My name is NotDoobieWah, and I am a groceryholic. Grocery shopping, as an adjunct to cooking, has become an oft practiced hobby providing hours of entertainment perusing the aisles at any number of local, regional and national shops, stores and outlets.
If you really love to cook then you probably like to seek the produce of the season, find new sources for quality cuts of meat, try new spices, bottled sauces and pastes. I’ve always liked to cook, but my fondness for grocery shopping came much later. Like most of us I was content to visit the same store week after week and procuring pretty much the same goods at each visit. My choice of grocer changed from time to time based on convenience more than anything else.
I think the change came when I bought my first inexpensive wok and went looking for ingredients to match. This was before the internet and my recipes came from books. I needed to find Asian ingredients like ginger, bok choy, bean sprouts and other ingredients not found commonly at the major grocers. This led me to explore a large Asian market near my mother’s house and I was utterly entranced. Aisles and aisles of fascinating new ingredients.
These days, I may have four different olive oils, three different lettuces, and ten or twelve different pastas; (I just went and counted – I have seventeen different kinds of dried pasta). We now have so many choices for groceries that it can be bewildering. But it’s also awesome! Houston has been dubbed the most diverse big city in the country, and our immigrants are pretty much able to obtain many, if not all, of the tastes of home. And I feel extremely fortunate to be able to tag along and I take full advantage of the opportunities.
It’s the exact opposite of the sentiments inherent in the “eating local” movement but I’ll own it. My pantry is full of packages that crossed an ocean to get to me. I think it’s a great thing and a wonder of the times we live in. The ugly truth is that I will typically hit four to five different stores a week as I have favorite products at each and it’s worth the time for me.
So let’s look at Houston’s major grocers, and maybe a few of the more modest ones. Feel free to add your own or dispute my opinions.
These are provided roughly in the order in which I encountered them, starting in 1967.