I don’t know of anyone who really enjoys visiting their local supermarket. Shopping at Costco is merely a necessity of modernity and our mega-consumptive culture; the experience is about as satisfying as loading up on fatty fast food at the take-out window of the neighborhood burger franchise.
On the other hand, I know many people who delight in lingering at the various specialty markets and food stores that pepper our landscape. They understand the distinction between shopping and marketing. Shopping is something we have to do. We rarely relish shopping. But marketing is another animal altogether. Marketing implies a slower, more congenial pace. Doing the marketing is as much a social activity as an economic one.
Running across too seldom seen friends and colleagues at the Downtown Farmers Market on a sunny Saturday morning brings us a type of joy that we rarely experience in a supermarket. And when was the last time you had a friendly conversation with someone at the deli or meat counter of your local Piggly Wiggly? Probably never. Yet schmoozing and catching up on the gossip of the day with Tony Caputo, Sam Granato, Steven Rosenberg or the helpful Japanese ladies of the Oriental Food Market is something I savor each time I visit their markets. I’ve never had a conversation with the guy who grows the arugula I buy at Albertsons, but at our local farmers markets, I can learn about arugula from the person who picked it earlier that morning. That’s marketing'a distinctly civil and engagingly satisfying way of stocking the pantry.
I find that my purchasing approach at markets is different too. I rarely browse in supermarkets. I arrive there with a shopping list, and dash from aisle to aisle procuring what I need as efficiently as possible. By contrast, I’ll frequently stop by Pirate O’s, Liberty Heights Fresh, Emigration Market, Wild Oats, Cucina and the like without any plan at all, because I know that new discoveries await me. Someone will hand me a slice of cured meat from Italy, a French cheese I’ve never heard of or offer a wedge of an organically grown Asian pear that knocks my socks off. Sorry, but that doesn’t happen at Smith’s.
So when I market'as opposed to shop'I’m open to suggestions and to guidance. I let the fresh vegetables and fruits or handmade pastas or freshly caught fish give me direction. When I visit the great farmers markets in our area, I rarely know what I’m having for lunch or dinner; I let the wholesome produce and the farmers themselves help me decide. Fresh-picked garlic at the Downtown Farmers’ Market tells me to hop over to Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli for some imported extra-virgin olive oil, because tonight it’s aio e oio for supper. Thankfully, the success of the Downtown Farmers’ Market at Pioneer Park has spawned other summer farmers markets at places like The Canyons, The Gateway, Thanksgiving Point and Sugar House. Finding fava beans at Liberty Heights Fresh or the Mediterranean Market and Deli means I’ll try my hand at making the ful mudammas that I love so much at Mazza. And when fresh kumomoto oysters are in stock at the Aquarius Fish Co. or Park City’s Deep Blue Seafood & Grocery, I know I’m going to be spending the evening shucking shells'preferably with a locally produced cerveza alongside, maybe a brew from Squatters, Unita or Wasatch Brewing.
When I get too lazy to make my own potstickers, I know I can find big bags of them'inexpensively priced'at the Oriental Food Market on 700 East. They also stock hard-to-find produce like long beans and baby bok choy, dozens of Asian chili sauces, even DVDs from Japan (in case I decide to brush up on my rudimentary Japanese). For cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cardamom seeds, cinnamon and other such spices, I head over to Lamplighter Square on Foothill Boulevard to India Unlimited. I also inevitably wind up leaving with paratha, ghee, chutney, a 15-pound bag of basmati rice from New Delhi and a Bollywood movie or two. For south-of-the-border foodstuffs, I always stop by Anaya’s Market for everything from fresh tacos and preseasoned meat for carne asada to greatest hits collections of Cumbia music.
My newest'and maybe most exotic'marketing discovery is the African Mini-Mart & Take Out on Redwood Road. Not only can you buy freshly cooked, blistering spicy stewed chicken and okra, but you’ll also find all the ingredients you’ll need for creating your own African sensations at home. At the African Mini-Mart & Takeout you can buy all sorts of exotics spices, the ingredients to make injera at home, palm oil, tilapia and even fresh goat.
So what about you? Done any marketing lately? Because if you’ve only been supermarket shopping, you’re missing out on a wonderful array of local specialty markets filled with unique foodstuffs, informative employees â€¦ and probably even a few of your old friends.