Saturday, February 28, 2009

Forget J-date; I'm talking Schnucks-date

Bars. Restaurants. Cinemas. Shopping Centers. These are types of places where, in my experience, young people tend to congregate. That is, before I came to St. Louis. Now, it seems to me, the only place I really need to go in order to ensure social interaction is Schnucks.

Schnucks, according to its official website, has been “serving customers a unique combination of quality food, variety and value for nearly seven decades. Founded in north St. Louis in 1939, the family-owned grocery company has grown to include more than 100 stores in seven states.”

Well, Ohio is not one of these seven Schnucks states. When I moved here from Cleveland this past August, a native St. Louisan answered my question of “Where can I buy food?” with a matter-of-fact, “Just go to Schnucks.” I was aghast, thinking that he had just told me off with an unfamiliar Yiddish obscenity. Turns out that some poor schmuck, with an affinity for groceries, really was named Mr. Schnuck.

My impression of Schnucks became exponentially better once I actually made my first visit. I was pleased by the sushi corner, the organic food nook, the miniature branch of US Bank, and the salad bar. At the very least there was a whole frozen food aisle lined with Lean Cuisines. It assured me that if I didn’t survive law school, it wouldn’t be due to starvation.

Soon after my first trip to Schnucks I realized the importance it would play in my social life. It is not only the place where I buy wine for dinner parties. It’s also the place where I buy wine for bar night pregames. And as it turns out, it’s also the place where I run into every person I know in St. Louis.

Instance #1: I went to Schnucks to buy pre-made garlic mashed potatoes for a Rosh Hashana dinner. While roaming the aisles with two quarts of steaming potatoes in my arms (was too young and stupid at the time to use a cart), I ran into a fellow first-year law student who was going to the same dinner. He had stacked his cart with six jars of Manischewitz gefilte fish. I helped him find horseradish to go with it, and we have been that much closer ever since. Of course no one ate his fish, but that’s beside the point.

Instance #2: About a month ago I spotted another first-year law student in the wine aisle. Typical. She is in all of my classes but not more than an acquaintance. We ended up having a 45-minute conversation, surrounded by our buddies Charles Shaw and Andre. While we haven’t hung out since, we often see each other in the hallway and make vague plans to go to the grocery store.

Instance #3: Two weeks ago I almost rammed my shopping cart into two members of my younger brother’s fraternity. (I have gotten much smarter about taking a cart, although not much smarter about how to maneuver it).

Instance #4: Literally three days ago I found a familiar-looking law student standing in the apple section. He had been part of the Client Counseling Competition I participated in last Saturday. He was the fake client that I had been counseling! Unfortunately I hadn’t learned his real name, so I saluted him as “Mr. Wilcox,” my client being prosecuted for a noise violation. To my surprise, he actually answered to “Mr. Wilcox.” I still don’t know his real name.

And so, as evidenced by Instances 1 through 4, Schnucks is “the place to see and be seen” for young people in St. Louis, especially those who like to eat food and keep their apartments supplied with toilet paper.

I would even assert that Schnucks is such a popular youth hangout that it should be the venue for more JUF singles events. It is clean, brightly lit, and feels air conditioned if you are standing close enough to the refrigerator aisle. Also, they sometimes give out free cheese samples, which no Jew I know would ever turn down. Finally, a good getting-to-know-you game would be the old “Jew food scavenger hunt,” which resembles Supermarket Sweep for Hebrew National hotdogs and Tabachnick barley mushroom soup. Forget J-date; I’m talking Schnucks-date.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

wait, so grocery stores don't serve this function in other cities? That could explain the weird looks I got in baltimore for hanging out in the produce section for an hour wearing high heels....