While walking up to the deli counter at the local Frankfort IGA a few months ago, I was greeted with a smile by the lady who shaves my Virginia baked ham and colby jack cheese.
I hadn’t been in the store for a number of weeks, and God love her, she had noticed. She asked how I was doing and wondered how I had gone so long without my usual order of cold cuts and cheese.
I found that refreshing.
This is one of many reasons I like shopping at hometown groceries.
Our hometown grocery in Freehold, N.J., was called Food Town. When I close my eyes, I see the lay out of that store, where the yogurt and milk were housed, and how bags of Twizzlers chocolate licorice were stacked next to the Dots on the bottom shelf in Aisle 2. I hear the clicking sound of the pre-scan cash registers echoing off the walls.
My mother, with list in hand and sale prices memorized, would go food shopping once a week, usually on Thursday. On the days I accompanied Mom, we were greeted by the aroma of homemade breads and cookies from the bakery.
We would make a quick right, and there before us was the fresh fruit and vegetable aisle. The best heads of lettuce, Mom said, were the ones that were firm.
Every year, my mother asked the produce manager if she could collect rogue onion skins. Nana, Mom said, used onion skins to dye Easter eggs, especially during the Depression when money was tight. It was a time, she added, when people “made do with what they had.”
A little further down on the right was the deli, where my mother would order a pound of imported, not domestic, Swiss cheese. The imported Swiss cheese tasted better, Mom said, and was only a little bit more expensive.