They say that I wont last too long…. at Fairway.

Tobyjoe and I discovered Fairway this weekend. We took the Volvo to Red Hook and did a little shopping. We’re having some people over this Friday for a late Thanksgiving dinner and it was the only place I could find a free range, organic turkey for less than 70+ dollars. Plus, they have a parking lot.

I admit to being a little blown away by Fairway. And I’m not sure if they all look the same everywhere but I seriously doubt it. This one is in a massive, old warehouse and sits right along the East River. It’s totally different from any other grocery store I have ever been to. I think Toby put it well the other night when we were having a snack at Sweetwater with Missy, “It’s sort of like a movie set; you’re just waiting for the car to come crashing in through the walls and into the massive stack of fruit.” It looks set up, posed.

Fairway reminded me a little bit of New York City. It has everything you need but it also makes you feel a little uneasy. People were running around with one person in mind, themselves. It’s chaotic, loud, and a little frustrating. Plus, it gives the false impression that it’s tough.

There are days where I wonder how this city manages to function, stay together, work at all. It’s admirable that so many people from so many different backgrounds coexist in one place without killing one another. And I get the feeling sometimes that if one piece were to fail – if the trash men stopped coming, the MTA Mobile Wash Unit stopped dispatching their late night trucks, or if Starbucks ran out of coffee – the city would trip.

Each section of Fairway reminded me of the plethora of New York City neighborhoods. The produce section butts up next to the kosher meats; the meats are near the fish and self-serve, the fish near the coffee, and the coffee near the cleaning supplies. Each aisle and area has its own personality but when they come together it’s a little chaotic and you find yourself wondering how you got there and what insane person architected the whole thing.

I was standing among the apples trying to figure out which ones would work best for baking when a neighboring pear decided to step out of line and leap from its heap. It hit the floor with a thud and I immediately stopped breathing. There was a split second that it became abundantly clear there was a good chance all the pears will follow this lone pear’s rebellious tactic. There was a moment of terror that this one pear could be the pear that brought the towering pear display down entirely. I felt worse knowing I was the closest person to the lone pear.

Recently, on a Monday when New Yorkers are generally surlier than usual, there was another unplanned service problem that took place on the L Train. People became more and more agitated as the minutes ticked closer to 9, myself included. Finally, one waiting passenger began to yell. His voice rose. His faced turned red and the veins became plump with anger. He began to spit and yell. Most of us stood there wondering what he was capable of, just how far out of line he might get. Will he get others to react? Will this cause a miniature riot? Will things break down on the L Train? Will this guy cause a ripple on New York’s delicate social contract? Generally speaking, New Yorkers are far too overworked and exhausted to follow in the footsteps of any one rebellious pear. Plus, a single New Yorker doesn’t actually have as much power as this lone pear at the Fairway. We just don’t matter that much alone. We take solace in that fact.

The store and the towering food displays that line its aisles, feels even more fragile because of the constant flow of people and large shopping carts. I watched one cart drive directly into a row of olive oil, forcing one to the ground, which caused a major oil spill. And it was noon on a Saturday. And just like getting to the Upper West Side from Midtown in a cab during rush hour, everything backed up. People were visibly irritable and ready to take out whoever got in their way. It took me 10 minutes to get to the dairy section.

At the cheese counter we ran into a guy who wanted an extremely rare, Italian table cheese. As he tried to describe the cheese to the cheese guy, he kept using his hands and forming a round circle, touching pointer finger to pointer finger, thumb to thumb.

“It’s round. It’s soft. It’s a table cheese. It’s extremely rare.”

“I don’t think we have that, sir. But we do have other rare Italian table cheeses. Would you like to try what we do have?”

“No. Thank you. I want this cheese.”

New Yorkers are picky. They are picky on the streets when ordering their bagels and five-dollar cups of Starbucks coffees. They are picky about where they shop, where they live, and what newspaper their friends read. They are picky at Fairway when ordering cheese. And they don’t care if everyone else knows.

The New Yorker and the Fairway shopper know no shame. Couple them together and one must tap into one’s reserve tank of patience.

Sometimes, I come home after a long day and I realize that somewhere along the line I spent 200-dollars. I don’t have anything to show for the dark, cold hole in my pocket but I’m 200-dollars poorer than I was when I left that morning. Sure, there was that salad and sandwich I got from Wichcraft, and the macchiato from Oren’s, but I never actually bought anything that I didn’t consume. Where did all of my money go?

On Saturday, we left with about 13 bags of groceries. By the time we got to the checkout aisle, we had a cart full of food. It was overflowing, it seemed.

“235” I guessed.

“360.” He taunted.

“265.” She said.

