Jul 282010

Building a Basil Economy

By Danny Mayer

Danny Mayer

Palacio's chorizo.

I first started eating grits last summer while seeking out breakfast options at Wine+Market. Up to that time, my $5 purchase of eggs, either from the farmer’s market or at Wine+Market, provided the basis for many of my breakfasts.

The W+M grits purchase was something of a calculated risk for me. I had developed strong negative associations with the grain ever since a series of conversations with my childhood friend Jeffrey Bollerman. Jeff was part of the Jessie F. George School gang in New Jersey that I hung out with up through fourth grade when I left for Charlotte, North Carolina. At 10, Jeff was already worldly traveled, having once spent a week in the far-away sticks in South Carolina at a place he called Hilton Head, a town so backward, he claimed, that many of the roads were dirt and the only thing to eat there were these things called grits. Continue reading »

Jun 232010

Building a basil economy

By Danny Mayer

Along with the downtown Farmer’s Market, which I patronize through all four seasons, I do most of my grocery shopping at Wine+Market (W+M), a shop located on the corner of Jefferson and Second Streets in one of Lexington’s oldest (and priciest) city neighborhoods. When I tell people this, I’m often met with measured skepticism. Compared to other grocery stores, W+M seems both too small—I’d guess it’s about 2% the size of a place like the Euclid Kroger—and too pricey to function well as a grocery store. Shopping there is a good idea, most observe, but not a particularly practical model for everyone.

Of course, most people I encounter do not give much consideration to the idea that any modern day shopper could get by on a daily basis using a small market store as one’s primary grocery outlet. Even for those who have considered such things, the assumption is often that shopping at such markets is not affordable. In the case of W+M, it is assumed that most patrons who use the store simply buy expensive wines, cheese, and lunchtime deli sandwiches. To my students, who comprise a healthy community college mixture of ages and world-views rooted in the middle and working poor classes, shopping at W+M inevitably classes me as “someone who could afford to eat at that type of place.” Others, my foodie friends who are vaguely aware of my community college salary (a stable though perhaps not outrageous $38,000 a year), are skeptical the other way around: they wonder whether I realistically could afford to shop regularly at such a place as W+M—no matter my idealistic reasons for doing so—on my take-home pay. Continue reading »