Why do we shop where we do, in certain stores no matter what? And why do we go out of our way to avoid shopping in other places, despite convenience? The other day, the Accidental Locavore was in Quattro’s the butcher up in the country (they also do the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays). I shop there because the butchers working there have taught me a lot about meat, choosing it and cooking it, and Paul, the most recent butcher, makes an amazing Italian sandwich, discovered by accident.
The other day, there were only women working there. I asked where Paul was and Joyce said “you haven’t been here in a while, have you? He left the week before Thanksgiving.” Which is a lousy time to loose a butcher. We started talking about how disappointed people were to find him gone, but how the new guy they had hired had come from a very upscale market nearby that had gone bankrupt, and had his own following.
Which got me to thinking, why do we shop where we do? I shop at Quattro’s because they raise their own chickens and other poultry, have good bacon, good meat, and in the days of Paul, made a great sandwich. And while they’re slicing meat, there’s always the chance to catch up on local news and gossip. How else do you know that a black bear from Connecticut got hit by a car near your house, or where Oprah was eating ice cream in Rhinebeck the weekend of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding?
In the city, the closest you get to those kind of conversations is at the greenmarkets. I was at our local greenmarket in Lincoln Center last week. In the middle of the winter, a few, very hardy vendors had set up shop. First up, local cheese, and the woman running Bobolink Dairy, was happy to feed me tastings of her various cheeses. We started to bond, when we decided it was never to early to eat stinky cheese. Her John-Louise cheese (named after John-Louis Palladin, how could you resist?) is a wonderful creamy, stinky cheese, great over a slice of rustic bread. She in turn, sent me to the guy across the way who had a lovely duck salami.
As much as Fresh Direct is great for all the stuff that’s too heavy to schlepp, and Whole Foods or Trader Joes, for everything else, I like have the interaction with the farmers, and vendors who really know their products, and take pride in sharing their knowledge and a little gossip. What about you, where do you shop and why?
Many thanks to Wendy Hanson for the great photos from the Oakland Farmers Market.