Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ode to Metropolitan Market

One can't help but love a store as beautiful as the Admiral Metropolitan Market, where even the produce displays are works of art; where the carts never squeal, rattle, or suddenly veer in unexpected directions; where nary a child disturbs the pleasant shopping experience with his shrill shriek of obstinance.

One also can't help but spend a large portion of one's hard earned paycheck at a store as beautiful as the Admiral Metropolitan Market. I conducted a little experiment once. Turns out, if you stick to the basics the Metro is no more expensive than the Safeway across the street. The problem comes from the fact that the Metro hides the basics. Hides them, I tell you. Expertly. Cunningly. Maliciously.

Want some cheddar cheese? Sure, they have some of that. I'm sure it's here somewhere at the ENORMOUS CHEESE DELI that greets you as you walk in the door. Maybe next to the aged gouda? Or behind the gruyere. Still can't find it? Here, why don't you sample some of our idiazabal while you continue looking? Right. By the time you realize that the plain ol' cheddar is kept at the far back corner of the store, your cart is loaded with funny smelling cheeses from the far back corners of the world.

And then the antipasta bar, and the prepared food deli, the soup bar, the made to order meals prepared by real chefs while you wait, the knowledgeable staff who expertly pair wine to go with all the cheese in your cart, the cleverly displayed impulse items (orange blossom honey, anyone?) at checkout, and - oh dear lord - bulk jelly bellys. How can any reasonable person be expected to stick to the basics in a place like this?

Ah, but though I try to hate them for the havoc they wreck on my food budget, I can not help but love a store that always has ALL the ingredients for that special meal I'm trying to cook. A store that, though it's only food, gives me nearly the same pleasure as an afternoon browsing through clothes I can't afford at trendy boutiques. A store where the bag boys and girls are personally offended if you don't allow them to help you to your car. (I always tell them no anyway. It's the only thing, after shopping at a store like the Metro, that keeps me from feeling entirely like a spoiled little brat.)

So, yes. I did some grocery shopping today. And, yes, I bought a few things that weren't on my basics list (including the tzatziki sauce I just dribbled on my keyboard). And, yes, I spent a bit more money than I'd been planning. But I say what the hell? The unsqueaky carts alone are enough to keep me coming back. And the cheese. The glorious, glorious cheese...

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