A recent change to my commuting strategy has taken me on a brief walk every morning into the Mission District of San Francisco, where I'm now taking BART instead of the slow slow Muni (an acronym for Mostly Useless Not Improving, but that's a rant for another blog). My twice-daily trips into the Mission have opened my eyes up to some food options that I wouldn't otherwise have considered, and it's got me thinking about what kinds of compromises they present.
Along Mission Street, there is a meat shop that serves as a fishmonger and a butcher, with large open tanks of crabs and crawfish squeezed into a narrow shop along with glass cases full of the usual cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, along with an astonishing supply of offal and feet and tongues. It's amazing. Just a few shops down is a little independent bakery, with Mexican specialties on the menu but Chinese being spoken behind the counter. And between the two shops is a minature produce market, with cases of freshness displayed on the street a la Amelie.
The distinguishing feature of all of these markets is that, despite their inherent charm and appeal they represent to the food-obsessed, they are not being targeted at that crowd. And thusly, by serving the local community of the Mission, and not the fleece-wearing biodiesel crew at the Ferry Building, the prices are just plain stupid low.
I've begun doing some selected food shopping here now. I bought a whole chicken the other day for $6. Six. Dollars. And a morning apple turnover from the bakery, still warm from the actual oven that baked it, for a dollar. I saw little baguettes for 50 cents.
So clearly, I'm beside myself with joy at my new culinary discovery, but I'm forced to wonder what compromise I'm making. Those apples aren't organic, I'll bet you that. And the six dollar chicken probably goes against all of the animal welfare principles that I've developed and adhered to as much as I can elsewhere. But, I insist to myself, it's locally-owned! It's a neighborhood market serving its neighborhood! And for that alone, it's winning points against Whole Foods, whose profits go back to the corporate coffers in Austin instead of staying here in San Francisco.
Do we only get two of three food options? Or can't our food be ethically sourced, sold by local businesses, and inexpensive? I'm still looking, but I'm also very happy to have found a new compromise in the Mission.