Food, unlike money, actually does grow on trees!
Way back in the day, when I was a kid, it was a big deal in our family when the West Coast Seafood truck stopped in town, bearing with it a variety of frozen fish, theoretically from the West Coast. There was an ad in the paper announcing the day the truck would be in town, my mom would make a note of it, my brothers and I would be mildly excited, and then one day my mom would come home with packages of frozen sole she would proceed to cook in the microwave. This was a treat, believe it or not.
My mother and brothers and I all liked fish (my dad hated it and we would have to have it on a night he was at work because he couldn’t even tolerate the smell) and there really wasn’t much on offer at the old Super Value, other than, perhaps, the odd iffy-looking piece of salmon once in a while.
Back then there was not a lot of variety in local grocery stores. Feta cheese was pretty much unheard of and God help you if you wanted a sun-dried tomato. We had a great butcher shop, though, and a decent bakery, and if you were around back in the 80s and 90s, you might remember we had a funky green grocer, too, where Drift now sits.
The landscape of grocery shopping in Rossland has changed drastically in recent times however, a fact I find very unfortunate. We are now a one grocery store town, with two convenience stores – and that’s it. Though Ferraro’s has an excellent meat department, and you can get lots of cheeses and deli items (including sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese), and there is a fish counter, I find it lamentable that there is only really one place in town to do grocery shopping, mainly because, as a person on a budget and without a vehicle, I find Ferraro’s expensive. I feel doubly resentful about this, when, on the odd occasion I get to go to Colville to grocery shop when a family member is making a trip, I find the same items there for about 50 – 70% cheaper that I do at home.
Without a vehicle, it’s difficult to do grocery shopping in Trail at the less expensive stores there like Extra and the evil WalMart, because hauling groceries home on the bus is as huge pain in the you-know-what, and it usually winds up being a nearly day-long venture.
Believe it or not, there are many people in this town who find spending nearly $5 on a jug of milk a hardship. But when you have no other viable options, what do you do? I have been to the farmer’s market, and the items on offer there have, in my experience, been even more cost-prohibitive than the same items at Ferraro’s. People on smaller budgets simply cannot afford to spend $8 on a small bunch of organic onions, I am sorry to say!
So, in order to rely less on stores, I have taken some measures. I do my own baking – breads, and other basic items. There is no excuse for me not to; I am a trained baker, after all. Last year I started some basic foraging, mainly for huckleberries because it was such a good year for them. I filled my freezer as much as I could and I still have some left over. I have a source of rhubarb right next door to me at my new home, which for me is like finding gold. I have a plot at the new community garden. At my previous home, I did some small-time gardening as the space was limited, but I did enjoy producing my own veggies and I look forward to doing the same this year. I also plan on trying to forage from the woods a bit more this year, now that I have done some more research. I take advantage of neighbour’s fruit trees if I can (which also helps the bear situation), and I have a family member with a hazelnut tree in Robson that I really enjoy clearing off in September.
With all the focus on eating and purchasing local these days, which I think are both good things to strive for, I think finding a balance is possible if you are willing to be creative and do a bit of work. But I still wish food purveyors would kind of work with the locals to make it a bit easier, because, you know, I haven’t purchased chicken at Ferraro’s in a year because I just can’t justify the expense, and if Safeway (located four blocks away from my day job) sells a jug of milk for 50 cents less than Ferraro’s sells it, guess where I’m tempted to buy my milk?