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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #146: Pic 'n Pay, Portsmouth

Zucchini hurt the most

Grocery stores are funny things. We develop strange and durable affinities for those we prefer, and woe to those who would challenge our opinions. There are adherents of Shaw's, of Safeway, of Giant, of Hannaford's (dubbed by some "Can't-Afford's). Among the glitterati you'll find those with unswerving allegiance to Trader Joe's or Whole Paycheck. For Exhibit A of this phenomenon, look no further than the Market Basket saga, chronicled so ably by the talented Jay Childs. UNH/Durham pals will fondly recall Chuck Cressy's Durham Marketplace (The Dump). In our travels through Maryland and Washington we've mainly shopped at the commissaries on base, which are interesting places in and of themselves, with great prices and an always-intriguing selection of international foods (my military friends know what I'm talking about).

Growing up we used to alternate between the Basket and Shaw's in Stratham. A quick aside - in college I briefly dated a cashier I met at that old Shaw's. I very much enjoyed introducing her as "a little something I picked up at Shaw's". When she protested that characterization, I would merely reply that she had been the one checking me out. One wonders why it never worked out.

Somehow that's not my favorite seacoast supermarket story, though. That's reserved for the Pic 'n Pay on Islington Street in Portsmouth. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a Hannaford's now (as is the Dump, I'm told), but it'll always be the Pic 'n Pay to many of us. This story has nothing to do with shopping there (or improbable romance with checkout girls). This has to do with a mild bit of civil disruption from my childhood. My dad was a Portsmouth cop in those days, and Albert Pace knew every square inch of that town (still does, most likely). Anyway, I have vivid memories of the time he and I and my brother Al wound up behind the old Pic 'n Pay engaged in a wild food fight with nearly-rotten vegetables and fruits. There might have been other people there, I don't specifically recall. I do remember that a peach doesn't hurt when it hits you, though an apple does (no matter how gone by). Cucumbers don't fly well, and lettuce comes apart in the air. Anyway, we got home covered in juice and vegan spatterings. My mother, bless her, didn't ask any questions. She just rolled her eyes and suggested pointedly that we might visit the garden hose before coming into her house.

Yeah, grocery stores are funny things.

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