The world’s best supermarket is one kilometer from my work.
This isn’t hyperbole; the Frewville Foodland has received the International Retailer of the Year Excellence Award at the IGA Conference for two years running, and the local media has interpreted that as ‘world’s best.’
I finally visited last week, and was predictably overwhelmed. It is a spectacular supermarket, with a guitarist at the front door and a pianist in the fresh food section. There is a small cafe with superb baguettes, a cheese counter to die for, and a florist with floor-to-ceiling blooms.
By the time I walked there I only had about three minutes to browse before I had to get back to work, so I panicked and left empty-handed.
Today I needed crusty bread and red wine, but I decided to be smart about it and ride my bike. Dressed in my work dress and sporting a bright green backpack, I jumped on my too-large man’s bike and pedaled furiously to the shopping center.
The Foodland parking lot is *not* the world’s best. It is like a dangerous game of Pac-Man, especially if you are on two wheels and can barely reach the ground with your toes. Everywhere you turn there’s a car, waiting to mow you down when you lose your balance.
I had to cross this parking lot because supermarkets in Australia do not sell alcohol; you have to go to the bottle shop for that. By the time I got to Cellarbrations I was wild-eyed and flustered by my near-misses with car park death.
The clerk stopped in his tracks when the door slid open and I stepped in at 12:30pm on a Wednesday, windblown and unfocused, suspicious backpack slung over my shoulders.
“You all right there or happy to browse?” he asked.
“I’m good,” I said. “Just having a look.”
I could tell he was reluctant to leave me unattended.
“I’ll be in the back. Give me a yell if you need anything.”
I like to take my time when choosing most things, but especially wine and library books; for me, part of the fun is in the selection process. When the guy came back out, I had made it past the Cabernet blends to the Pinot Noirs, but still hadn’t made a decision.
“Do you know how it works?” he asked. “They’re divided into sections. So this row is all Pinot Noirs and next to it are all the Merlots.”
I knew how it worked. This is literally how every bottle shop I have ever entered is set up. I hate to think how confused I must have looked if he felt the need to spell it out for me.
It was time for me to get out of there. I bought a random bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and wheeled my bike across the parking lot to the Foodland bike rack.
I have a knack for choosing the most expensive item among a collection of indistinguishable items; it’s a gift. This time, though, I quickly zeroed in on a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, a diamond in the rough priced at $2.99 when all the surrounding loaves were at least twice that price.
On closer inspection I realized it had been mislabeled as a bag of ordinary bread rolls, which was why it was so cheap. My decision was made and I was out of there. The trouble with the world’s best supermarket is that if you stay longer than five minutes there’s a good chance you’ll never leave.
I was briefly detained by the biggest garlic I have ever seen, aptly labeled ‘giant garlic – good for roasting,’ and I still wish I’d bought some. Each clove was the size of an apple. AN APPLE. The more I think about it the more I am certain I will return next week for that garlic.
That, I realized, is part of what makes this Foodland the world’s best supermarket: it gives you everything you need, but still gives you reason to come back for more. Well, almost everything, but luckily there’s a really helpful bottle shop right across the car park.