Harvest or Safeway?

“It’s kind of weird,” I said, “that anyone would bother.”

I dipped my sushi into the all organic hand harvested by native peoples wasabi.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I think it says a lot about a person, you know, where you go.”

He delicately wrapped a piece of traditional Osaka pickled ginger, prepared in the same way for six hundred years by the same family, around his sushi.

“It’s true. I don’t really hang out, you know, with people who go there. How can you even find anything in there? It’s a total disaster area!”

I lightly sprinkled my 100% organic made from non-gmo soybeans soysauce on another piece of sushi.

“Yeah, like, what’s the deal, why are they even in business here! Assholes.”

We are discussing an age old debate which surrounds coastal Mendocino living–Harvest or Safeway?

Harvest is an independently owned grocery store with a store ethic that resembles Whole Foods. Lots of organic food, specialty items, fresh produce, imported things, and so forth. No Black China Bakery vegan cakes yet, but we are working on it. Harvest has been in business since 1985 and held by the same family. Harvest is in a state of rapid mutation right now, as well, as they are expanding their store by a significant amount, but it’s the place to go if you want bulk food. Cherimoyas. Kimchee. Tings.

Safeway is…Safeway. It’s like Albertsons or Price Chopper or Tescos or…you know, that big ugly chain supermarket in your neighborhood. I loathe Safeway with a flaming passion and only with extreme duress do I set foot in its doors, usually because I am being dragged by someone else when they do their shopping, despite my earnest pleas to go to Harvest instead.

I am torn about supermarkets in general. I would prefer to go to the butcher, the green grocer, the fishmonger, the dairy, the baker, and so on, for my supplies. But if I’m going to a supermarket, I’m going to pick one that has better quality food and a wider assortment of food. Especially when I was vegan, Harvest was the only choice. I prefer to buy local, and Harvest carries a lot of grocery goods made/grown by local companies. I like that.

The division between Harvest and Safeway is not as simple as class. It’s not that the yuppies go to Harvest and the workingmen go to Safeway. A sampling of a checkstand line at Harvest might reveal a logger, an “environmentally sensitive” yuppie, and a college student. Harvest has all the things Safeway has–Hungry Man dinners and plastic bags, and those things do get utilized. But the thing is, people go to one store…or the other. They rarely go to both. I know one person who comparison shops for prices (guess who), and goes to whichever is cheaper, or sometimes both in the same day to get the best deal.

It’s interesting to talk to people about the Harvest vrs Safeway debate, because people feel almost as passionately about it as Mac people do. I really think someone should do a sociology study on the two stores and their demographics, because it’s an interesting example of polarized small town living. It amazes me that grocery stores develop cliques, like the Berkeley Bowl, and the lengths to which grocery fascists (including myself) will go.

How far will you go for groceries?

[grocery stores]