Food for Thought

It's time to appreciate Houston's Disneyland: No more taking our grocery bounty for granted

It's time to appreciate Houston's Disneyland: No more taking our grocery bounty for granted

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We headed down to the Kirby location and spent almost an hour walking around and around and around. Apparently they don’t have stores like this where she lives. Photo by Chris Conyers
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We bought more stuff than we needed at Central Market.
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We stopped by the new Relish over on San Felipe for some awesome sourdough bread. Photo by Julie Soefer
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Another must: Revival Market
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So, my sister has arrived for her summer visit.

She’s staying down the hall at my Dad’s new apartment. We go back and forth, carrying a Chihuahua puppy, food and bourbon. That’s just how we roll. (Clarification: She doesn’t drink, that’s just Dad and me. She does like my food and my puppy, who growls at her a lot. Which is pretty funny.)

Anyway, she’s been living in Third World countries for a very, very, very long time and when she comes back to Texas to visit she tends to want to eat Tex-Mex three times day. Other than that there’s only one other thing she really wants to do here in Houston. No, not see the museums or shop at the Galleria.

The other morning I dropped the pup off at his “grandpa's" and said I needed to hit the gym and make a quick stop at Whole Foods Market.

Her eyes lit up.

“Do ya’ll need anything?” I asked.

Dad said orange juice.

Her eyes dimmed.

“Um, do you want to go with?”

The eyes lit up again.

So we headed down to the Kirby location and spent almost an hour walking around and around and around. Apparently they don’t have stores like this where she lives.

 A few days later she and Dad were tooling around Highland Village and they found Central Market. I swear they came back talking like they had just been to Disneyland. 

She drooled over the chef prepared food counter, marveled at the fish market, stared in awe at the packaged goods.

“There are so many choices!” she said.

At which point I toyed with the idea of totally blowing her mind by taking her to Costco but decided even I couldn’t handle that kind of American consumerism.

A few days later she and Dad were tooling around Highland Village and they found Central Market. I swear they came back talking like they had just been to Disneyland.

Which got me to thinking how much we take our grocery stores for granted in Houston.

Do I need a nice bottle of wine, some fresh-today Gulf Coast shrimp, a ripe avocado, local grass-fed beef or homemade pasta? I need only travel a few miles at almost anytime of day to find them.

A typical Saturday morning run for me includes about three grocers and a farmers market. I hit Randalls for paper and cleaning products, Whole Foods Market or Central Market for protein and produce, Revival Market for chef Ryan Pera’s charcuterie (try the mangalitsa coppa on a homemade pizza!) and some of their delicious housemade mustard or tomato sauce and then maybe the new Relish over on San Felipe for some awesome sourdough bread from Slow Dough Bread Co., some Monty’s Smoked Jerky and maybe some of their baked potato salad or seasonal soups. Yum.

Last Saturday I took her along. First it was Central Market again.

Strolling around the aisles she couldn’t believe all the choices. Choices we take for granted. Tons of fresh produce, frozen goods, an incredible bakery with still warm breads, rolls and tortillas. We bought more stuff than we needed, some of which we may never finish and will wind up in the trash. American consumerism at its worst.

But then we headed over to Randalls to get Dad’s Jimmy Dean frozen sausage biscuits, a dietary staple.

“How many kinds of Oreos are there?” she asked, her eyes bugging out as we passed the cookie aisle.

I started to feel a little guilty.

But she was having fun. For her, grocery shopping was more about just ogling the shelves than buying.

“It’s entertaining,” she said.

Huh. Food shopping as theater.

And that’s when it hit me. I go to grocery stores, fish markets and farmers markets far more often then I go anywhere else. More often than I go to clothes stores, museums, theaters or even gas stations. More often than I go to restaurants, for crying out loud. And while I do waste some of the food I buy, I don’t buy as much as I could, often only one or two items at each store. But it’s the thrill of seeing all the foodie bounty, squeezing the breads, smelling the cheeses, nibbling the samples and watching the butchers and fish mongers at work.

Food shopping really is entertaining.

And even if you only buy an item or two (something I need to work on) the thrill is just seeing the bounty that we have in Houston.

So next time you’re out food shopping, enjoy the excess that is American food. And be grateful that we can purchase truffle oil on almost every street corner, pick up a pound of housemade charcuterie at your local meat market, or score a delicious, fresh Gulf Coast red snapper and some appellation oysters at the nearby fish market.