Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
The idea of a shopping list fills you with horror, doesn't it, Sagittarius? In fact, this week, the idea of picking up a basket is unthinkable. So, you drive that little red car trolley around the supermarket; it's not like they'll recognise you in your false moustache anyway.
Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Why is the freezer stuff furthest away? Why does the bread always get squashed under the potatoes? We don't understand why the heavy things aren't in the early aisles, Capricorn. This layout makes no sense to us either.
Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
There are not many people whose idea of a good time is a leisurely stroll under the glaring luminescence of supermarket strip lighting, but you love it, Aquarius. The 24-hour supermarket was a genius invention, wasn’t it? No one to rush you, and you can spend as many hours as you like debating which biscuits to buy.
To read the full piece by Terri-Jane Dow buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
At this particular moment in time, she is wondering why no one told her it’s the small things that get to you the most. Her feet have been rooted to the floor about a third of the way down Aisle Three for approximately ten minutes now. She is trying to look normal, to catch her breath, to seem like she’s simply invested in choosing the right product and that everything is fine. If anyone speaks to her she’s almost certain to lose composure. No one must know she’s having a panic attack brought on by chopped tomatoes.
The tin in question, the one that started this now eleven minute episode, is beginning to look blurry. She can’t decide whether blinking will help to clear her tears, or if it will allow them to escape, so she stands eyes wide, staring in the direction of the offending article, breathing deeply in and out to the count of three. This is ridiculous, she keeps thinking, this is ridiculous.
Not those ones, these ones, she hears her mother say, this is the best brand you can get. Only the best for a special tea.
She sees her small, obedient hands reaching for the glossy red and white packaging, lifting two cans and placing them carefully into the trolley. She remembers the feeling of lifting the ring pull, of peeling back the lid, the satisfying crunch as she prised it open. The sizzle and hiss of liquid hitting hot metal and beginning to bubble. Glancing up to ensure there was approval in her mother’s eyes.
Her first cookery lesson began outside their kitchen. It started in a supermarket aisle. A lesson that became a ritual, a brand that became a staple, subsequent hours spanning years spent sharing secrets over boiling pans. Then, suddenly, she is standing alone in an empty kitchen.
“Excuse me,” they mumble at the same time as they push past her, as the trolley knocks her ankle and she stumbles forward. She swings around to see who hit her and with that motion her bag hits the shelf. Cans scatter everywhere. One cracks open as it hits the floor. The ground around her feet becomes a spattered sea of red.
To read the full piece by Lucy Goodwill buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
Right, okay. The fridge is looking pretty bare and it's Friday night. If this situation continues, all you'll have to ease your hangover will be that bottle of congealed ketchup and your flatmate's big tub of Lurpak, deep canyons gouged into its sides from the time you ran out of jam for your breakfast toast. It's time to do a Big Shop.
But like the best indie cinema, your voyage into this heart of darkness will be accompanied by an awesome contemporary pop soundtrack, so well chosen that years later, a snippet of each of these songs will remind you of the forthcoming moments of peril and glory. Be warned: there will be danger, there will be crisps, and this quest will test you to your core.
Aisle One: Fruit & Vegetables
Shopping for fruit and veg is a fundamentally optimistic exercise. Browsing the mounds of crisp leaves, fresh citrus and healthy, photogenic foodstuffs, you're bound to feel good about yourself. Salads and fruit are what beautiful, slim, well-lit people eat, and by filling the bottom shelf of your fridge with this stuff – organic things, things from the ground, where everything wholesome originates – you too will take your place among them, and in time, become financially stable and interesting to people at parties.
You know what those people listen to? Happy music. Acoustic music. Music that's inspired by, but not so drearily earnest as 'world music.' Specifically, they listen to 'Send Me On My Way' by Rusted Root, which could soundtrack a soul-nourishing hike in New England just as well as it could the fruit and veg section, but since it's used in the best foodie scene in the history of cinema (the bit in Matilda where Mara Wilson cooks pancakes), it's pegged as the ultimate in diet-related empowerment.
