A picture tells a thousand stories … Below are a few photos to show you where I buy some of my veggies as of very recently. From Alberto, whose vegetable garden lies between Rocca Priora and Rocca di Papa in the Castelli area south of Rome, and whom I got to know via a friend who shops there regularly.
I tell him how happy I am to make his acquaintance and be able to buy my vegetables directly from him; being the enthusiast that I am, I also start up a conversation about how important it is for people to rediscover their closeness to the land and to its fruits … and how great it is that people are waking up to this approach to food and how awful supermarkets are. Alberto looks at me as one would a wayward child … he knows the wicked ways of middlemen and isn’t convinced that a true change is going to come about any time soon, or that a short supply chain is what the masses of people want.
I hope he is wrong, I really do.
I do of course realise that we can’t get all too rus-in-urbe and wistfully romantic about something as important as the supply of food (which is necessary for good health as well as happiness) in our day and age for the masses that congregate in large cities. We should, instead, look to ways of tithing modern facilities and science to what makes good sense in terms of farming and sustainability. If you have the time, please read the following by food historian and writer Katie Parla: http://www.parlafood.com/planting-thoughts-the-first-annual-mad-food-camp/. This is riveting stuff!
For me individually … all I can do is spread the word to my friends and family and shop as much as I can from markets, small farmers and grocers. I am so lucky that small retailers still exist where I live.
I would be a hypocrite if I said I never set foot inside a supermarket — but for some years now, I only ever do so when I have no other alternative. I am always very nice to the poor sods at the tills, I feel so sorry for them. Last year, which is the last time I stepped inside a certain supermarket in my vicinity, I asked the girl at the till how things were going for them, now that the supermarket had switched from the old to the new, French, brand. “Worse”, she said. They impose a half-hour break … which makes humanitarian sense … but at the end of their ‘turno’ or shift, they have to work that half-hour back!!! Crafty, hey. And besides, I find that a lot of supermarkets in Italy actually ‘smell’, yuk. I don’t know what kind of cleaning product they use. For me they are sad, sad places.
Supermarkets in the U.K. are aesthetically much better (I like Waitrose) — and that’s just as well because there are hardly any green-grocers or small food shops to speak of. Not number-wise, that is. Not in London and not in other towns I’ve been to in England recently. The ‘Wholefoods’ supermarket in the USA is beautiful, as supermarkets go. I have been told that the Italian supermarket chain by the name of CONAD, which is one of two supermarket chains that I consent to shop in when I really have to, stock sustainably farmed fresh fish. That’s already a good start …
Not that we can all go and live there … but the Food Market at Granville Island that I had the good fortunte to be able to visit in Vancouver last August is just the best! And it’s open seven days a week: http://www.granvilleisland.com/public-market It is festive too, unlike even the most super-duper of supermarkets. The Granville Island Public Market is such a ‘large’ market that it ends up functioning like an ordinary supermarket. Plenty of room and plenty of food for all, with cafés to perk one up. Why can’t we draw inspiration from there?
Where there is a will, combined with good will which supermarkets don’t seem to me to have, insofar as they are the uber middlemen putting small farmers out of action and supporting slave-labour levels of work ethics, I am sure we can up with something very satisfying.
For your information, Alberto’s prices are close to, but lower than those of supermarkets. Who says good food can’t be cheaper outside of supermarkets?