If there’s one funny video I’ve seen the last 3-4 months, this might be it.  Eric Ripert, the world renown chef of Le Bernardin in New York City, was invited by Alan Richman of GQ magazine to visit his Westchester home to prepare local favorites for the chef.  He takes Eric Ripert where?  To Costco.  If you watch the beginning of the video, you will hear Eric Ripert, with his French accent and all, say, “You are taking me to Costco?  Noooo…we are not going to Costco….We are going to Costco?”  And when they exit Costco, you hear him say, “No, no, I’m not touching that cart.”  It appears that shopping at Costco has not only traumatized Chef Ripert, but has also given us, the big wide American culture, something to think about.

Alan Richman, he of the fame personality in whom Anthony Bourdain loathes, says in the video that shopping at a Costco is so vastly different than the shopping experience in France, or any other European country.  Eric Ripert’s response is quite thoughtful and mind opening.  He says that shopping in a country like France is a way of being social.  You go to the butcher or baker not only to buy your ingredients, but also to chat with the owners what is going on for you in your day or week.  It’s a way to relate to those who are providing food for you to cook and share with your family and friends.

We don’t have that in this country.  I should say, we don’t have that in 99% of this country.  The only place I can see where we might remotely have that would be New York or Chicago.  But we’re constantly surrounded by giants like a Costco or Vons/Safeway/Albertsons.  It’s a one stop shop, literally, for all of our necessities.  You want produce, meat, and also diaper bags?  Stop thinking and go to Albertsons.  I don’t think it’s wrong or even bad that we have the one-stop-shops.  I like going to Albertsons, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and the like.  But I get what Eric Ripert is saying.  It’s a different lifestyle in a place like France.  There’s no right or wrong in how one shops, as long as at the end of the trip, we’re cooking natural foods and understand what it is we’re eating.

America doesn’t have to be France.  France doesn’t have to be, or even want to be, America.  And that’s OK.  We’re just different.  But next time you’re in a “supermarket”, go to the meat section and just once, refrain from buying prepackaged meats and fish [particularly fish]. Greet the butcher or the fish monger and talk to them about their day and the fresh ingredients they have that day.  It’s not the same as going to an actual butcher or baker maybe, but it’s good for us to relate to other people.  It’s good for us to interact.  Let’s not just put our heads in our list of things to buy, but look up and talk to those who are providing the food we’re eating.  Maybe we’ll be surprised that we would actually enjoy it.