Boris Smus

interaction engineering

The Secret Life of Groceries

At first I was taken by the surprisingly well written prose (for a non-fiction book). Here Lorr recollects his feelings after having lived abroad for a while and seeing an American supermarket for the first time in a while. This feeling of awe is familiar to me having immigrated from the Soviet Union in 1990:

A love like all love filled with doubt and rage and insecurity, but also overwhelming and blanketing, warm and intoxicating. It was a love of re-acclimation, of reabsorbing a childhood and birthright, of seeing myself and my country with new eyes, both fearful and reverent.

And here is a memory conveyed remarkably well in writing of the olfactory experience of cleaning a whole foods fish freezer.

...ten thousand minnows piled up in silver ribbons, left for days, as they waited to be transformed into the protein base of the aquaculture pyramid. Those were some strong sniffs. And yet none of it—not the trash fish nor fecal lagoons—was as fundamentally gross and disturbing as the smell that came out of that fish case in Manhattan. In a Whole Foods. In one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the wealthiest nation in the world.

I learned that SKUs stand for "Shop Keeping Units", and that the average adult spends 2% of their life in a supermarket.

Despite the relative interestingness, the book kind of drones on. The section on Trader Joe's was overly fanboyish and protracted. Further, I am ashamed to admit that my interest in groceries and supply chains appears to be dwindling as the pandemic comes to a close.