It’s been a couple of days now and we’re trying our best to not spend a fortune by eating out every day, so we’ve been packing lunches, eating dinner at home, etc. And the strangest part about our visit to Fairway, and the part that reminds me the most of New York City, is the fact even though we spent all that money and had all those bags, we don’t actually have any food in the house.

I’ll go back. I’ll deal with the L every day as well and the traffic and the hole in my pocket. Every New Yorker justifies living here somehow. We have to. If we ever do stop buying into it, and give up all together, we might just be the one piece that brings it all crashing down.

50 Comments

  1. ‘we just dont matter that much alone-’you nailed it.

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  2. Fascinating comparison.

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  3. “And the strangest part about our visit to Fairway, and the part that reminds me the most of New York City, is the fact even though we spent all that money and had all those bags, we don’t actually have any food in the house.

    I love this post. So funny, and so true.

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  4. I’m writing to say Holy Shit! We were BOTH IN THAT FAIRWAY on Saturday!!
    What time were you there? I realize I never called you about Sunday, but that’s cause it wasn’t going to work out…but we (Aunt B and Uncle and Pete and) went to that Fairway around 2:30 or so for lunch, pictures, and to buy stuff from the “English” section for Pete! I even posted Flickr pics of the trolley outside!
    So bizarre. It would have been so cool to run into you two there.
    Also? Great post!!

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  5. Sarah, was it as insane at 2:30 as it was at noon? I will check out your pics.

    Heather, again, I do love you woman of few words.

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  6. It was crazy busy, but I don’t think quite as busy as when you were there. Though I saw the remains of the very olive oil spill you describe: they had poured salt all over it.

    Thanks for checking out the pics!

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  7. Jen, it’s a strange place but not to be missed. They have an excellent seafood and meat selection. Also, you can have brunch at Hope and Anchor on your way.

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  8. not only brunch but karaoke with kay sera!
    do they still do that?

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  9. I am not sure. Missy would probably know.

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  10. IMPORTANT:

    if you guys go to fairway again, will you bring me back a pound of Ethiopian Hararr ? They always have one with massive blueberries, and roasted just right. Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm

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  11. The next time we go, come along, man. Should be sooner rather than later given we can park there.

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  12. For sure, come along. You can school me on their coffee section.

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  13. Will you pick my ass up on the way? So I don’t have to walk or take the bus? (Also, bring your cameras. Red Hook is the best neighborhood for photography.)

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  14. Sounds like we have a date, people.

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  15. Missy, you are always welcome.

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  16. nervous and small November 21, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    So glad to hear you got the Volvo out for a spin!!!!!! It can handle thirteen bags o’ groceries nooooooooooo problem. FYI, Minnnnnnnnnnnnnnnesooooooooota is the largest producer of ahem……”turkeys” in the USA [I’m always amazed the local newscasters can blurt out such ironies w/o blinking], but then again, as David Byrne said in “The Big Country” [written as he was looking out the window during a NY->LA flight]…..”I wouldn’t live there if you PAID ME” [lather rinse repeat].

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  17. Wow – and all I wanted to do was leave a post saying how much I liked the comparison about New Yorkers, and how I agreed with your friend Missy how funny it is when you arrive home after spending loads of cash and there still isn’t anything to eat or make sandwiches with.

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  18. I am there !

    If you really want a schooling though—I will make you eat coffee beans out of the barrel to show you how to judge freshness and quality.

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  19. Happy Thansgiving M+T!

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  20. If it’s thanksgiving for you guys, does that mean I can put my “A Christmas Story” tape in? I just made my first batch of holiday cookies and was thinking about your leg lamp. Anyway , happy holiday season.

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  21. Meghan, I think we might just make the leg lamps again this year only this time I must perfect the actual dough. Last year, they crumbled. By the time folks got ‘em they were most likely destroyed. ;]

    Where are you this year? Are you still way, way overseas? If not, perhaps you’d like some cookies too?

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  22. nico,self-appointed baking consultant November 21, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Might I suggest gingerbread for your leg lamps? It bakes up much harder than butter cookies. Less FRAGILE. I can send you a recipe if you need it.

    Although those broken leg cookies were tasty…

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  23. Nico, yes, please send that to me, baking consultant.

    Wait, I did try gingerbread last year and wasn’t happy with how dark they were. (didn’t pick up the icing quite the way I would have liked) ideas to solve both?

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  24. Tobyjoe, we did lemon last year. But I thought we were directing him to Heather’s site since he seems to enjoy her writing.

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  25. hmmm. I will search the cookie recipe files.

