The Misanthrope’s Guide to Covid Grocery Shopping

At 8 weeks and counting, you’d think we’d have the basics figured out. After all, for most of us, if we don’t have a dog, grocery shopping is the only reason to leave the house. And maybe because purchasing essentials is the only reason we’re leaving the house, interacting with others has become kind of terrifying.

Headlines such as “Why shopping for groceries is no longer fun” or “We’ll never shop for groceries the same way again” make it clear that a meandering stroll through the aisles is now a thing of the past. There is no lingering, no reading labels, no picking out the non-bruised apples. You need to get in there (after standing for 45 minutes in line), get your stuff, and get out as fast as possible.

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Lucky Dip – Friday, March 9th, 2012

In Toronto:

Bistro 990 (990 Bay Street) will shut its doors on March 17th.

Vegan chef Doug McNish‘s first book Eat Raw, Eat Well will be published on March 20th. It’s available for pre-order at various online booksellers already.

Tori’s Bakeshop opens today at 2188 Queen Street East offering vegan, organic and refined sugar-free goodies like pies, cakes, cookies, donuts and more to the folks in the Beach.

You should go:

Tonight at The Depanneur (1033 College Street) the drop-in dinner is tamales by Holy Tamale. Vegan-friendly corn tamales with sweet potato, apple, onion and spices. Plus “drunken beans” and green rice – all for $10. An extra $2 will keep the carnivores happy with some chorizo.

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, September 8th, 2011

How awesome is this? Supermarkets that grow produce on those vast expanses of useless flat roof. Win-win-win. [Toronto Star]

Polish up your resume, wanna-be restaurant critics; rumours are that Sam Sifton, critic for the New York Times is moving on to the national desk. Who will get the tasty top job? [Eater]

Who cares about celebrities when you’re enjoying a good steak frites? La Societe overcomes its reputation as a richy-rich hangout. [NOW]

Cookbooks as literature. [The Awl]

McDonald’s here in Canada is getting all swankified. But you’ve gotta love Eater’s reasoning on the inclusion of fireplaces; “it’s cold in Canada”. That’s right, all year long – that day in July when the temperature cracked 40°C – that was just a dream. A cup of coffee in front of the McD’s fireplace will be a welcome reprieve from shivering in our unheated igloos. [Eater]

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, August 23rd, 2011

Could it be that we might eventually enjoy eating at a food court? The new Urban Eatery at the Eaton Centre, to open September 1st, is looking good. [Toronto Star]

You know that whole “know where your food comes from” philosophy? It applies to wine as well. Seems some South African wines are produced under horrific human rights conditions. [The Telegraph]

Office workers complain of stinky food items eaten by co-workers. Or, y’all could just not eat lunch at your desk, which is pretty darn gross anyway, even without the stink of tuna sandwiches. [Wall Street Journal]

The US Department of Agriculture refuses to implement a ban on using food stamps to purchase soda and other unhealthy beverages. [CBS News]

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Grandmother, a hipster or a flavour fanatic, there’s plenty of reasons and ways to get canning. [National Post]

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Our Elite Clubhouse, Made From Peaches and Tomatoes

Oooooh, Loblaw’s you bastards!

How dare they?? I mean, really how DARE they try to sell local produce? Don’t they know the rule about how you’re not a good, conscientious consumer unless you buy it directly from the farmer? You icky supermarket shoppers, you can’t be in our special club! Yes, sure, we preached at you to buy local produce and support local farmers. But not from an (ewwww!!) supermarket!

Yes, Loblaw’s is at it again, for the third year in row they are setting up stands within and outside their stores with a farmers’ market-style booth featuring locally-grown produce. This is good, right? Because we want people to buy and eat more local food. And since, despite the proliferation of farmers’ markets in urban areas, most people still buy at least some of their fruits and vegetables from supermarkets, it’s better to have it be local instead of imports. Any switch is a step in a positive direction, right? Good things grow in Ontario?

Apparently not.

Because Robert Chorney of Farmers’ Market Canada seems to think that Loblaw’s is just trying to capitalize on the markets’ success. Well… yeah. But that’s a given. And food activist Anita Stewart says “For generations, all across Canada, farmers markets have been embedded in our collective food culture.” Really? I’m thinking Stewart has/had a very different food culture than the majority of Canadians, because my informal poll indicates that most people grew up with supermarkets, only occasionally visiting a farmers’ market.

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Why Local Needs to Go Mass Market

I bought asparagus at the supermarket today.

I know. Step aside so the vigilante hordes of locavores can get past in order to more easily place my head on a pike.

It *was* local if that makes any difference.

I know. I should still be supporting the farmers at farmers’ markets. More of the money goes directly to the farmers than if I buy local produce at Price Chopper.

But you know what? This maybe needs to stop. See, when the produce manager pulled that bunch of asparagus out of the box, he had a little gleam in his eye. He knew it was good stuff. Perfectly-sized, tight heads, bright green… We looked down at the asparagus, then back up at each other. “Heh?” he said, smiling. “Gimme it,” was my reply.

Here’s my theory on this… yes, more money goes directly to the farmer if we buy our produce directly from the farmer. But despite the fact that Toronto’s got farmers’ markets every day of the week, and piles of CSAs,they’re not always convenient to get to. Those of us “in the bubble” make the effort to get there. But we’re the minority. Everyone else is all about the one-stop-shopping. So if we want more people to eat locally-grown food, we have to accept that some of them are going to do it at the supermarket.

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Local Yokels

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

I had a conversation with a colleague recently in which the subject turned to local food. Specifically, how people in the Toronto area are prone to blindly follow and buy anything grown locally despite the quality of the products themselves.

My colleague suggested that most consumers want their farmers’ markets to carry the same things that the grocery stores do (instead of the other way around) – i.e. expecting varieties of fruits and vegetables similar to the bland varieties grown in California that were mostly developed for easy shipping. They also suggested that certain local food producers create products of inferior quality; that many esteemed Toronto chefs who specialize in local food don’t actually offer a good quality meal; and that fans of local food willingly buy these inferior products or meals anyway, because they refuse to acknowledge their own sense of taste, instead deferring to local “experts” or advocates (chefs, food writers, etc.) who tell the food-lovers what to like and what to buy.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of this opinion, thus my “devil’s advocate” disclaimer – please don’t shoot the messenger – but on some levels, my colleague has a point. The argument cooked in my head a bit, because I’ve been wondering for a while – how many local products are we buying are because they’re the best products available, and how much of it is for the ideology of “supporting local”?

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