? Here, we’re lucky to have them 4 months of the year. The rest of the time we’re locked into buying organic from the chain stores. Buying locally just isn’t an option for so many of us, even if we can afford it. Organic becomes the next best choice, but that choice has it’s own pitfalls now that the “organic” label is a marketing tool as much as a type of product. It will be interesting to see how the standards for organic goods change as the industrial agricultural companies try to keep up with the demand. Walmart is going organic with their produce and meats in the next few years. The mind boggles.

  11. Jyl says

    Ahhh, what a joy it would be to have a choice…I can dream that perhaps one day there will be a store that even has a selection close by.

  12. says

    Oh Matt, you always hit the nail on the head! I constantly battle frustration with the fact that (in many parts of the world – Scotland included) healthy, local, environmentally-sustainable food is only available to those with enough income to afford it. Of course I love the fact that this type of food is more available than ever before, but I hate that many people have to choose between buying it and buying clothes for their children. Eating well should not be a privilege for the elite, but somehow it always is.

  13. says

    Couldn’t agree more, however, living in Hong Kong has its challenges for ‘local’ food. Recently, local ‘organic’ food was hauled off the shelves when health inspectors found excessive amounts of pesticides! Not a good thing!

  14. says

    It’s such a delight to visit your blog! I always find something special, interesting, pretty, tasty… or simply curious. Nice tip on the grocery list site!
    Take care

  15. says

    ati: pop is the midwestern way of referring to soda as in “Coke” or “7 Up”. Up here in MA they call it soda.. in Atlanta its called “Coke” (no surprise considering coke is the “ONLY” thing in hotlanta)..

    so you might be asked “What would you like to drink” and your reply would be “A coke please” (ok, if your from the south, outside of atlanta you might say “coh-cohla”) and then the asker would say “What kind?” and you might say “Sprite, thanks” as in “coke” has become genericized.

    thats the short answer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *