Purity and Prejudice

There are two major supermarkets in Fort Bragg: Harvest and Safeway. Most people shop at one or the other, and it can at times be a divisive issue. Some people think of Safeway as the hick grocery store, for example, while Harvest is the yuppie grocery store.

But this dichotomy leaves out two lesser players, Purity and Down Home Foods. Purity is technically a supermarket, using any definition you like, but it’s more of a market in the style of Mendosas (before Harvest bought it), with a limited selection of basic items and a really good meat and seafood counter which often stocks local food. Down Home is the health food store, a great place for bulk tea and spices and weird hippy food. And wilted produce. Why the produce at a health food store is so bad, I don’t know.

At any rate, I typically shop at Harvest, because I have a Purity prejudice. I can’t really explain it. There’s no reason to not like Purity. The people there are perfectly nice, I’m sure. It’s a bit creepy, as I’ve noticed when picking up the occasional Cappuccino It’s-It there,  but it’s not like Purity has heads on stakes in the produce section or anything. I get a few things from Down Home, like the bulk tea I like, and I get my meat from Roundman’s as a general rule, because they have good, local meat and they’re only a few blocks away. Everything else I get at Harvest.

My Purity prejudice is kind of famous among my group of friends. I remember at one point we needed sugar for something and I insisted on going all the way to Harvest instead of Purity. I can’t rationalize my Purity prejudice, and as I recall my father and I used to shop there when I was a kid. There was just a shift, at some point, where Purity went from being a market to being a void space that I don’t even think of as a source for food.

This week, I decided that it was time to get over my Purity prejudice. It’s stupid to order groceries from Harvest constantly when I can get most of the things I need at Purity. Purity tends to be cheaper, according to those who actually shop there, and I really miss being able to wander around a grocery store and make selections. And I’m all about living within walking distance. Well I could technically walk to Harvest, but it wouldn’t be very enjoyable.

So I actually went to Purity to shop, grocery list in hand. And I have to say, it’s a decent grocery store. They definitely have some shortcomings; I couldn’t find the brand of yogurt I like, for example, and the selection isn’t that broad. But given that I ignore half of the aisles in Harvest anyway, I don’t think it’s fair to pick on Purity for having a limited selection. They have a fair amount of ethnic ingredients, for example, and the produce is of reasonably good quality. Although the tomatoes were greasy. How do tomatoes get greasy?

I don’t think I can satisfy all of my shopping needs at Purity, but I think that I will be shopping there a lot more often. I really like being able to go to the store every few days to pick up things as I am inspired to cook them, rather than forcing myself to think of anything I might possibly want to eat in a week and then making a big grocery order. I’m also looking into local CSAs for produce, and looking forward to the opening of the farmers’ market.

For Lent, I have also decided to try and purchase only base ingredients. For example, rather than buying yogurt or pasta sauce when I have a hankering, I am going to make my own. I’m even going to get experimenting with my own soft cheeses this weekend, although since I can’t get raw milk* up here it’s going to be interesting. Rather than buying boxed pasta or prepared pizza crust for a recipe, I’m going to make my own. I think that I rely on packaged convenience a lot, and while my definitions of convenience foods are different from those of a lot of Americans (I don’t buy tv dinners, boxed macaroni and cheese, and the like, for example), I think that I can make my own damn chicken soup, not buy it in a box. If I want bagels, I can find a recipe and use it rather than settling for the spongy crap everyone here has the audacity to call a bagel (seriously…you cannot get good bagels anywhere in this town).

I’m hoping that this will be a permanent shift, and that when I want things like cream cheese, applesauce, and rye bread in the future, I’ll make them myself. It’s cheaper to buy the base ingredients for these things than it is to buy them in the store, and it also allows me greater control over what I put in my body.

We’ll see how it works out.

*By the way, if anyone has a line on local raw milk and wants to hook me up, please let me know. I promise I won’t compromise your source. I just want real milk. Damnit.