massachusetts markets

Garden of Blues sources its produce from Cambridge/Somerville MA.

Here’s a mini-ethnography of the supermarkets we frequent, mostly in the form of questions.

First, we thought about the role of an “international isle” in the grand design of supermarkets. Does it reveal anything about the neighborhoods’ migration patterns, or is it a testament to the level of “adventuredness” of the surrounding New Englanders?

How do you know what community a supermarket caters to? Especially given the fact that the same vegetables are grown across the tropics.

Are shiny stores only for the “wealthy international student figure”?

We noticed that in Somerville’s Market Basket Natura’s refried beans share shelf space with Thai shrimp pastes in the “ethnic aisle.” The vegetable section has mouldy yams, tapiocas/cassavas/yuccas, and plantains/pisang. Tostones crisps are next to knækbrød and keropok.

Did the British succeed in evening out differences between regions? Did the tropics become a homogenous belt of large-scale industrial agriculture where any crop grown Honduras also can be found in Malaysia? Can any food eaten in Malaysia also become part of Honduran cuisine?

HMart is almost exclusively focused on East Asia. Where does Southeast Asia fit into the selection of “Asian” groceries? Is this region - a US Cold War invention - a Hinterindien that does not quite make it into the category of “real” Asia?

We noticed that most of the workers in the HMart on Mass Ave are Mexican. This adds another “regional layer” to our grocery trip: the dynamics of Central America. Hondurans and El Salvadoreans make up the largest proportion of immigrant workers and indentured laborers. How does Nancy fit into this social dance?