I apologize in advance, this is not a post about a recipe (although I have some good ones in the pipeline), but rather a rant about my local grocery stores. I won’t be offended if you don’t read it, I just feel the need to voice my opinion on this one.
I happen to live in a somewhat major metropolitan area. Boston is no small town. We have our fair share of professional sports teams, some amazing college teams, our own foods that we are “famous” for, infamous accents (although you will be hard pressed to find someone who actually speaks like that, except for when my husband gets near someone who does, then he’s all dropping his r’s and such), etc.
I also happened to grow up in a pretty rural area, where our grocery stores were limited and there was no offering of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Market Basket, Shaw’s and the like. We had one at the time, and now there are at least two options there.
Here in Boston, I have had the trouble of finding all the ingredients I need at one location. Cooking anything that requires more than just cutting open a bag and sliding the contents into a pan requires a trip to at least two stores. Aren’t we supposed to be able to find all ingredients necessary at one giant store? Haven’t they replaced the mom and pop grocery stores, the butcher, the baker, the grocer? If I could I would definitely go from purveyor to purveyor, picking up my food that each one specialized in. But those days are long gone, and are now replaced with rows and rows of frozen goods, prepackaged crap (don’t get me wrong, I eat that stuff from time to time when I really don’t feel like cooking). It’s no wonder Americans don’t cook anymore. Or they count ready made throw in the skillet or ovens as real meals.
Yesterday I was trying to make chicken soup from scratch. It was a cold and rainy (later snowy) day in New England, and all I wanted was some homemade soup. I had all my ingredients from a previous night’s outing, except for the fresh herbs I needed in order to make both the stock and soup itself. My husband tried to convince me to just use dried herbs, but if you’re like me, you will do no such thing. There is a time and a place for dried, but not in my soup stock.
We set out and after many failed attempts at many grocery stores, we struck out. Apparently people do not cook enough with fresh herbs for large, nationally known grocery stores to keep them in stock. And more importantly, keep them fresh. I saw so many packages of wilting, blackened herbs that I was discouraged.
We returned home, defeated, and started to do some research online. We happen to live in a smaller community right outside the city, about 5 miles from downtown, with a large Latin population. There are many small stores catering to that population, carrying ingredients that they would find in their home country.
We also happened to discover that the majority of fresh herbs that come into NEW ENGLAND, not just Boston, come through our city. Why is it that they come in and are redistributed, but the consumer can not find any in stores? To me, being someone who is a home cook, fresh herbs are a cornerstone to any meal. Sure, salt and pepper are the main spices, but after that, you need SOMEthing to flavor the meal. I do use a lot of dried herbs in my cooking, but like I said, there is a time and a place for those, just like there is a time and a place for fresh herbs. I just wish there were some sort of shop that specialized in fresh produce, including herbs. Even that chain that sells overpriced fancy organics had a lackluster herb selection. If THEY don’t have what I need, where will I find it?
Turns out I found my herbs at the grocery store behind the strip club next to the movie theatre. We had set out again, after doing our research, composing countless letters to the editor(s) in my head, and taking a different geographic route in search of fresh herbs. I had to piece together some “poultry mix” boxes and a “seafood mix” box, but in the end I got what I needed. It just took 4 separate grocery stores to find (not including the original store where I bought all my original soup ingredients).
In the end, I still don’t have an answer to why there are no fresh herbs to be found. My husband was proposing we start a store that specializes in JUST fresh produce and herbs, but I’m pretty sure it’s a somewhat limited market, and no one would drive to where we live to buy them. But who knows, I could be wrong.