I have never been to Bi-Rite Market, but now that I have this book in my possession, I do not know why it hasn’t been top of my list when in the Bay Area. If that sounds at all silly to you, understand that while on vacation, I visit independently owned grocery stores the way other people explore national parks.
When in Portland, I stop in to New Seasons, Pastaworks, Food Front and People’s. Last weekend while in Western Massachusetts, I dashed in to the River Valley Market and the Berkshire Co-op Market. I’ve been to the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Vermont, New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City and Wheatsfield Grocery in Ames, Iowa.
It’s a funny little habit, but I’m fascinated with how different regions of the country do their grocery shop, particularly when freed from the homogenous grocery store chains that dominate so much of our food buying.
What’s all that have to do with this new, lovely book? Well, other than planting a seed that I must visit Bi-Rite someday, flipping through this volume has reminded me why I like these small markets so much and why I’ve chosen to do the bulk of my shopping the way I do (from farmers’ markets and small produce stores and through CSA shares and buying clubs). I’ve always been a believer in the necessity and importance of community, and there’s no better way to nurture that human connection than over food. Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam and his staff get that in a deep and true way.
Here in Philly, there’s an urban farm in the Kensington neighborhood called Greensgrow (I taught a canning class in their community kitchen last weekend and have another one coming up in November). Their slogan is “Growers of food, flowers and neighborhoods.” It’s just different verses of the same song.
Still, you might wonder why I think you should carve out some space on your shelf for Eat Good Food. In addition to the fact that it sent me running to the kitchen within the first few days of ownership, consider it a working manual for your grocery store. The sections are divided by grocery aisle, so that you can easily find resources by genre. In the chapter devoted to the produce section, it’s further divided by season, making it easy to browse for inspiration depending on what time of year it is.
What’s more, you won’t just find recipes and essays from farmers and chefs. You’ll also find information on how to buy, store and use foods. Helpful, particularly for those of you who recently got your first head of escarole or frisee in your CSA box and don’t know how to approach it.
As I get to the bottom of this post, I’m a little bit concerned that I’ve made Eat Good Food sound highfalutin or elitist. Truly, it’s anything but. Yes, the book features essays about farmers and sometimes waxes poetic about the perfection of seasonal fruit. But essentially, it’s a user’s guide to food shopping, with beautiful pictures and approachable, delicious-sound recipes. How could you not want that kind of book within easy reach?