Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Favorite Way To Shop For Food

Lately, I've been getting pangs of nostalgia for the way I used to shop for food when I lived in New York.

No, I don't miss hauling groceries up three flights of stairs, or trekking ten blocks with two cloth bags that were bursting with produce around my shoulders, or plopping my Trader Joe's bags between my feet to steady them on the subway home.

What I miss is the variety of fresh and interesting options, the range of ethnic foods, the little specialty shops where I'd go to get just one or two things.

Image Source / Google Street View

I used to go to a little Italian market in my neighborhood to get big chunks of parmesan cheese that I would grate over just about anything, it was so divine. Then I'd throw the rind into a pot of stew and walk back to Milano's for another chunk, and sometimes I'd treat myself to a batch of freshly-made pasta too.

I used to buy curry at Kalustyan's on Lexington and 28th. I absolutely love curry and theirs was just the best. One time, for a special lamb dish I was making, I also bought the most fragrant cinnamon sticks and some bright green cardamom pods.

I was always trying out new bakeries for bread and bagels. There are too many good ones to be loyal to only one.

Instead of ordering loose tea online like I do now, I took the subway down to Broome Street to replenish my tins. It was fun to sample new varieties, but I always loved going back to my old favorites.

I cheated with olive oil. My parents were about a 4-hour bus ride away and they had a great source for Greek olive oil, so I would bring up my bottle to refill whenever I visited them in Upstate New York.

And I could go on and on. For me, shopping for great food was one of the highlights of living in New York. I didn't even mention the beautiful things I always found at the farmer's markets. Or the Turkish bodega right next to my building where I bought most of my produce and nuts and grains and dried fruit.

My mom is the one who taught me that this is the best way to shop. Growing up, we had a favorite bakery, a Greek imports store where we got the most delicious olives and feta cheese, an amazing German butcher shop. I think there's value in this kind of shopping, which is reminiscent of the way it used to be before supermarkets came into the picture. Getting your bread from the baker and your meat from the butcher.

I love it because food is important to me and so I try to seek out what is the most fresh and flavorful. I also much prefer popping into several small shops to spending 45 minutes getting everything I need at a massive grocery store. It's also nice to support local businesses and believe it or not--I think this approach may have saved me some money (traditional NYC grocery stores are enormously overpriced).

I'm dreaming of the day when I can shop this way again. In the meantime, think I can convince my little brother to ship me some NYC bagels?


  1. Oh, you made me dream! I always wanted to shop like that, it just seems right! But I've gotta say, I never knew New York shopping could be like that. What a nice surprise :)

  2. I like this kind of grocery shopping, especially when I have more time to go about shopping in a relaxing manner, with nowhere else to be. I know that when I was in London, I fell in love with all the cute little markets and in Ireland, I loved getting fresh cheese at the cheese stand, meat at the meat stand....and so forth and so on. Such pretty and fresh food is really exciting. It's definitely not the same way anymore with all the big supermarkets!

  3. You make me want to be a city person with this post. How fun. :)

  4. Thanks for the sweet comment, Sabbie!

  5. It is more time-consuming, you're right. I found it was part of my lifestyle in New York and so I made time for it. In that way it was also relaxing! I'd scope out my route and grab coffee on the way. Just the best :)

  6. I'll take that as a compliment! I was hoping to get across how enjoyable this sort of shopping can be :)

  7. That sounds amazing I dream of the day that I can shop for good like that! I can see why you miss it.

  8. This is so true! I love those little specialty shops. While it's convenient to get everything in one place, it can often mean settling for generic items that just don't satisfy in the same way. It's nice to support individual shop owners and know that you are getting the real deal, as well. I'll take housemade pasta over generic any day. :)


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