Column: Keeping it in the family

If you are what you eat, then does where you live define where you shop?

While I haven’t always lived on the same side of Interstate 80, I have always shopped at the same supermarket the entire time I’ve lived in Davis. By that I mean, when I need groceries, I drive two blocks to the Safeway in South Davis. Aside from the fact that it is the nearest store to me, it was also the store my family did a majority of our shopping at while I was growing up.

However, this was not the case for some of my roommates and friends. They preferred other grocery stores, mostly because that was where their families shopped. Yet what puzzled me the most was their willingness not only to drive a little farther for a preferred store, but a few drove to other cities to shop at these grocery stores. Who does that?!

I have been in every supermarket in Davis and still hold to the fact that I would probably drive, regardless of where I lived, to the South Davis Safeway. Partially because it is a developed habit and partially because the North Davis Safeway has the most ridiculous layout I’ve ever seen (who puts produce in the middle of the store?).

Despite my habits, I have been forced to shop elsewhere if I wanted to purchase specific items. While Safeway is a supermarket, it does not carry everything. The recipe for the chocolate truffle cake I made for my roommate’s birthday forced me to expand my grocery experience. One of these elusive items was caster sugar (superfine sugar that is in between granulated and powered).

I could not find this sugar at Safeway, Savemart or Target! Yes, I tried Target because they had the self-rising flour the recipe called for, which was also not found at Safeway. Full of frustration, I called my mom. She suggested the only other store in town I hadn’t tried: Nugget. And sure enough, they had it.

Now, despite the fact that I have to drive past Nugget to get to Target, I didn’t think about looking there because my family never shopped at Nugget. There wasn’t even a Nugget in a 20-mile radius of my house until 2005, and it was two cities away, roughly a 20 or 30-minute drive. My hometown didn’t even have a Safeway the first 10 or so years of my life.

After you big-city folk get over the fact that not every town has a chain supermarket, think about where your parents purchased food growing up. Now think about where you purchase food now. Is it the store closest to you or is it where your mom shopped? Or have you developed your own preferences?

I figured a lot of where people shop is determined by proximity – especially if transportation is limited. But then there’s the cost factor: Many of us either cannot afford to cook like our parents or lack the knowledge. But, really, stop and think: If you had the means, where would you shop and why?

How much of your produce is purchased at the farmers market or Safeway? Or alternatively, Trader Joe’s, where produce is sold by individual number and not by weight?

As for the majority of my friends, I find they shop with convenience as first priority and cost as a second priority. Now, this isn’t true for everyone, especially when cost can be broken down into quantity vs. quality of items purchased.

Yet I think there is a strong correlation between what you were raised doing and what you do on your own. Even if out of convenience you shop at Savemart over Safeway – do you purchase the same brands as your parents when it comes to orange juice or bread?

For instance, without thinking, I usually purchase a specific margarine that I always remember being in our fridge. It wasn’t until I had roommates and we decided it was unnecessary for all four of us to purchase such a common-use item that we realized that we all wanted different things. I’ve also had friends disappointed when I pull syrup out of the fridge for pancakes as opposed to storing it in the cupboard so it stays warm. It’s just what my family did.

Next time you go to the store, think about it. Why are you going there? Try going somewhere else for kicks. Oh, and never go the store hungry.

If you can’t find SABRINA VIGIL in the baking aisle, try svvigil@ucdavis.edu

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