The Local Yokels
Character Sketches of The Latest Locavores
“I think,” the woman, said, “that your store is fabulous.” She picks up a glass bottle of case-sugar A&W root beer. “How do you get all these things locally?”
He looks like I am holding something dubious and smelly under his nose. Really, though, I am not holding anything, and he is fingering a package of gourmet wild mushroom ravioli. “Where were these made? Did you make them?”
I sell freshly brewed fair-trade coffee two ways: by the cup (75 cents) or by your cup (25). I do this because I don’t like spending my money on paper. So it’s fine that this frizzy-haired girl with the bike and the Black lab came in with her own mug for some coffee.
It is less fine when she sits in one of my three booths for two hours during sandwich time.
When she comes to the counter to settle up (54 cents with tax: she got a refill), she says, “I would love to get a farm, raise my own vegetables, get some chickens. Industrial agriculture is so terrible, and you know, people just don’t know. We have to support local stores like yours.”
She gives me exact change.
You know who’s fun to sell groceries to? People who love to eat.
“Try this,” I say, and the plump woman’s eyes roll back in her head as she tastes our house-made curried chicken salad.
“I love this bread,” the elderly woman says. She is holding a loaf of ciabetta. “Can’t pronounce the name, but it sure tastes good.”
“This smoked turkey,” the pest control man says with conviction, “is the best I have ever had.”
A lady buys two of our baker’s Salty Pecan cookies, pays, leaves. Three minutes later she’s back in the store. “I made the mistake of trying these,” she says. She buys eight more to take with her on her road trip north.
An elderly black woman lays three Georgia peaches on my counter. She counts out her change carefully.
Another customer comes to the counter with a sackful of local tomatoes. “I love me some tomatoes,” she says. “I’m allergic to them, but I eat ‘em anyway. That’s why God made Benedryl.”
It’s gotten fashionable to care more about where food comes from than how much it costs or how it tastes. I have my own theories on how to encourage local agriculture, but here is the one thing I know as a person managing a grocery store: food is what nourishes us. It’s what grows our children and feeds our souls and it absolutely matters where it comes from. But many of the local food purists who come in my store are missing the point: food should be eaten, enjoyed, and relished. “Mangia, Mangia!” is the saying after all-- not “Nitpick, nitpick.”