Sunday, February 17, 2008

In defence of supermarkets

Jay Rayner argues in The Observer that supermarkets have made our lives better. It is a odd thing to say, but I think he has a point. Politaholic is no spring chicken. I can remember a time when most shopping was done, certainly in the working-class area in the city where I grew up, in corner shops. This was before the rise of the super and mega markets. In those days if you asked the corner shopkeeper for parmeson cheese he would have looked at you as if you were mad. An avocado? I didn't know what one looked like until I was in my 20's. Wine was for posh people; and was expensive (now one can buy a reasonably quaffable bottle for around a fiver). For that matter Politaholic is not overly impressed by the farmers markets we are told we should patronise. The one on Saturday at Piccadilly Gardens (Manchester) seems to sell stuff that is very expensive and the quality is not that much better. Yes, I know supermarkets abuse their market position; I know that a lot of what they sell is crap; I don't like the remorseless "Tescoisation" of everything; I wonder how these supermarkets get planning permission so easily (and how many local councillors are in receipt of large brown envelopes); and I don't like the retail market being dominated by too few superstores. But let's be honest: in the local supermarket there are avocadoes, kiwi fruit, artichokes, aubergines, courgettes; there are all kinds of pasta, several types of rice, all kinds of herbs and spices. When I look back across the vast chasm of time to when I was growing up, well, most of these things were, to me, unheard of. I guess in the posh part of town, familiar with Elizabeth David and the unfairly neglected Raymond Postgate, the delights of "foreign food" were more familiar. But not round my way. Now, and in parts thanks to supermarkets, they are available to all. Of course, it's capitalism: "The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country...In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, it finds new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes...".


Blogger skipper said...

Yes, I rather felt the same reluctant agreement with the article. Small family shops are nice in theory but not so good in practice: lots of visits, not so much choice and higher costs. Maybe if Tescos and the like succumbed to a consumer revolt against them, we'd find our descendants looking back nostalgically to the days when they shopped at Tescos and Sainsburys? It won't happen.

7:20 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home