Tuesday, December 04, 2007

White Girl Shops For Groceries in Spanish Harlem

Two men are standing in front of the eggs in my local supermarket. They are talking about how expensive the eggs are. The eggs are, indeed, expensive. I always have this dilemma in front of the eggs in this supermarket: do I buy the cage-free ones, which cost a gazillion dollars, or do I buy the cage-full ones, which in addition to the inhumane treatment of chickens are also guilty of styrofoam packaging? I usually choose the cruel & non-biodegradable eggs. They are nearly two dollars cheaper.

I have in my basket: tuna (on sale: $3.99 for four cans of Bumblebee; I'm stocking up), fresh cranberries (no price visible, but I have a sudden craving for warm, fresh cranberry sauce, and a bag of cranberries can't be more than $2), a box of teabags (Celestial Seasonings, $.20 cheaper than Bigelow) and four cups of yogurt (we are sticking scrupulously to our meal plan this week, and it calls for yogurt).

"If they're like this here," one of the men says, "imagine what it must be like on 86th Street!"

"I've seen it at 86th Street," says the other man, "Unbelievable. But, you know, white people."

"Yeah, white people. White people don't check prices. They're just like, 'I'll have one of those, one of these, yeah, I like this...'"

I look over at them. I'm not sure if they catch me looking. I go and check out.


Sistah Ant said...

tee hee. girl, you know there is a significant contingent of black and brown folks who believe that all white folks have money by virtue of being white.

please do take it with a sense of humor, silly though that assumption may be. you think maybe they thought you were latina?

anyway, i'm glad you're sticking to your meal plan.

English Major said...

I definitely know—and I certainly reacted more "hmm!" than "grr."

I do sometimes pass for Latina, actually. I'm pallorriffic, but I also have dark curly hair, and a not-so-Anglo nose. The old ladies in my building sometimes speak Spanish to me in the elevator, so I've learned to say "Excuse me, I don't speak Spanish."

The Captain said...

Trader Joe's.

Madame X said...

This reminds me of the time I was shopping in my neighborhood and the Latina cashiers held up the yogurt I was buying and mockingly said, in Spanish, "oooh, we sell ORGANIC yogurt now," not knowing I could understand them!

English Major said...

Much as I love TJ's, the captain, there is no replacement for a neighborhood grocery store. For me, it's an issue of niches: I shop TJ's for cheap prepared foods and some staples (frozen things of all varieties, crackers, applesauce, peanut butter, regular butter, chocolate chips, etc.), my local supermarket for meat, poultry, herbs (fresher & less packaged than the TJ's herbs), and anything I don't want to carry on the 6 train (eggs, milk--though I sometimes get those at TJ's when I have K with me, because they're cheaper there). The big gap is produce: TJ's is no better than my local store--lots of pallid, overpackaged produce.

My local store also has a bunch of stuff that many stores don't have, like fresh ginger, yucca, slab bacon, pork hocks, Abuelita products, etc.

Point is, I love my neighborhood, and I like doing at least some of my shopping at my local supermarket.

English Major said...

Madame X, the two big indicators of the progression of gentrification in my neighborhood are:

1) quantity of yellow cabs, and
2) what the grocery store starts stocking. Since I've been living here, the following have hit the shelves: organic yogurt, Greek-style yogurt, nonfat Greek-style yogurt, sorbet, Ben & Jerry's ice creams, baking chocolate, Bigelow teas, and Kashi cereals.

PiggyBankBlues said...

long live the bodega!

Anonymous said...

Trader Joes sells cage-free eggs that are between $1-2 cheaper than the other stores in my area. I don't buy everything there (their produce sucks!) but eggs I only buy at TJ's so I can avoid the cruel but cheap v. ethical and expensive dilemma.

Frugal Duchess said...

Hey English Major:

This post made me homesick for New York.

I used to live on the Upper West Side: not far from Zabar's: 82nd & Broadway.

Escape Brooklyn said...

Trader Joe's is a hassle to get to, but everyone's right about their great prices! (And lousy produce, unfortunately.)

I knew my neighborhood was changing when a *second* natural foods store opened and the Associated went out of business. (The Associated posted signs advertising a "close-up sale," which totally confused me.) Boy, do I miss their cheap staples!

But the benefit of gentrification, I suppose, is that my local "Super Deli" now stocks fancy microbrews. Course, the price also went up from $1.50 for a single beer to $2+!

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica- yeah there is still people who are racist but ignore it. I'm from the South Bronx where the real bodegas are at :)

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