It's been nearly four years since I started this blog, over 900 posts ago. All I ever wanted to do is document the inspiration of a family cook - in my case now a single Dad. I am not a chef. I am a father who LOVES to cook for and nurture his children (and whatever friends end up around the table too). In the process I can help them know and celebrate the traditions of our family, I can relay the cherished memories I have of my late mother and grandparents and I can expand their palates and their world. The blog has taken on a life of its own in the last four years and with that, a very cool readership of people all over the world. That being said, I'm just a normal guy - an insurance agent by day and one more middle-aged working man trying to make ends meet and provide the best I can for my kids. Which is the segue into this, possibly my longest post ever...
On my umpteenth journey to Doris' Italian Market in Pembroke Pines today - a scant 27 miles from my home - I must have passed dozens of Publix Supermarkets along the way. Publix has a veritable monopoly here in South Florida, with most people finding them superior to Winn Dixie. That, as those of us who like to cook know, isn't saying much. I, personally, have almost completely given up shopping at Publix. I got serious about stopping after opening one more pack of chicken thighs that greeted me with the with all of that extra fat and skin tucked underneath, on top of the absorbent pad full of water, which made me feel like a complete idiot (for the 1,000th time) for paying for fat and water instead of chicken. Today's experience sealed the deal. Here's what I got at Doris' Italian Market today:
I hope you can make out the type on that ticket. If you can't, here are the facts: 8 chicken quarters (leg & thigh) for $4.52 - that was the special at $0.49 a pound. That's over 9 pounds of chicken for under five bucks. And it's ALL chicken - no ridiculous amounts of fat tucked beneath. Need Exhibit B?
That's over 5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $8.21. Now, maybe some of you live in parts of the country where these prices are normal. For those of us in South Florida, these are amazing. And once again no disclaimers: they're tasty, clean, fresh and unlike the chicken at Publix, if you don't cook it today, it will still be fresh tomorrow.
The comparison continues... The exact same sized container of Romano cheese at Publix is over $11.00. Eleven bucks for grated Romano cheese? Not truffles, not Beluga, not Stone Crab claws... cheese! In what is comparable, Doris' does a double reverse slam dunk on Publix... And then there are the "extras" - those items that are not even present in the 40,000 square foot supermarket chains:
Like good canned tomatoes for sauce (these from San Marzano, Italia) Or a varied and reasonably priced selection of good pasta. (The last box of De Cecco I bought at Publix had a host of weevils in it - I was so disgusted I didn't even want to return it.)..
So where am I going with all of this? Simply this: I'm through with the big box grocery stores. There have to be hundreds of thousands of us who watched grocery prices go through the roof with $4.00/gallon gasoline and the same amount of us who are AWARE that not only haven't the grocery prices come back down now that the bottom fell out of gas, but the packages of some products have actually gotten smaller! We're paying more now for less... Well, not me anymore. I'll happily drive up to Doris', pack my cooler, save my money, grab a mortadella sub at the deli counter, maybe a pignoli cookie or two for the ride back and do my part to encourage the local merchant who is proving his commitment to his local customer. Will Publix even notice I'm gone? I don't know. I did represent close to $10,000 in sales last year. I've talked to the head of produce at one of my stores so many times about just getting a good head of lettuce, all to no avail... I guess I'll just take my green and buy my lettuce somewhere else. Somewhere I don't have that "I'm getting taken advantage of - one more time" kind of feeling. Imagine if a bunch of us did the same thing?