To read the full piece by Sam Bradley buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
The supermarket never sleeps. It’s open all hours to cater for the late-night munchers, bargain hunters, hungry workers, employment shirkers, insomniacs, coeliacs and downright greedy bastards.
Oh, the freedom to roam the aisles, scraping the ankles of the unsuspecting with a ragged-edged trolley wheel. Stopping without reason by the pitted olives with no apparent motive other than to stare at the ingredients list – Water, Green Olives, Salt, Acidity Regulator (Lactic Acid).
In Aisle Three: Cold Meats, Pies and Pasties, Betty is mulling over buying some Bavarian ham. Against her better judgement she puts it in her trolley, but by Aisle Six: World Foods, she’s realised the error of her ways and it’s cast aside next to a watery-looking own brand bhuna sauce. All the way from Germany to be treated like this...
In the fruit and veg section, Tyler’s mum is squeezing the cucumbers to check for firmness, without a hint of innuendo. Tyler is bored, even though he’s only been in the store for about five minutes. He’s already spat out a chunk of Granny Smith and put the apple back, and wiped one of his many bogeys on a loose sprout.
Meanwhile at the checkouts, Sandra’s close to losing her rag. An unusually tall, skinny man is trying to buy a bottle of whisky, but it’s Scotland and you’re not allowed to purchase booze before 10am. It’s 9.58 and Sandra’s run out of small talk. He’s just staring at her now, pausing only to glance at his wrist, which is bare. She wishes she could just serve him and suffer the consequences, but the tills are pre-programmed you see?
Out the back, Malcolm is close to finishing his first graveyard shift – starting on a Friday night, the obligatory ‘Welcome to the company’ for every 18 year old employee. Working 10 till 10, what a way to make a living. He’s throwing out a crate of bread, unaware it’s still three days before its sell by date.
In the CCTV control room, footage of the electrical section shows a news item on a 4k telly about the UK throwing away £13bn worth of food each year.
He's seen enough of this! Same shit, different day.
An announcement goes out over the tannoy: “DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY, ERM, OUR CONTROL, THIS STORE IS NOW CLOSING. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR SHOPPING AND EXIT THE BUILDING IN A CALM AND ORDERLY FASHION.”
It takes a few repeats before it sinks in. Then as the customers shuffle out effing and blinding under their collective breath, a new broadcast is made.
“WOULD ALL STAFF PLEASE LEAVE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.”
Everyone assumes the worst and they beat a hasty retreat, looking forward to an impromptu fag break. The automatic doors lock behind them. The bar snaps shut on the emergency exit. Everyone is frozen out, like a stray fish finger in Aisle Twenty One: Confectionery.
To read the full piece by Jamie Graham buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
Tonight you begin in the frozen foods aisle. Last night it was fruit and veg, and tomorrow it will be the delicatessen or toiletries. Better to mix things up a bit, keep everything fresh. Routine, you have learned, is the enemy of the insomniac's early hours shopping experience.
Countless items slip through your hands and land in your trolley as you move with expertly feigned purpose through the vast, hanger-like structure that appeared, as if from nowhere, on the north edge of town last January. At first you swore you'd never set foot in the place, telling anyone who'd listen that it was a terrible, small-business-destroying monstrosity. But that was then. Just look at you now. Night after night you come here to kill your sleepless hours, filling your trolley with things you not only do not need, but also have no intention of purchasing. Funny how life has a way of making you eschew even your mostly deeply-held principles.
Amongst other things, you have come to admire the orderliness and sterility of this place, the only twenty-four-hour supermarket in the area. There was a time, not so long ago, when you did the bulk of your weekly shop in the somewhat cramped and chaotic surroundings of the family-owned store at the end of your road. But that was when you still had people to feed. Now it's just you, you make do with microwave meals delivered to your door by an amiable Polish man named Marek who reminds you of an actor whose name you have forgotten.
To read the full piece by Nick Ryle Wright buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
Flashing lights, material prizes, and novelty catchphrases – these are the boxes you’d check if you were developing a TV game show; it’s no wonder that the genre is so often dismissed as kitsch entertainment. But while the format is lighthearted and somewhat lowbrow, I would argue that there’s a complex undercurrent to the buzzers and bonus rounds. That is, game shows serve us a fantasy of abundance that offers a momentary escape from the banality of everyday life. And nowhere is this more evident than in Supermarket Sweep.
