The terrors of the future will not come from the drab repressions of an encroaching bureaucracy, but from the neon lights of a thousand supermarkets, the sounds of a million automobile accidents and from the public cremation of the dead astronauts as they return to earth.”
― Christopher Riche Evans, Mind In Chains
This was the opinion I walked around with until I went to Lulu’s Hypermart in Cochin, as I browsed the shelves I had an epiphany that this could be like the traditional open Kochi market with varieties of rice the red and white variety, dry fruits which Kochi was trading point for, pepper in sacks, I could be shopping in a clean air-conditioned local market.
1946 is apparently when the first supermarket appeared on American scene. Its not really very long ago. Though books by Agatha Christie do have a reference to grocery being packed in wrong sizes in bags, but until then where was the food? Well it was in homes, gardens, local fields and forests; it was grown in the kitchen garden they were cooked fresh and stored in the pantry, there was no branding.
Our rice came from our fields in the village, and vegetables were carried to us by women who grew them in the back yards so this entire concept of empowered working women is an old hat. Oh! Our spices came either from spice market during the Jatra… the village fair or bought from Jogappa Shanbag who doubled as the medicine man.
When we were young it was a given thing in among surgeons to go to England for a year do their MRCP or FRCS as it went return and talk about the travels as vividly as the narration of Sindabad the sailor, the existence of the supermarkets was one of the destinations to be addressed.
When the supermarket cult hit urban India, I kept thinking here it comes the “the Nth Aryan invasion” like Ms.Marple we will be buying our grocery in wrong volumes, the stocked would be homogenous without respecting the local food habits.
Over the last three years, I have made it a point to observe the Big Bazaar in various towns, what I find interesting this also holds good for the retail chains like More… And Hyper-mart – the shelves are stacked with very ethno-specific goods. Like the Big Bazaar in Hyderabad has varieties of chutneys both wet and dry. The range of pickles is also amazing. They pack it up in small quantities like 100 gms if you ask for it. the vegetable section had banana stem on sale too. on the rack with masala along with usual Everest masala’s there were lot of local small scale industries with very specific Andhra masala like the Bagara Baingan masala. While the Bombay Big Bazaar was high on the Goda Masala, instant sabudhana khicidi and other Maharashtrian fare.
The super markets in Bangalore were high on Ragi and Ragi products. While in Kochi we saw varieties of avalposi and banana in their breakfast and cereal section. The traditional masala mix for stew and avial and other coconut curries though the sales girl told me they were not as popular as the frozen masala’s. the vegetable section had local traditional vegetable cleaned, cut, sliced as per the cuisine’s need.
Maybe a visit to the local supermarket might be an eye opener to look into the food culture.