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The Best Grocery Store in Town
There's always that one
Do you have a stadium that’s your favorite for food? I now go to Banc of California Stadium here in Los Angeles regularly for Angel City (women’s pro soccer!) games and while I despise the place for its “small or clear bags only” policy, the food is actually restaurant-quality. The rotisserie chicken is kind of embarrassing to eat, but it absolutely holds its own. There’s also a “char siu burger,” which is just a bunch of sliced pork on a bun, but … yeah, sounds good. (I’ll get it next time.) Is this the wave of the stadium future or just a one-off? -Katherine
If you haven’t become a paid subscriber yet, please consider it. The money goes straight to paying freelancers a good rate - much better than most publications. And if not that, click on the heart icon above so I know you’re reading! Please enjoy the article below by Bella Dally-Steele.
The Best Grocery Store in Town
By Bella Dally-Steele
For a family of seven, the weekly shopping trip is an intricately choreographed dance that paints the entire town. In Madison, WI, it’s: Woodman's Market for cheap staples; Costco for oversized tubs of chicken salad and jugs of orange juice; Trader Joe's for baking supplies; and Brennan's for aged cheeses and, in the summer, still-ripening peaches trucked in from Idaho.
I stopped tagging along on my mother's grocery shopping trips long ago. When I visit home now, it is only Brennan's, the peerless cheese, meat, and fruit market of my town that manages to tempt me. Throughout my childhood, the market inhabited a low and sprawling ranch-style shop one neighborhood over. Its automatic sliding doors belched hair-raising cool air, even in the dead of Wisconsin winter. But summer is the better time to go, anyway.
In the hot months, Brennan’s gates open onto wheelbarrows stacked high with our family’s most treasured foodstuff: downy, dripping peaches. Perched atop each pile, a plastic takeaway container holds a handful of slices and a tube of toothpicks. Other aisles boast a color gradient of Bing cherries, other stone fruits, and berries, each topped with their own tupperwares. We picked through them all, rushing first to the peaches, then their second-rate cousin (nectarines), then the next-best fruits (cherries), and so on until we had “patronized” the whole store.
After that, the final boss: a second set of sliding doors to an enormous walk-in refrigerator. We surely would have demurred had the freezing back room not been stocked with Brennan’s cheeses. We would watch our mom hustle to the refrigerators to sort through the color-coded, vacuum sealed blocks: Red for the three-year aged cheddar, black for four years and green for five to ten. Shivering as she filled the cart with the black and green blocks, we stabbed through samples of the exotic and experimental flavors. If she dawdled in the beer aisle, we took to the buffet of dips, dunking flattened pretzels and hunks of dried pita into whatever tubs of spread had not already been scraped clean by early-bird shoppers.
Brennan’s has moved now, to a high-ceilinged, 2D-looking building on the outskirts of town, caught under a tangle of freeway overpasses. I was dubious of the new headquarters, so different from the Brennan’s of my youth. But as I followed my mother into the now sprawling market, a wave of goosebumps prickled my arms and I caught sight of tupperwares teetering atop the many fruits. 🍑
More Food Reading:
I came across this 1982 New York Times article on California cuisine. What a time capsule - less so for the discussion of food and more so as witness to New York’s apparently never-ending, always-was need to sneer at the west coast. You think you’re reading a complimentary little piece and then BOOM “Besides, and this is an important element in the changing California restaurant scene, simpler food requires less skilled help and so is less expensive. The feeling among restaurant owners here is that their clientele is not willing to pay the sort of prices that many of the better New York restaurants charge.” New Yorkers are so insecure!
A Trader Joe’s store is in the process of unionizing - it’s the first one.
Man, chocolate and alcohol. The most food products with the most evil histories. But, there’s a commercial line of ògógóró out of Nigeria now that righting some British wrongs. I appreciate this article about it, as it shows why “First World problems” is such a deeply awful, dehumanizing phrase. (h/t @mokymakura)
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