Based on its American predecessor, Supermarket Sweep first aired in the UK in 1993, introducing a format in which three sets of contestants would complete frenzied trolley dashes in an effort to win themselves a series of prizes. It was presented by Dale Winton and had all the typical ingredients for a winning game show, including a catchy theme tune and an exceedingly vocal audience made up of the general public. But Supermarket Sweep also differed from the norm in a number of ways. Most importantly, it was set in a supermarket.
To read the full piece by Jessica Farrugia buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
My dad, my brother and my sister don’t like to go. They hover at the ends of aisles, noses slightly scrunched in defence against the intrusive smells. It’s too loud and over-crowded.
My mom and I hunt for shallots. She likes the very small ones. They must be firm with no hints of sprouting or discoloration. Later at home, she will chop them finely and fry them until they’re deep brown and crispy. We’ll use them for garnishing soups, like those made from bitter gourd vegetables braised along with pork ribs.
Further down the same aisle, she holds up bundles of leafy vegetables,
“Kangkong? Or snow pea leaf?”
Lightly fried with sambal belacan, a spicy paste of dried chilies and shrimp, the Kangkong stalks – tender and chewy – slip like noodles off my chopsticks.
I browse the stacks of produce for pandan leaves. We will simmer these with coconut milk, sugar and beaten egg yolks to make kaya, a rich eggy jam. I slather it like butter on toast for breakfast.
To read the full piece by Jennifer Livingstone buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
The word 'retail' originates
from an Anglo-Norman French
use of the Old French 'retaille' meaning
'a piece cut off'
every day when I went to work
they cut off strips from me
every night when I got home
I sewed myself back together.
Poem by Ross McCleary. To read more work from issue #1 by a copy, available in the shop now.
Maybe Hell is white instead of all that red flame.
White shelves. White crescents of light adorning the necks of soda bottles. White ripples of light on the tiles. A mountainous display of white paper towel rolls.
Govinda looks over his shoulder, raises an eyebrow. “Are you alright?”
He’s stopped in the middle of the aisle. Westie plants his feet on the floor to avoid stumbling into him. “I’m fucking tired.”
Govinda narrows his eyes. “I know.”
He turns back to the cart and keeps pushing and walking.
Westie trails behind him. He knows he’s dragging his feet. He’s hunching his shoulders and his blonde hair helps shield the bags under his eyes.
But it feels like exhaustion has swallowed his every bone whole. He wants to drop onto the floor and sleep. The ceiling is striped with florescent lights, but he can close his eyes to it.
It’s almost eleven at night, and there’s only a few people milling around the store, murmuring into cellphones or to themselves. Govinda turns into the empty bread aisle, his cart chugging along. He slips his hand under a loaf of bread, lifts it slightly to read the expiration date. The plastic packages crinkles under his fingertips.
“I don’t like wholewheat,” Westie says...
To read the full piece by Lake W. buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.
We all know the sights and sounds of the supermarket. The little blip the scanner makes when your groceries are being processed. The wobble of the trolley wheel and the way it glides around corners like a boat. The way your eye skips and skims from product to product, concurrently bored and excited by the possibilities, the choice.
It’s small wonder that supermarkets have been so visible in the history of cinema. They are the epitome of man made: a vast structure, filled with individualistic products, all bearing the hallmarks of design, purpose and desire.
We see people fall in love here, wheeling each other around on trolleys like tandem bicycles, and in some cases, we see people’s lives falling to pieces. In the movie 2012 (2009) you actually get both: characters canoodle by the bran-flakes, before the ground is very literally rent apart.
In Chronicle (2012), the supermarket is a place for characters to learn about themselves, to test their newly acquired telekinetic skills. And in Superbad (2007), it becomes the site of the Holy Grail, a bottle of gold-flecked vodka...
To read the full piece by Nick Hilton, buy a copy of issue #1 - available in the shop now.