Friday, November 13, 2020

Thought for food

This evening I went out for groceries, which I do every week or two. Since March, these grocery runs are the only times I ever leave the apartment. They take about half an hour.

Before the virus hysteria began, I bought groceries in a fairly large supermarket in my neighborhood, several streets from home. It has a large selection of things I like. But once the Deadly Virus came to town, this supermarket made its cashiers disappear, and replaced them with self-service checkout stands. The stands are such a pain to use—and I am so averse to doing the work of a cashier just so that the supermarket chain can lay off its cashiers and boost its margins—that I changed to a different, smaller market around the corner.

Excerpt from the actual receipt
The selection at the smaller market is limited and not very consistent, but so are my budget and mobility right now. And it has human cashiers. Tonight I bought oatmeal, Ovaltine®, cream, milk, little potato balls (pommes Dauphines and pommes noisettes), potato chips, a few hamburger patties for special treats, and some Snickers® bars. I buy much the same thing on each visit—whatever is cheap. The total came to €69.42. It should last me at least a week, perhaps longer.

After rent and taxes, food is my biggest expense. And I don't even go to restaurants. Even Burger King® is a rare treat. I don't know how other Parisians manage. Paris is famous for its food; and once upon a time, in those halcyon days when I had time and money, I could go to the open markets during the working day and buy all sorts of tasty fresh foodstuffs. But these days, with a tiny salary, now halved by a furlough and then eliminated by a layoff, I have no real food budget, so I try to spend as little as possible.

Studies show that Parisians are more prone to shop in supermarkets these days, but I think those who can still go to the food markets and market streets—I probably would if I could, at least part of the time. There are still food merchants who sell only cheese, or only honey, or just wine, or foie gras, or even … horsemeat; and they do well (in normal times). And it's more fun to shop at little shops and in front of food stalls, if there's no rush. Of course, in the current police state this isn't practical.

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