Tuesday, May 6, 2008

5 Produce on Atlantic Avenue

Grocery shopping in Brooklyn is traumatic. I grew up in a town where one meal plans for a week, drives to the local grocery store, gathers all necessary items into a cart, pays a smiling cashier, and drives the food home to a cavernous refrigerator (or two).

Last year, as an eager-beaver bride fresh from my honeymoon, I planned meals for an entire week. With list in hand, I walked to the closest grocery store and discovered it was a sixth of the size of its suburban sister. Only two people fit across an aisle at a time. Less square footage also meant less food; I was only able to find about half of the items on my list, and to add insult to injury, all the produce was wilted or bruised.

Putting on my best smile, I maneuvered my cart toward a register. The clerk refused to look me in the eye. No amount of sunny Arizona charm could crack her. I beat a hasty retreat home.

The ill-stocked store was a blessing in disguise because I discovered I couldn't fit the food I had purchased in my cabinet and mini-refrigerator.

The next week, I only planned meals for four days. And, instead of buying produce at the grocery store, I visited Atlantic Fruit and Vegetables next door. A love affair was born. Their produce was bright and beautiful, and cheap (by New York standards). Also thrilling was the fact that the owner made eye contact with me, smiled, and wished me a good day.

Of course, his smiles don't absolve Brooklyn of intentional infliction of emotional distress when it comes to stocking a kitchen. Grocery shopping remains an ordeal. I typically visit at least three local grocery stores, a wine store (New York still has blue laws), a couple gourmet grocery stores (thank you Rachael Ray), and a butcher just to satisfy my list. Maybe that's why so many New Yorkers eat out.

So, while I'm not going to miss the drama of it all, I am going to miss the peaceful conclusion to the madness at the produce stand on Atlantic Avenue. I'm going to miss the local apples they stock in the fall. I'm going to miss their lovely mushroom selection. And, I'm going to especially miss the employees. Just last week, one of my favorite cashiers fawned over Evangeline for five minutes before proclaiming in broken English, "I pay you to babysit her!"


Chris said...

I had no idea that grocery shopping there was so involved!
But I am confident Evangeline will charm store clerks everywhere she goes!

Ornery's Wife said...

There are farmers markets everywhere, so I have no doubt this affection for them will be a relationship you can continue to foster. We have several here, and even though I don't have to deal with the small storage issue, I do still have to shop at several stores to find all I want at the price I'm willing to pay!

stephanie said...

Wow, here you are getting ready to move and you've finally found the perfect babysitter. :D