Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: Supermarkets

Supermarkets know we love choices. So we don't have to buy just any old apple, we can buy the specific variety of apple we like best. Uploaded by

At first glance, a strange choice, I concede. We take our supermarkets so much for granted. But go to virtually any other country in the world, and outside of maybe the largest cities, good luck finding one. America developed the idea, and offers more of – well, everything – than you’ll find anywhere else in the world.

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The first thing that our supermarkets provide us is an amazing choice. Let’s just take a walk down the cereal aisle. There are sweetened and plain varieties. Rice, wheat, corn, oats. Cartoon characters. Cookies. Movie tie-ins. Flakes, puffs, pops, and o’s. Strawberry, blueberry, apple, raisin, and banana. Chocolate, peanut butter, honey, yogurt. Pecan, walnut, and almonds. And when you go back next week, there’ll be something you haven’t seen before.

Beyond choice, supermarkets have continued to expand their culinary horizons. It used to be if you wanted an apple, you might have red or golden delicious. Now you’ll see Gala, Fuji, probably several others. If you have a recipe that calls for shiitake mushrooms, chances are your store will have them. Need some filé powder for a Cajun recipe? Look in the ethnic foods aisle that most store now provide.

The first true supermarket was King Kullen in Queens, New York. The store’s slogan was “Pile it high. Sell it low.” Pretty good for 1930. Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly, had pioneered the idea of self-service grocery shopping, King Kullen added the concepts of separate food departments, quantity stock for lower prices, and a dedicated parking lot.

Of course, today’s grocery stores sell much more than food. You can purchase flowers, go to the bank, have your photos developed, even get new tires in some monster markets. We’ve exported many ideas to the rest of the world, maybe some of which we can’t be too proud of. But supermarkets are symbolic of abundance and prosperity, and we can definitely be proud about that.


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