A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 16: Grocery Shock

July 12th · 5 Comments

I have been dismayed by the prices of the Food Emporium across the street, so I took my canvas bags six blocks south to Gristede’s. I had only seen Gristede’s from across the six lanes of 1st Ave. and presumed it would prove that the $10 six-packs and cramped quarters of Food Emporium were an anomaly. I dreamed up a supermarket like the ones I left behind in California, with aisles you could drive a Zamboni through, past giant tumbling pyramids of avocadoes and red grapes.

The aisles, however, were as narrow as every other store I’d seen in Manhattan, so tight that I goosed a woman in a pencil skirt when I reached for the milk. The produce aisle held shallow bins of peppers and zucchini, wedged close together and mummified in plastic against the long journey from some loamy farmland far, far away from here.

I am not a price shopper and until now I have careened happily around the supermarket, tossing things in with abandon. But on the concrete island of Manhattan, in 2008, with food shortages breaking out from Egypt to Haiti and this year’s crop of Iowa corn drowned under several feet of water, I examined the price stickers as anxiously as a pensioner in Dade County.

Where do they get off charging $3.79 for this little jar of Grey Poupon? $7.49 for six rolls of toilet paper? $3.69 for eight slices of Swiss cheese? That’s almost half a buck a slice!

I did laps around the aisles for twenty minutes, wondering why I had to endure a heartrending cover of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” while not being able to locate a single stockboy who might explain to me why, in this so-called grocery store, I couldn’t find any ice cream. Then I noticed a gap in an aisle by the checkout stands. It led to a whole warren of new lanes, folded in on each other, that held the Dreyer’s, the crackers and cookies, and an aisle-end sale on matzoh-ball soup. Someone worked hard on this serpentine floor plan, just to fit everything in.

I escaped paying $96.82, which back on the West Coast would have yielded more groceries than I could possibly carry, but these bags were depressingly light as I carried them back to my apartment.

Tags: East Coast v. West Coast · Sights & Scenes · Urban Survival · Why I Hate This Town

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 anne // Jul 12, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Go visit the Greenmarket at Union Square.

  • 2 sulley // Jul 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Loamy is certainly the word of the day Mr. Ferris. “Excuse me sir, could you loamy five dollars?” or”Sargent Pepper’s loamy Heart’s Club Band” Loamy… that is quite the filigree, Ferris.

  • 3 Eric Spross // Jul 14, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Finding ourselves a bit too pink to go to the beach for a third day in a row, Sarka and I have been reading on the balcony of our Isla Mujeres hotel–Sarka, Carl Hiaasen and I, Upton Sinclair. Upton has been carrying on about Socialism for days now, so what a relief it is to read your blog with its wit and concision. You come out the better writer, though his word count and his ideology will be tough to beat. Hi to you both, and good luck furnishing.

  • 4 sam iam // Jul 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Get used to this, and then get ready for more. It’s the inflation that comes at the end of the reign of fiat currency.

  • 5 Kimberly Winston // Jul 22, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Oooh. Ouch. Seriously – go to the Greenmarket. I hope by now you have googled it and found it – the first farmer’s market in NYC and much better. You might also look into getting a farm share. I think that’s what it is called. It’s where you pay a certain amount of $$ to a local farmer upstate and you get deliveries of fresh fruits, veggies and sometimes meat and cheese that he/she produces. Usually churches have them, but I bet you can do this outside of a church now. I bet the Greenmarket has info on it. Just FYI – prices are up here, too, significantly, but of course not like in NYC. At least you do not have to pay for gas now.

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