Sunday, January 01, 2012

Your neighborhood greengrocer

About a few minute walk from my parents' place in an eastern suburb of Tokyo, a greengrocer still remains in operation. My mother is a regular customer, and the store owner tells her whether each vegetable and fruit is worth buying  each day. He goes like, "Grapes from Yamagata (a prefecture in northern Japan) are great. Those from Yamanashi (another prefecture immediately to the west of Tokyo), though it is famous for grapes, are not very good." According to him, the best potatoes come from Mikatagahara (near Nagoya), onions from Awaji (an island off the coast of Osaka), and so on.

Such a greengrocer in your neighborhood enriches your life. Compare this to shopping vegetables and fruits at the ubiquitous supermarkets. There is no one whom you can ask which oranges are good. Each day they just put vegetables and fruits in bulk on the shelf. Customers cannot tell whether today's "harvest" is better or worse than usual. The only information you get is the price.

On the other hand, there's no fishmonger in my parents' neighborhood. My mother ends up buying fish at a soulless supermarket, and my parents complain that their fish doesn't taste good.

Ranting against supermarkets may sound like an out-dated anti-modernist complaint. But think about it. Do you enjoy going to a supermarket to buy foods for today's dinner? If the shopping involves the encounter with a food connoisseur like the greengrocer in my parents' neighborhood, even the process of shopping becomes fun. Greengrocers are like DJs for music, curators for art, journalists for world events, consultants for corporate management, or interior designers for opening an attractive shop.

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