A debut collection of supermarket-set essays seeks to demystify the modern grocery store experience.
“Everything about food and grocery shopping is wacky nowadays,” opines Karolefski in the introduction of his food-buying survival guide. “Water is good for our health, but the plastic bottles that water comes in are bad for the environment. Checkout lines are too long, but you can’t buy beer at a self-checkout terminal. We’re flummoxed.” The author is here to walk would-be shoppers through the intimidating world of grocery stores, from how to pick the best one (and the best parking space, and the best shopping cart) to the ins-and-outs of express, regular, and self-checkout lanes. In between, he analyzes just about every aisle of the grocery store, from the “fun foods” sections of ice cream, hot dogs, and sodas to the curiosities of ugly vegetables and fake Italian products. Karolefski even explores the brave new world of home delivery, from Amazon’s aborted Dash program to the future of grocery-transporting drones. The author writes in energetic, jokey prose, poking fun at the customs of customers, brands, and stores alike: “Yes, it was that time of year when retailers can’t let go of one holiday while getting a jump on another one….I once asked a retailer why he stocked Christmas merchandise so early. He gave me a tangled explanation about supply-chain-yada-yada-early-inventory-blah-blah.” Karolefski’s humor is definitely of the dad variety and relies heavily on stereotypes. One of his first suggestions is to divide grocery stores in half, with one side for men (“pizza, chips and dips,” plus two beer sections) and one for women (“fem-hygiene products, baby food, flowers and plants”). And don’t even get him started on millennials using their smartphones to look up nutritional information. The slim volume’s entire premise may be tongue-in-cheek, but there is plenty to learn about the workings of grocery stores and how they got that way. While the author offers intriguing insights into the meanings of various terms and the development of things like nutritional labels, readers’ enjoyment of the book will likely depend on their tolerance for Karolefski’s strong-on-the-page personality.
An irreverent and provocative look at contemporary grocery shopping.