Lost in the supermarket

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am


My supermarket has turned on me. I no longer recognise it. It's like a girlfriend who goes to Europe for the summer and comes back with a dolphin tattoo, a love of surfing and a fluency in Spanish.

My local Happy Valley supermarket went upscale and global, and left me behind. I remember standing in front of the bread aisle years ago, confronted by long rows of shiny packages. They're gone, replaced by hundreds of varieties of odd-looking products. I don't know what's inside the packages- the writing is in Japanese.

Then there are the fancy imported foods, shelves deep. Cracked wheat wafers from Liechtenstein, Gozitan cheeselets from Malta, honey from a remote island off New Zealand. At HK$180 a jar. When I was young, honey cost HK$40, tasted like syrup and came in a squeeze bottle with a nozzle that was forever blocked. One bottle lasted through grade school.

I studied existentialism at university, but Albert Camus is no help when it comes to the ethics of food. Looking at the chilled meats, I am presented with chicken breasts tenderly reared in a Guangdong factory, flash frozen and priced at a reasonable HK$35. You cannot argue with HK$35, but knowing how the bird suffered, well, I don't need the karma. The alternative is an organic chicken raised on an Oregon farm, retailing at HK$135.

Choosing eggs is worse. Free-range, uncaged, hormone-free, vegetarian-feed. Those layers live better than I do. For HK$70, you get top-of-the line eggs, juicy with omega-3 fatty acids. Plus they came from the same place, on the other side of the world, I am from. Does that make them local?

At least they haven't torn down the wet market.