Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Store Wars

We all have a favorite grocery store, that place we can go for everything from the simplest of items to the whole shopping list.  Some are luckier than others.  Living next to a Super G, for example, must be one of the happier things in life to happen to foodies.  Whole Foods is like Disney meets Trader Joe’s, truly a capitalist grocery if e’er there were one.  Then there are those unfortunate few who are landlocked, trapped from civilization and unable to get common items like coffee filters, chicken or milk.  The Trolley Square Acme in Wilmington, DE is one such store.  Maybe landlocked is not quite correct.  Black hole is more like it.  Its lack of usable products and cast of certifiably looney-bin customers earn it a place in our hearts.  The place where acid indigestion begins.

Locals have a hate-hate relationship with our ACME.  We bitterly refer to it as the SMACKme, the CRACKme or more appropriately, the SOVIET ACME, where long lines and no food are the norm.

I can honestly say that I'm desensitized by its user-unfriendliness.  After all, I lived in Cape May, NJ for awhile.  The ACME there makes Trolley look like Beverly Hills.  Because there are only about six aisles, it isn't uncommon to find barbecue sauce in the same row as Band-Aids.  Which is great if you're making a haunted house.  Very often you can spot birds flying around the store, a hazard most aren't used to navigating while shopping for food.  Year round you can buy a styrofoam cooler, but only three weeks of the year can you find avocados. 

Speaking of avocados, our beloved Trolley ACME has recently diversified their produce aisle, placing like-used products together, i.e. tomatoes, garlic and basil in the summer.  So, avocados can likely be found in two or three different locations now.  But, that doesn't increase the chance of ever finding a ripened one.  Ever.  My favorite is their 10 for $10 promo.  After all what's better than one unripened avocado but 10 unripened avocados?  But, I'm being insensitive and elitist.

It's like a big game of craps.  You never know if you're going to hit.  Many times I've gone in with a list of 8 or 9 items, half of which I couldn't find.  Usually then, I just abandon my basket and walk out.  I've got to head to another store anyway, so, might as well.  It also helps take the sting out waiting in the two lines that are open, knowing you only accomplished half of what you came in for.  More intriguing than not being able to find simple staples has to be the things I have found.  As a chef, I am often stiffed by my purveyors for odd items or items that come only in huge cases when I'm just in need of one.  Against all odds, I make the trek to Moscow and begin my search.  

"Ummm- do you have gooseberry jam?" I half-jokingly ask.

"Aisle 2".

What the what?  

Can't find sliced pumpernickel bread, but sun-dried cherries and matzo balls are always on the shelves.

There are some days I don't mind being called "babydoll", and others I could go ballistic.  Like, "Babydoll, c'mon over here, my line is empty."  Yay.  
But, "Can't you see my light is OUT?  This line is CLOSED, Babydoll!"  Picture Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.

I'm grateful for the local elderly patrons who walk to the store to shop, because at least I know they aren't on our roadways.  They seem to have absolutely no peripheral vision what-so-ever or awareness of personal space.  I begin to hum a particular Ludacris song at this point as I navigate these obstacles in my cart with only two working wheels.

The characters you see there are right out of a John Waters film.  My Duchess, as I like to call her, has straight-up Cindy Brady length gold braid extensions anchored by a fine velour Fat Albert and the Gang cap.  She wears a full-length winter coat no matter what time of year it is, and her makeup on any given day could hide her 75-plus years, or scare the hell out of little children.  Make that little children and adults.  My mind races as I stare into her cart at the 100 cans of cat food, Freihofer's cookies and epsom salts.  Must.  Get.  Out.  NOW.

Lastly, the self-checkout lines.  If you cannot check yourself out faster than one of the clerks here (and this is saying something), you have no business being in these lines.  They are built for speed, and I dare say, for people just like you and me who have no choice but to shop there, yet need to get out of the store before our mental health insurance plan is activated.  Deep breaths.  Deeeeep breaths.


stevedigirolamo said...

HAHAHA-R...Funny and true. Down here we have (in a 3-mile radius) a Super G, a Food Lion, a Harris Teeter, and of course the independant small-town G&E market. Super G consistantly will have 2 lanes open (during the weekend!) Food Lion employees walk the isles like zombies, and speaking of zombies, Teeter is perpetually empty of customers, employees, and isle after isle of empty shelves it looks like a post-zombie invasion horror movie...Yet good ol' G&E, with country music blaring over the speakers unless there is a NASCAR race being broadcast, always seems to have strange items that the big stores don't carry. Case in point: We needed jams for our cheese plates at work--G&E was the only store which carried Lime Curd, Fig Jam, etc. Go figure.--Steve

Rob said...

Robert, You couldn't have said it any better. Being a home cook, I hate going into the Acme in Trolley, because not only is it one of the worse grocery stores I've ever been in, but their prices are on par with Jansen's in Greenville! My list is: Trader Joes for my weekly grocery list; Jansen's for specialty items and meats (Shout out to Marcus!); Sansone's Seafood for good fish (Shout out to Kenny!).


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