There are five major chain grocery stores in my neighborhood
that I can easily reach by walking. Of course, some are closer
than others. The distances range from a mere (?!) six blocks
to more than a mile. They all vary in size, as well. And then
there are the numerous, albeit much smaller, specialty stores
and bodegas. Not to mention the weekly farmers markets,
of which there are two. I must say, this wealth of, and
accessibility to, such a wide range of food stuffs in my own
neck o’ the woods is quite amazing. HUZZAH!
So what does this have to do with historic cooking? Well, alot!
Because when I need to buy food for use during any hearth
cooking event, whether it’s a demonstration, a talk, or a class,
I can go to one or more of the above stores. I know which
ones carry this or that particular ingredient and which don’t.
Or which offers it at a better price (aka cheaper). And most
importantly, which store or stores offer historically-accurate
ingredients, be it mace or quinces or unadulterated flour. Or
which sells the means for creating the same (i.e. pig fat so
that I can render my own lard). Sometimes when I decide
to cook a particular dish from this or that historic cookbook,
I’m able to procure all the necessary ingredients at just one
location, and at other times, I have to pay a visit to two or
more. I will say, though, that even I’m amazed at what I
can find relatively nearby. Even at the major so-called
“generic” mass-market chain stores such as Associated,
Key Food, and C-Town. And here in Brooklyn, no less. It’s
absolutely fantastic! HUZZAH, again!
However, a major glitch has reared its ugly head. The range
of historic dishes that I can prepare and cook, at any time
and at any historic site, may soon be sorely limited. In fact,
my ability to cook specific dishes may all but be eliminated
entirely, as my access to certain ingredients will be drastically
altered within just a few short months. You see, sadly, one
of the above-mentioned big chain stores, a 36,000 square
foot freestanding supermarket,
with a similarly-sized parking
lot, the one that’s more than
a mile from my place, down
where Sterling Street meets
5th Avenue here in Park Slope,
namely the Key Food, will be
completely demolished. It’ll then be replaced by two shiny
new modern glass, concrete, and steel 165-unit apartment
buildings. Ain’t progress grand?! Bring in more people!
Destroy their major source of food! What a deal! lordy
This particular Key Food is where I can acquire several ingredients
that are appropriate for replicating dishes from the 18th and early
19th centuries. And in some instances, the ONLY place. Sure,
there’s another Key Food that’s closer to me. Just seven blocks,
in fact. It’s quite a hike of more than a mile, downhill to and up
from, to arrive at this one. But believe me, being able to purchase
specific ingredients that are appropriate for countless historic
receipts makes it worth the trip.
For starters, the 5th Avenue Key Food, and ONLY this Key Food,
has a set of bookshelves that constitutes its British section…
and there I can find treacle (aka treakle)…
which, as you may know, is NOT the same as molasses (an
item most any store carries). It IS different! Yes, you can
switch the one for the other, but doing so affects the taste
of the end product. I frequently make Gingerbread Cakes
in accordance with Hannah Glasse’s receipt in her cookbook
The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747), and she
specifies “treakle.” For me, nothing else will do!
Here’s the 5th Avenue Key Food’s wonderful and HUGE (in
comparison to so many other stores, even other Key Foods)
meat department, where I can find a plethora of items for use
in my various hearth cooking activities…
It’s where I find marrow bones, containing that all-important
marrow specified in numerous historic receipts…
and pig fat, so I can render my own lard, as well as salt pork,
otherwise known as smoked slab bacon…
There’s also plain ol’ sausages…
as you see, they’re called “Breakfast Sausage.” Yes, other stores
sell them, including the much-closer-to-me Key Food, but they’re
usually only the flavored varieties, those that contain herbs and
spices or cheese and tomato and so forth…which are too modern
and NOT what I need or want!
The 5th Avenue Key Food has a HUGE fresh produce section,
with nearly every vegetable and fruit you can imagine…
This is where I find small packaged bundles of herbs for only
99 cents! You can’t beat that. It’s just enough for the dishes
that require them…
and if I need more, they also have a larger size for $1.99…
The smaller Key Food has had neither. Since a recent remodeling,
however, it now offers the larger bundles…at the higher price
of 2 for $5. So in my book, it’s worth it to walk farther in order
to save a few coins (besides, it’s good exercise! LOL). And if I
need something else that only this Key Food offers, or really
just any other item, all the better.
On a personal note, this is the only store (at least, of which
I’m aware) that sells bags (not boxes) of Kit ‘n Kaboodle, one
of my kitty’s favorite dry foods…
And here’s the frozen food section, where I can find my beloved
Stouffer’s frozen entrees. When all was said and done, the other
Key Food eliminated eight frozen food cases upon finishing its
remodeling project. Which meant that several items had to be
jettisoned, including the entire range of Stouffer’s that had
been previously offered. Sacre bleu!
A few more interior shots of this soon-to-be-gone good-sized
supermarket. It’s just expansive! In both space, layout, and
variety and diversity of products offered.
In case anyone’s interested, here’s what’s possibly going
to be built soon to replace this neighborhood’s beloved
5th Avenue Key Food supermarket…
Incidentally, at a recent Community Meeting about the project,
the rep from Avery Hall Investment (AHI) made a big deal of that
“pedestrian-only” walkway. or “piazza,” where people “will be able
to sit and chat, and have a cup of coffee.” My immediate thought
was, “HA! Have you seen the nearly 600-acre green space just up
a few blocks? It’s quite lovely, with trees, a lake, and everything!
It’s been there for more than a century. Hello! Prospect Park?!
Not to mention popular Washington Park, just down 5th Avenue.”
Golly. Don’t give us what we need, but give us something we don’t.
Speaking of that Community Meeting, here’s one report. As it
mentions, I, too, thought I was attending a meeting where
the possibility of the 5th Avenue Key Food being sold and
replaced with new development would be merely discussed.
And ONLY discussed. Boy, was I wrong! It soon became clear,
not only from the meeting’s outcome, but also from a discussion
I had immediately afterward with a current Key Food employee,
that it’s a done deal. Apparently, the owner has been looking
to sell for some time; he was just waiting for the right deal,
and this is it. So the property’s been sold, finances secured,
the developer/investor chosen, moneys exchanged…it’s final…
the end is near. I must say, it was extremely disheartening
to learn that the current store owner seems to have moved
quietly, securing his deal without considering for a moment
how it might affect any of his loyal customers. Let alone
without seeking their input. It’s too bad. Like it or not,
we’ll just have to shop elsewhere. Or do without.
Alas, so it goes. Sorry to see you go, 5th Avenue Key Food!
I’ll certainly miss you and those items that only you offer.