    An option on the gingerbread would be to do two layers of icing. Fill the cookie with a background color, let it dry, then add another layer with colors and detail. Two layers of royal icing will also make a strong cookie. But you might not be looking for that much of a production.

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  26. Oh, no, that’s absolutely something I’d do. Production? Who cares! :]

    Send whatever you have, miss nico.

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  27. Right now I am still here in the UAE. I am about to purchase tickets to Alberta for Christmas though. Unfortunately, we have a sick family member so we need to go back. I have surprisingly mixed emotions about it. I feel guilty thinking “There goes my Goa beach holiday”. But happy that Santa will have a chimney to come down and that my kids will see snow for their first time ever.

    Nico obviously doesn’t have kids…double icing layer! Although I bet it would work and look great.

    Have you tried the Nordic spice cookie base. It might work. And I love the taste.

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  28. Nordic spice? Do share, Meghan. Do share.

    I’m sorry to hear about your family member and the fact that you’re not able to visi Goa. That’s one of the places on our list.

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  29. Haha. It is true, I have the time to indulge obsessive crafting, so no kids. Just furry substitutes. They are good for cleaning the icing off the floor though.

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  30. How about gingerbread cookies with a lemon icing ?

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  31. Michele,

    I shall make it my goal tomorrow to get the recipe off of one of my Swedish friends. They hold it quite close as if it may be a national treasure but they are delish. A little grey in the colour but very nice spice flavour which they always just cut out in shapes and ice white.

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  32. If left to my own devices, I also will spend way too much money in my favorite wegmans. I keep my expenses down by planning meals for the week and only buying what we need. It’s a good time to sit with the family and plan the menu of dinners and go over everyone’s schedule for the week.

    And if you think you spend a lot of dough now, just wait til you have kids.

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  33. (that was for scbob)

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  34. I wondered where you were. Missed ya, sir Charles.

    Wegmans was brought up while visiting Fairway. :] We eventually turn into our parents, don’t we?

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  35. You know you had a happy childhood if you would consider yourself lucky to turn into your parents.

    I tell my kids when they’re dismayed to find that I’ve eaten all of their snack foods that my father did the same to me, and they’ll do the same to their own. We call it the circle of life.

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  36. i have a question. is a ginger bread cookie and a ginger-snap cookie one in the same? my great-grandmother made “snaps” and they were hard as a rock….i mean teeth-bustin good!

    (charlie, that’s pure comedy right there! both the circle and the psycho-pharmaceuticals)

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  37. I think I’m looking more for a ginger-snap. I need it to be teeth-bustin good! Also, greg, I need your actual address. EMAIL it to me.

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  38. you better send me a cookie….i was drooling all last year for one!!!!!

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  39. I’m going to send you several, babydoll. I would have done so last year, too. Were you a lurker back then? I don’t remember knowing you were here.

    I am happy you are, however. So happy.

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  40. Pippy loves cookies.

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  41. Address, sir Charles. Address.

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  42. Charlie, I was tempted to bring Wegmans up then Confucius showed up and I thought it was better I stay out of it till things slowed down a little.

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  43. the ‘nordic spice’ is most likely a Cardamom base. scandanavians use it a lot in baking.

    its conincidentally both one of the most expensive spices, and my favorite!

    its really reasonably priced at fairway. i actually go there when i need it—get the jar of pods, they should be a lively green color (they dull with age). costs like $5. elsewhere its like $14. you can just pop them open and grind the seeds in a spice mill or mortar & pestle. they lose a ton of flavor if you buy the powder.

    cardamom is super useful. if you ever have coffee that goes stale, you can just smash 2 pods and 2 black peppercorns and throw it in with the grounds. super tasty.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardamom

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  44. Jonathon,

    You would love the coffee that is served here. Piping hot. Strong. Cardamom.

    M

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  45. To anyone who stops back here and notices a few changes to the comments they left or read: I edited them. I hope you all understand. :]

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  46. Totally. Hope you had a good feast!

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  47. I did! I ate two meals, actually. Twas lovely. Thanks, Charlie.

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  48. hey, i’m in Sweden! who should i sweet talk to get some cookie recipes?! travelling from UMEÄ (just wanted to use that Ä key) to STOCKHOLM. it’s 5AM here and i’m confused. will go out and wander the streets until i find delicious cookies…

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  49. ps: we had reindeer for Thanksgiving. mmmmmm… it was like eating a little bit of Christmas. (sorry, had to say it. did i mention that it’s 5AM?!)

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  50. Ginar,

    You lucky thing! I love Sweden. Cookies, hmmmm, all my connections of confections are here.

    I got in big trouble in Sweden from my husband for telling the kids that the locals were speaking muppet. I know that is so un PC but boy did I crack myself up.

    Reply

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