Southern GroceriesPosted: September 8, 2012
Moving to another part of the country has, so far, proved to be a beneficial thing for my family.
But it hasn’t happened seamlessly. It has been a conscious process of reevaluating our expectations, habits, and priorities. Like not crying over the chip in my late grandmother’s side table that the movers did not pack carefully enough. Or swimming around the really big and hairy spider in the pool. And remembering that the drawbridge (we live on an island) only takes 5 minutes from open to close, because really, it is not like you can be late to buy groceries.
Life is slower here. Illustrated perfectly by the grocery shopping experience.
First of all, let me explain how we used to shop in Boston. Before we discovered the ease and simplicity of grocery shopping online, we dreaded the errand. Even going to our local Whole Foods (which was once a more visceral food shop for me) was an exercise in patience, from selecting the celery to exiting the parking lot. Going at convenient times (after work, Saturday afternoons) was harrowing, no matter what store we picked. Crowds, carts, strollers, traffic…it hardly seemed worth it to be buying less than average peaches or blueberries. We eventually discovered Boston Organics which delivered fresh produce to our door each week, around the time we decided to start using Peapod. Forget the crowds, forget the schlepping of heavy canvas bags halfway around the block; but too: forget discovering that fresh figs are on sale and in season.
Its been an entirely different experience in Charleston. Admittedly, the variables are not all even: I often go in the middle of the day now, and I only shop for a few days at a time. However, the Southern grocery shopping experience is quite pleasant, and I look forward to taking my son to the grocery store to talk about food, and see new things.
It seems expected here to engage in conversation with everyone from the stock boy to the cashier–however, if you’re in a hurry, or the baby is cranky, it also feels acceptable to smile and press on through the aisles. There is a strong awareness of manners and gentility not found in New England. It is standard practice to help you out to your car with groceries, whether you have 2 bags or 20. There is a kindness that to us thick skinned New Englanders can seem almost…aggressive. For example: baby dropped his pacifier in the aisle, and I kid you not, another customer jogged from where he was browsing ten feet away to pick it up for us. Others hold the doors open for you, offer up their discount card if you don’t have one yet, and no one uses their car horn in the parking lots.
The trade off is convenience–its never easy to go get food for dinner in the midday heat that hovers in the mid 90s. Yesterday we went out, and as soon as we got onto the main road we found ourselves ensconced in a torrential rainstorm. Still, I drove to the store, and we sat in the car for 20 minutes hoping it would abate. It did not, so we drove home, and shared a box of Annies macaroni and cheese for dinner. I’m embracing the different forms of convenience: I haven’t eaten a bad peach since we’ve been here, and every store sells washed and chopped kale. Grocery delivery is a remnant of city life, and we’re almost completely weaned off those little luxuries.
But, my ears still ring with tinnitus in the absence of sound Boston used to easily fill. White noise here is not a steady traffic rumble, but a living forest outside our windows. At night we fall asleep to the crickets, or the speckling of raindrops on the window glass. I thought I’d miss my weekly Indian, Thai, and Sushi dinners from foodler. But no: I’m happy to eat simple meals at the table with the baby. Plain noodles and cheese, peaches. I drink my coffee with brown sugar now, because that is all we had when we moved in, and now that’s how I like it. We indulge ourselves with the expensive bottles of wine we’d been “saving” in Massachusetts—-they made it over 1,000 miles! I think we have plenty to appreciate and celebrate. Life is good.