Friday, April 09, 2004

You've come a long way, baby.

When you're next kicking around the local chain grocery and get a little depressed at the selection of iceberg lettuce, consider a couple of points from the compendious and entertaining The Grocer's Companion and Merchant's Hand-Book (Boston, 1883):

"Curry Powder or Curry Paste.--Used extensively in India and other eastern countries; it is too highly seasoned to be much valued in other sections of the world."

The handbook (if I may revert to 21st c. usage) also offers commonsense tips on rat control (a cat is best) and the grocer's need for eternal vigilance against "the swells" amid your canned goods. (Here they mean bulging cans, not a dapper fop.)

However, one also finds lyrical passages on the new technology of waxed paper, or on the growing availability of commercially produced flat-bottomed paper bags (previously an assistant was employed in making an inferior sort of bag). So thanks to the great grocers who have gone before, even if your produce selection stinks, at least you can get the Oreos and garam masala home fairly easily.

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