I note with pleasure that Julie Powell, author of the just-published Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, comes out against those overlighted, junkfood-stuffed, Pathmark supermarkets. Ms. Powell, a Hero First Class of the Blogosphere, cooked and ate her way through the entire first volume of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year, one recipe at a time, blogging it all daily on "Salon." Quite a project, right? Her eloquent, I should say pithy, skewering of Pathmark appears after the jump.
Personally, my main reason for objecting to Pathmark is their mendacious public relations campaign back in the Middle High Giuliani Period, making the taxpayer-subsidized, overlighted, junkfood-stuffed Pathmark store up on 125th Street come off like a Second Coming in Prague Spring, allegedly bringing fresh food at reasonable prices to the people of Harlem. Piffle. Fresh food? Fresh taxpayer money for Pathmark, more like it. If we wanted fresh food at reasonable prices, we could have paired the merchants already in the neighborhood with local farmers. Or we could have added a couple of good Korean delis. Or how about an outdoor Greenmarket with fresh-from-the-local-farm fruits, vegetables, and breads, a couple of days a week, like the Greenmarket at Union Square where top chefs and thousands of us ordinary citizens shop? No shrinkwrap comes with any of these solutions, by the way, no chemicals, no nerve-jangling Pathmark ambience, no endless white Pathmark aisles stacked with Diet Pepsi and Twinkies.
To quote the jacket copy:
Pushing thirty, living in a run-down apartment in Queens, and working at a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell is stuck. . . . Her only hope lies in a dramatic self-rescue mission. And so she invents a deranged assignment: in the space of one year, she will cook every recipe in the Julia Child classic, all 524 of them. No skips, no substitutions. She will track down every obscure ingredient, learn every arcane cooking technique, and cook her way through sixty pounds of butter. And if it doesn't help her make sense of her life, at least she'll eat really, really well. How hard could it be?
And thus it was that, early in the year's great adventure, Julie Powell was looking for sugar cubes. Western Beef didn't have sugar cubes, Key Fod in Astoria didn't have sugar cubes. So she tried Pathmark.
I'd never been to the Pathmark, and let me tell you, I'm never going again. There's nothing I need that much. The sliding doors at the Pathmark open into a wide, white, empty hallway, totally devoid of any sign of life or foodstuffs. At any moment I expected to see a chiseled Aryan commandant come around the corner to usher me along. "Ja, please, right this way, take a cart, the food is just through here." But I was at last funneled into not a gas chamber, but a glaring white supermarket the size of a stadium, where for the price of the existential horror felt upon witnessing families buying two carts full of RC cola and generic cheese doodles, or a lonely older man purchasing three dozen packages of ramen noodles and four cartons of no-pulp orange juice, I could procure sugar cubes.
Julie & Julia is a very funny book, it is insightful in a number of ways, and I highly recommend it. It speaks especially well for her that Julie Powell tells the truth about the sanctimoniously-described Pathmark stores, where instead of getting fresh food at reasonable prices, people are in fact slogging around frighteningly soul-deadening, cheerless, taxpayer-supported white stadiums anxiously throwing sugary snacks into shopping carts.