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In Praise of the Outer Aisles

September 4, 2013 by Diane

Strawberries

The large-chain grocery stores can keep their fluorescent lights and canned 80’s music and indifferent checkers, the bag boy waiting for his next coffee break. They can keep their fruit flown in from Australia pyramided under orange lights to make the oranges…oranger.

I’ll direct my feet to the farmers’ market. I’ll breathe fresh air and mingle in my community of neighbors and listen to live music—guitar, violin, a Bluegrass singer. I’ll hand my money direct to the farmer who will hand me plump strawberries harvested that morning near the ocean, and organic grapes the size of thumbs. I’ll wander the stalls of fresh flowers and crackly baguettes and giant artichokes and seven varieties of hummus, and sweet baby corn that can be eaten raw, there in the sunlight, among friends.

I’ll jot down the farmer’s tips…

“Take a clove of garlic and plant it in an inch of soil on Halloween. The rain will water it, and come spring it will sprout beautiful flowers and you’ll have garlic year-round.”

I’ll show him the leaves of my tomato plant that are turning yellow.

“Is the fruit ripe?” he’ll ask.

“The skins are splitting on the vine.”

“Too much water, too fast.”

“Some of the fruit is still green,” I’ll say.

“Needs fertilizer. At this point, use nitrogen and magnesium.”

Can you get that kind of service in the grocery store? “I wouldn’t know, ma’am. Our tomatoes are shipped from Mexico. We pick ‘em off the truck.”

I’m happier in the outer aisles, breathing the morning air, the sunlight warming my skin, hearing the laughter of children, seeing the smiles of older couples, carrying a reusable cloth bag spilling over with bouquets of red and orange and yellow cosmos and thick gluten-free cinnamon rolls and homemade lavender soap and raisins so plump they squirt when you bite into them.

The raisins at the chain-stores rattle around in their miniature boxes like old teeth.


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