Tuesday, July 7

Yesterday, my sister, her son and I daytripped up to scenic Sudbury, Massachusetts, a picturesque old town, to visit a cousin. There were many highlights: lunching with Sally, meeting her grandchildren, feeding some pet chickens and seeing the Mary Martha chapel, Wayside Inn and the Grist Mill, the last like 3-D post cards.
And right up there in my mind along with the charm and sunshine was my visit to a real supermarket, the Stop 'n Shop, an enormous, gigantic, store. I even snapped a couple of photos.
A real supermarket is an amazing thing to someone, like me, used to Manhattan food boutiques, a name I coined to more accurately describe them. Oh, yes, they call themselves supermarkets, but so does Fox News say it's fair and balanced. The entire food boutique on my corner would fit into just the bakery and produce sections of the Stop 'n Shop.
My late mother who shopped her whole life in real supermarkets, once spent two weeks in Manhattan, and never got over her first brush with a food boutique. "It's so small! And so expensive! And you can't even find what you want!" "Yes, Mom," I replied, "but it's on the corner."
What she didn't experience but Manhattanites are well-acquainted with, are all the fun aspects to the food boutique. The games for example. There's Rain Check in which the player tries to find an actual item in the sale circular on the shelf. Ha! Good luck with that.
More hilarity ensues in Food Boutique Scavenger Hunt! Players select a recipe to make and create a shopping list of necessary ingredients. Points are awarded for each store the player visits in search of lamb shanks, whole wheat tortillas or soy cheese. I once carted my butt around to as many as six food boutiques in a futile search for Neufchatel cheese, only to later discover that it's cream cheese.
Square footage in Manhattan is incredibly expensive. So the facings are few and the aisles are narrow and the carts are miniature. It's almost like the grocery store you and your sister set up in the basement with a toy cash register and empty boxes of Wheaties.
I remember the time I needed a box of S.O.S. scouring pads but found only one size of Brillo on the shelf. I don't like Brillo. I asked the manager. "You got Brillo!" he said. "I want a choice! What is this, Warsaw?"
I don't know. Maybe they now have real supermarkets in Poland. All I know is that my food boutique makes me think I live behind the old Iron Curtain sometimes.
While some check out clerks in Stop 'n Shop acted like the ones we have here, Stop 'n Shop also had self-check-out aisles. We scanned the tiramisu cake and it appeared on the screen, then the African violet. Touch some buttons, feed it plastic, sign and you're gone. And for a moment I was George Herbert Walker Bush encountering a grocery scanner for the first time. It was amazing. I wish it were on my corner.

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