Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grocery Shopping Memories

Warning: Nostalgia to follow: 
I do the bulk of my grocery shopping on Tuesday at Kroger's in Rocky Mount—that's Senior Citizens' Day (5% discount!). I live 15 miles from the store, so it takes me at least a gallon of gas to go to Kroger's or Wal-Mart. If I'm in town for some other reason on a day other than Tuesday, I usually stop for a few items at Wal-Mart (pet food is a bit cheaper there) on my way home.

If you take out the back seat in a PT Cruiser, you can fit more stuff in.

Because of distance, gas prices, and time (20-25 minutes travel time each way, plus at least 30 minutes shopping time), I can't run to a supermarket whenever I please. If I really need an item during the week, I'll drive to the Penhook Minute Market about two miles away (and, conveniently, on the way to the dumpster and/or post office). The Minute Market usually has pretty good deals on bacon and eggs, too.

Anyhow, I have a good handle on getting groceries and don't miss the convenience of living in a city. Some folks aren't so lucky. Parts of Roanoke (the city I escaped from in 1999), are known as "food deserts" because there are no nearby supermarkets. Folks who live in these "deserts" must spend time and energy—and money—to go outside their area and shop. The Roanoke Times did an article about this situation last Sunday. However, odds are good, there's a fast food place near them.

When I was  a kid, I guess just about everyone lived in a food desert. Supermarkets were few and far between—and not close to us. There was a Mick or Mack somewhere downtown and an A&P on the city market. Some neighborhoods had small groceries that delivered—I remember my grandmother phoning in her order and getting it delivered later in the afternoon—but we didn't have anything like that on Floraland Drive in the late 40s and early 50s.

We had a big garden when I was small, and Mama canned a lot that the garden produced. Eventually, my father sold the two lots where our garden had been, so we had to depend on other ways to get vegetables. Once or twice a week, the vegetable man came around our neighborhood and sold produce from his truck. My mother bought stuff from him, but we usually shopped at the Roanoke City Market.

We'd get dressed up (because everyone did in those days), wait at the bus stop half a block from our house, ride the bus downtown, go to the meat market, which was the whole downstairs of the market building, and browse among the various butcher's stalls. On the back wall of each stall was a big sign with the butcher's name in large black letters. I remember Mama would usually buy from Mr. Minton or Mr. Hanabass and maybe one other. They always wrapped the meat in white paper. I remember there were big fans at each doorway, and the floor was covered in sawdust.

Usually Mama bought a chicken or two, a beef roast, and maybe hamburger or steak. I can remember her always pounding the steak with a special hammer before dipping it in flour and frying it. The chicken was fried, too, after she'd cut it up and dipped it in flour. The roast was cooked in a big pot (which I still have) on the top of the stove for a long time. The only meat I ever saw her bake was ham or turkey.

After the meat market, if we needed vegetables that the garden didn't give us, we'd go up and down the market streets where farmers brought in their produce to sell from their trucks. After we'd bought vegetables—usually tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, peas, lima beans, potatoes, and corn—we'd have all she could carry in two shopping bags.

Once in a while—if Mama needed flour or sugar or coffee—we'd go to the A&P in the market area before we went to the meat market or the farmers' trucks. But we didn't need those things very often.
A trip to the market took a least three hours for the bus rides and the shopping. Later, when a Mick-or-Mack was built on Williamson Road, we didn't have to travel so far. But we still rode the bus. And we were still limited to what would fit in two shopping bags.

Eventually, the lady next door received a car as a present from her husband, and she'd often take Mama to the store with her. By then, a newer and better Mick-or-Mack was built further up Williamson Road—and it offered frozen food. When Crossroads Mall opened, a Kroger store appeared. With so many stores and so many more choices, folks stopped going to market.

I can't believe how limited my food choices at home were in those days. We ate what my grandparents ate, which was what their parents had eaten, etc., which was what they grew at home. I didn't eat my first tossed salad until I was in high school, about the time I acquired a taste for those new-fangled frozen TV dinners from Swanson. I never ate broccoli, cauliflower, blueberry pie, pizza, lasagne or tuna casserole (or any other casserole unless you count macaroni and cheese) until I was in college.

Now, I have so many choices—even if I do only grocery shop once a week.

~

2 Comments:

Blogger Franz X Beisser said...

A lot of folks now live on a whim, or a sudden craving.
Most fly by the seat of their pants.

To grocery shop once a week makes good sense.

9:17 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

I have gone a diet that requires more fresh foods, and that has meant going to the store a lot more. I used to go once a week but now find myself going twice a week, if not more often. However, I now only live 8 miles from a grocery story; it used to be 10 but they built a Food Lion out here.

8:16 AM  

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