Saturday, August 23, 2008

$.39 Garlic and other musings

Friends and acquaintances alike will chastise me for this purchase for a variety of reasons. Why should I buy my garlic from the People's Republic of China when there is perfectly good garlic grown a lot closer to home? How does that make any sense environmentally speaking? Just so we are on the same page, I bought not one but five heads of garlic for 39 cents.

I spend a lot of time in San Francisco's Chinatown, as I walk through on my way home from work. I enjoy the hustle and bustle on the streets. I like the bakeries. I enjoy seeing featherless hanging birds, and still flopping fish. And on this day, I needed garlic, so in one of the many grocers I went. Nobody spoke English but that's not a problem. I handed a woman my purchase, she rang me up, I gave her my pocket change. A bit cheaper than I'd expected.

This is the part of the post where I don't know what to tell you or how to succinctly address the issues of 39 cent garlic. Time and again I see how prices in Chinatown (San Francisco and Oakland) are always cheaper than other stores and much more so that the farmers markets. Some readers will simply dismiss this purchase as un-earth friendly that doesn't see the long term issues involved with industrial agriculture, and products being shipped half way across the world, underselling local products. They have a point and I do agree. Lucky for them that they have the luxury of having the choice to pay more for their products. I try to do my part by supporting local farmers when I can. I am very lucky that at times I can and do pay more to encourage new agricultural trends. But what about everyone else?


Anonymous said...

I struggle with this as well. Living in Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area, I have access to farmers markets where I know the sellers are the growers, and even a local farmstand with the produce thriving in the background. I also have easy access to thriving ethnic markets with really nice and cheap produce. It is hard to justify $1 for a bunch of green onions when they are 5/$1 at the Korean market, etc. I see people heaping vegetables into their carts at these markets with glee and joyful anticipation of the prep. Also curious to see what others feel and do. For this season I am sticking to home or friend's gardens, then the farm stand, then the FM, and then picking up the odd bits at the ethnic markets. For example, tomatoes, plums and apples from Dad's garden, peppers, summer squash, basil and chard from mine, citrus from various neighbors, corn and cucumbers from farm stand, eggplant and green beans from FM, ginger and garlic and mushrooms and green onions from Korean market- that was the line up last week or two.

a said...

You hit on something I only sort of touched on, which is how I diversify my shopping. It causes me stress, as I still haven't entirely settled on how or where I should do my shopping. Like you, I also have this sort of hierarchy in play. It can be a bit of a problem when busy though, no?

Anonymous said...

I am currently just cooking for myself and whenever he is around my 17 year old son so the thing for me is more to use everything I purchase with no waste and to create good stuff. My shopping at different venues has changed with the recent gas price outrage so I rarely now venture more then 10 to 15 minutes away by car unless work dictates. I do challenge myself to use every last scrap creatively and that is where I think I connect to the home cooking of countries with less excess. I get a strange thrill out of an almost bare refrigerator!

a said...

Yes, me too! I get satisfaction out of seeing things used, used creatively, and completely. Sometimes having too many things on hand causes headaches. Food that's going to go bad if not eaten strategically can be a problem. I am a huge fan of going to the market often, when time allows. This ritual exists in many countries, but less so in this one. I often dream that the farmers markets can fill this need, but for me, they do not.