Is it possible to be in love with a grocery store? If it is, is it also possible for the relationship to be a little bit disfunctional? Such is my relationship with Central Market. It is a store I both love and yet, it is also a love that overwhelms me. First, the distance it is from my house is an issue (it’s about 18 miles, one way). There is often heavy traffic somewhere along the route, a major annoyance. Once there, I have to deal with the lack of parking. It’s not that the lot is small, it’s that the lot is small for the number of other shops in that shopping center. This is just the beginning.
Inside the store, I am overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of fresh produce. There are too many options and everything looks entirely too good! I want to buy it all! I don’t have recipes lined up, but I can google that when I get home, right? It isn’t a matter of going to the store with a full belly; this isn’t about picking items out of hunger. This is choosing things because you’re curious, because you’re inspired, because you saw it. This is dangerous. There are marketing geniuses at work there. Apples are stacked just so, fresh pineapples sit on fields of shaved ice, mushrooms of exotic names and appearances peek out of darkened bins, fresh greens with names you’ve never heard of beckon, try me, pick me.
I could go with a list, and I have, promising myself that I will only buy what is on the list, but I know I’ll see something that just speaks to me, and I’ll pick it up. It’s just one thing, right? Then I make my way past the produce and into the seafood and meat departments. You’ve never seen raw meat look so appetizing!
Ten different kinds of sausage, ground lamb, veal, beef, chicken, pork, turkey, plus the cut varieties of each, in-store made meatballs, gourmet hamburger patties, marinated chickens, pinwheel steaks with feta, spinach and pine nuts, stuffed chicken breasts, stuffed pork chops, frenched lamb chops, rib roasts, and racks of lamb all waiting for you to go home and make something amazing with them. Across the aisle in seafood, a fresh bounty of the sea sits on beds of crushed ice, knowledgeable guides wait for you to show a spark of question in your eyes, so they can help you make a decision. They ask what your making, ask for and share recipes, show you the lobsters they just put in the tank that morning. Next door trays of fresh sushi and sashimi tempt. Oh, it’s too much!
Around the corner, one of the largest grocery store wine departments waits. Again, there are trained staff to assist you in pairing a wine with your (I’m sure it’s going to be spectacular) dinner. There are selections in a variety of price points from wine-o wine to wine snob vintages. There’s a rapid chiller, if you are planning on enjoying your purchase on their outdoor deck or in their cafe. Cork screw and wine glasses are also available.
Next up is the dairy case, full of milk, cream, half and half, soy milk, rice milk, organic milk, and even goat’s milk. There are butters from happy cows, mucche felici, vaches heureuses, and <spoken in an Irish accent> happy cows. In other words, English butter, Italian butter, French butter, Irish butter and of course, American butter. A variety of yogurts, cottage and cream cheeses, juices and fruit smoothies.
By this point, my cart is usually about twice as full as it should be. Then I come to the bakery and their aisle of carb delights. Oh my, can somebody grab another cart for me? Did I tell you I love bread? Around the corner from the bread are a selection of fresh pastas and crepes.
Of course there are regular aisles full of regular things, but I have to show you this one last department. It’s my favorite. I have been known to drop $100.00 here alone. Don’t judge.
I do loves me some cheese! And I love Central Market, but could they just move it closer to my house? That would probably be detrimental to my bank account.