Love your local shop

Cansdale Ross & Co is the epitome of a local shop, no doubt facing all the concerns that small, independent businesses face when they haven’t the buying power of the big boys. How do we help them? Use them!

This, our new little local greengrocer in Wivenhoe, has already helped us out for vital ingredients on more than a few occasions. Local produce abounds – where possible – and everything tastes like fruit and veg should. Nothing has been over-chilled (frozen, even), so stone fruits don’t turn to mush the minute they reach room temperature like supermarket peaches, nectarines and plums so often do. Peppers are red and green of flesh and don’t spit water at you when you slice them. Tomatoes are bursting with summery goodness. Onions are the essence of savouriness. Herbs are green and fresh. The eggs are from happy hens on a local farm.

And they stock our favourite chilli sauce.

It’s pretty cheap too. So what’s not to like? I know some people will complain that occasionally the stocks are low or that ‘you can’t get everything there’. Well, of course. It’s a little, local shop, not a supermarket, and buying fresh produce there is all the more pleasurable for it.

My favourite purchase so far? Four juicy ears of corn from a wicker basket piled high with it. Delicious!

3 Comments to “Love your local shop”

  1. It’s delightful to see shops like this being supported by the local community. Use them or lose them! In my local area, grocers like the one in this post are closing not long after the arrival of supermarkets from big chains. It’s such a shame when the produce in supermarkets rarely, if ever, rivals the quality provided by independent fruit and veg shops. Excellent post!

    • And it’s delightful to use them too. I find it unfortunate, however, that any delight is tempered by a seeming frustration with local shopping and in-season, good quality produce. In fact, some local responses to small business I’ve heard are in the vein of “why bother?”. For example:

      “I tried the local grocer once but they didn’t have any asparagus because apparently it’s ‘out of season – try telling that to my dinner guests. And the fruit was actually very ripe and juicy, whereas I’m used to picking overly-chilled but almost rotten fruit from the supermarket shelves, in plastic containers. And the staff tried to chat to me and the whole procedure took slightly longer. And there wasn’t a huge car park, even though I live only a few hundred metres away.”

      We also have to acknowledge that many people claim to be quite happy with the lines they’re fed (in terms of marketing, ‘offers’, choice and quality of produce) by the big supermarkets. The argument seems to run:

      “Supermarket X told me I wanted product Y, and then the next day, by chance, I’d found I’d driven there and lo and behold, there was the product, and they told me there was some money off if I bought three. So I bought three and gave my money. They gave me just what I wanted – it’s brilliant!”

      Well, I suppose it’s quite ‘brilliant’ of the big supermarkets to have become so adept at making these transactions happen and convincing consumers that they are indeed ‘delighted’ to have handed over their money for goods that are chosen to create the highest profit margin for the shareholders in the City. In my experience, people get very defensive about this – in a similar way that meat-eaters get very defensive over their choice of being carnivorous.

      Well, we do shop at supermarkets (used to much more), so are quite aware of some of their benefits, but there is surely still a place for the small business. So yes, they should be supported.

  2. Definitely! It’s interesting that the big supermarkets have started to market some of their “fresh” produce by including photographs of the farmer it came from and giving more detail about the origin of the carrots or potatoes. This is probably in response to the growing demand for food that can be traced back to where it was grown and because many consumers want to take responsibility for what they are buying. However, I find this type of packaging quite cynical on the part of the supermarkets. They know that some shoppers will feel good about buying a bag of carrots with a photograph of Farmer Smith from Linconshire on it. It may as well be a picture of Mickey Mouse, because the result is the same- supermarket gets your money.

    I think supermarkets could radically change the way Britain eats and shops, if they were to import fewer fruit and vegetables. The example you mentioned about the dinner guests who were expecting asparagus highlights everything that is wrong with our eating and shopping habits. In less developed areas of the world and even in places like Greece and Italy, food is eaten when it is growing. People don’t expect to be able to eat everything all year round. This provides them with genuine joy at the time that they can eat certain vegetables. I’d love a return to the kind of seasonal eating that brings with it anticipation and excitement. It’s the only way forward.

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