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Shelf To Mouth

Updated: Apr 11

Julia Waugh

How many times does a day do you eat and where do you get your food?

A big question of such a casual activity, some might reply restaurants but for the majority it is The Supermarket.

Here in England there are several to choose from: Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Lidl or Aldi, all ladened vessels of fresh or frozen that float in carparks, often occupying acres of urban peripheries previously planted with crops.

How many visits to a Supermarket will you use a Trolley?

This icon of the twentieth century, was the invention of Humpty Dumpty shop owner Sylvan Goldman as a vehicle for self service to facilitate bulk buying. A familiar and yet deceptively innocuous item has become a decisive mechanism in our food industry.

A mobile wire cart, that can carry items to your car boot without assistance, has helped erase the need for speech, allowing customers to drift through the circuitry of aisles guided by packaging. Sometimes indeed there are deliberate acoustics, a tune of cultural adhesive that suggestively prevents dialogue and encourages movement.. Acquiring stuff to eat is now an easy pursuit, void to thoughts of agricultural toil that preceded it.

Plastic, glass or cellophane containers printed with barcodes, multiple lines key and lock prices with security systems recording a purchase, prompting speed of transaction with various dings and beeps.

Much can be said about the shopping experience, that would have seemed miraculous in past centuries.. To deny increased hygiene standards, availability and access to the constant supply of edibles would present an inaccurate sense of modernity, but the increasing need for food production equates with extraction, waste and pollution. The trip to a Supermarket becomes an activity with immense global implications and for most, an unavoidable source of nourishment.

As a term Supermarket implies something extraordinary and just too big, so as in many instances, creating our world through hyperbole has perhaps, eclipsed requirements. The scale of food production in the UK allows for perhaps, 2 percent for small traders as various costs effectively exclude and police the complex industry that ultimately decides where we shop and what we eat.

So slowly we are witness to the reduction of spaces for communication, social gathering and independent offline trade, The Market and its many functions is becoming a thing of the past. In many other European localities, such as France this weekly event is diminishing but not completely disappeared and still allows for the casual exchange of words and a place for even a gardener to present us with boxes of muddy carrots.


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