In moving from New Hampshire to Richmond, I was expecting a North/South cultural shift, not a suburban/urban one nor a socioeconomic one, although I probably should have realized the latter if I’d actually thought about it.
My views regarding the North vs. South cultural divergence are colored from the four years in undergrad I spent in Fredericksburg, about halfway between Richmond and D.C. I was regularly called a Damn Yankee, told to go home, and once was even accused of perpetuating a 140-year-long military occupation. (This was ten years ago, obviously. I feel old.) My ancestors were accused of raping their ancestors, despite the fact that the Irish half of my ancestors didn’t fight by quirk of everyone being too old/too young and the other half of my ancestors were still in Italy.
In Richmond, not one person has mentioned the Civil War to me or called me a Yankee, damned or otherwise.
I wasn’t expecting a suburban/urban split. I lived in Boston for a year and the Shaw’s in Dorchester was exactly like the one in New Hampshire, albeit more crowded and with a bigger International Foods aisle. Visiting the local Food Lion, I thought I was in a food desert. Looking at the USDA website, food desert status is confirmed. The deli is mostly nonexistent. The have 2 types of ham, 2 types of turkey, and 2 types of cheese that can be sliced to order. That’s it. The rest is prepackaged lunch meat. Most of the store is devoted to frozen foods and snacks.
The freezer cases are probably 1/3 of the store. The freezer case is also where I’ve seen most of my North vs. South differences. Frozen okra, turnip greens, and butter beans were prominent. I also saw “Chicken Biscuits” in the frozen breakfast foods aisle instead of just the sausage and egg ones. I did not get a picture of those because someone else was in the aisle by then and I didn’t want to seem as weird as I apparently am. I did not see pierogies, kielbasa, or Italian sausage, which are (well, were) staples or our diet.
The produce section is TINY. It seems of reasonable quality, but it’s basically apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, celery, lettuce, potatoes, onions and some tomatoes.
There was a small basket of artichokes, so I took two and put them in my cart. Two women were next to me and one said to the other (completely not trying to keep from being overheard), “Why the hell would anyone want to eat cactus leaves?” At the checkout, again “What are these?”
Which brings me to the third type of difference: socioeconomic. Richmond is poor. New Hampshire (at least the southern part) is not.
Driving to the 83 different hardware stores this weekend to find a dryer outlet that I returned only 20 minutes later, I saw a store called “Fresh to Frozen Grocery Salvage.” Oh my. This may be my east-coast-educated-liberal-elite side talking, but eww. When I said the produce at the local Food Lion “seem[ed] of reasonable quality,” I mean you could find some good ones if you dug around. I only bought two peaches last night because I could only find two good peaches. I shudder to think of the quality of stuff “salvaged” from there. This reviewer found items there that were 3 years past their expiration date. The second paragraph inadvertently says a lot.
Fresh-to-Frozen grocery salvage is located in the old Ukrop’s space at 7803 Midlothian Turnpike, just off the Chippenham exit past what was Cloverleaf Mall.
- Ukrop’s: out of business.
- Cloverleaf Mall: don’t know, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a name change.
To walk into the Food Lion, you pass at least 2 homeless men in the parking lot. There are WIC tags everywhere. I have never seen those before, not in Boston, not in Market Basket.
I think this will take the most getting used to.