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Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America
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Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,325 ratings  ·  362 reviews
In Grocery, bestselling author Michael Ruhlman offers incisive commentary on America’s relationship with its food and investigates the overlooked source of so much of itthe grocery store.
In a culture obsessed with food—how it looks, what it tastes like, where it comes from, what is good for us—there are often more questions than answers. Ruhlman proposes that the best
Audiobook, Unabridged, 10 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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Stacie Our book club just read this book, and as the person who recommended we read it I am trying to come up with some questions of my one for the discussio…moreOur book club just read this book, and as the person who recommended we read it I am trying to come up with some questions of my one for the discussion, so I am not sure they are the best, but I will share them nonetheless. (1) Do you agree with the premise of the book: we humans have a complicated relationship with food, but our relationship with where we get our food is overlooked? (2) was Ruhlman's focus on Heinen's too narrow- should he have chosen a larger national chain? (3) what is better the small corner stores with only local products in the old days or today's modern chains where you can get almost anything at anytime of year? (4) has/how has this book made you rethink how you grocery shop? (5) what is your favorite grocery store and why?(less)

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Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
I read this book in early October. I added it to my shelves, I did the usual notes while reading and updates that passes for a 'review' with me and now it's disappeared. I wonder if it is because I mentioned The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket and how I hadn't really liked the author commenting on what I'd written about it. ...more
Gretchen Rubin
I found this book fascinating; I love a book that gives me new insights into aspects of the world I take for granted, like grocery stores. In fact, maybe I'll make a list of books like this—books such as "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt. ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A book that should've gotten five stars. I *love* grocery stores. I hoped that this book would give me all the inside scoop, like an expanded New Yorker article.

Most of the book, however, is Ruhlman talking about the kinds of food we should be eating. He's a good writer, and his advice is pretty solid, but the grocery store is less of a focus of the book than a vehicle for Ruhlman to tackle his pet food issues.

There is very little here, for example, on logistics. Nothing about employee schedulin
It's interesting and I'm glad I read it. But the title is not accurate, IMHO. He uses his own favorite grocery store and the small chain it represents as the pivot of good example. It's also a nice to read tribute to his father who loved to shop there. And why.

But this particular woman who is writing this review started out her life living behind a Mom & Pop grocery, fruit, necessity vital neighborhood store in Chicago. It was on Wentworth Ave in the 50's South. It's still there but not a store-
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too much time is spent discussing nutrition, and I'm not convinced Ruhlman is objective about what he thinks is best practice. And the focus is on Heinen's to the extent that I almost want to move to Cleveland so I can shop there.

I wanted more about what the subtitle promises. Yes, he points out that some ppl buy food at club stores, department stories, drug stores, and gas stations, but doesn't expand. He doesn't realize how fast online grocery buying is growing, doesn't anticipate order online
Lindsay Nixon
The title is grossly inaccurate. This book is mostly the author petaling or defending his food choices. Most of which have zero scientific backing... and the comments on vegans are embarrassing (for him). After spewing about how most Americans eat processed food devoid of nutrients he says vegans need be careful to get their nutrients 🙄 BYE FELICIA

The whole book shows how much of a wannabe Pollan or Nestle he is, and their books are a better read.

That aside, there's little talk about buying or
Karen R
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Ruhlman has written numerous cookbooks in conjunction with chefs and other non-fiction books related to cooking. Here, he gets into the nitty gritty of the grocery business. Who would have thought this topic could be so fascinating. It was! And eye-opening as well.

Ruhlman has done exhaustive research on this transforming industry. He gathers info from many sources; by observing practices, interviewing a wide scope of people - visionaries, owners, buyers, vendors, farmers, nutritionists,
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite enjoyable, interesting, with a balanced tone but a tendency toward repetition and confused structure. |

It's not easy to write with a conversational feel in a factual book with source citations, but this manages it. I have at times in the past been harsh in my reviews of Ruhlman's books, because he can't seem to keep himself off the page in places he doesn't need to be. Here, finally, he's found a theme and style where his presence in the narrative makes sense and isn't a distraction.

I di
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I completely loved this book. The clincher for me? FOOTNOTES!!!! Also all of the information of food in America, where it comes from, how it's made and how it's sold. As well as how the Standard American Diet truly is SAD and killing us.

I love how he got interested in grocery stores through his father and how he honored him in the writing of this book, though the ending made me TEAR UP like nobody's business. That aside, this was an awesome book and I highly recommend it to just about anyone wh
Let's go shopping! There's a few errands to take care of first -- an homage to dad, a quick review of the history of grocery stores -- but then, straight to business. Aisle by aisle, from dried pasta to fresh fish, the way Americans approach food is changing, and Michael Ruhlman's Grocery shows us how, using -- literally -- the neighborhood grocery store, the one just down the block from his childhood home. Ruhlman has a particular passion for food, one inherited from his father -- a man who gen ...more
Tom Franklin
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruhlman's Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America is part love poem to the Cleveland area-based Heinen's grocery store chain and part memorial to his recently deceased father. Set amongst the characters of the Heinen's chain, Ruhlman's father's death, his own imminent divorce, his love for food, and his fascination with a grocery store chain that does things the way he would do them, his book weaves in and out of the Heinen's aisles and people who provide the produce and meats that en ...more
Rachel Blakeman
This is really a 2.5 star review. Some chapters were OK but this was largely a self-serving book. The more accurate title would have been "Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food at Heinen's." I grew up on the west side of the Cleveland media market so I remember Heinen's ads as a child but since we didn't live in a fancy part of the Cleveland suburbs, there was no Heinen's, which makes the point that this store serves a very upscale clientele. As a result the book feels very incomplete in telli ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out strong and had chapters that were really interesting, but it seemed like the author lost steam about halfway through. Then, it became less of what made grocery into what it is and more of an advertisement for Heinen's and a eulogy for his father. The over the top physical descriptions of women and the instance of overt anti-Native American racism were super, super distracting, too. ...more
Dad and I watched Mom making Julia Child’s recipe, or rather spectated, because she brought the making of béarnaise to the level of entertainment: The more butter, the better, but add too much and the sauce would break, the thick emulsion collapsing into soup; no one understood why. Mom insisted on giving the sauce a sporting chance to break and so always added more butter, to our alarm and excitement. Bam! Gasp! Cooking could be entertainment. (11)

Ruhlman’s Grocery explores—you guessed it—a sub
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-world, food
I saw the author promoting his book on one of the morning news shows and was energized by his passion for food and grocery stores. It turns out this passion was nurtured by his dad who died in 2008 or so. So it’s a labor of love and another son reaching out to his father.

Ruhlman is a Cleveland native and we learn all about grocery stores in the context of Cleveland’s local grocer- Heinen’s. These mid size grocers are the ones who drive innovation and change. Big chains like Kroger respond more s
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
4 stars based on 3 stars for chapters that I skimmed and 5 for the ones that totally caught my interest.

There were two elements that made me anxious to read this book: one was that I'm a huge fan of Ruhlman's food journalism (SOUL OF A CHEF is at the top of my favorite food/restaurant/chef books), and the other is I love delving into the inner workings of industries, businesses, restaurants, retails stores--heck, I'd even read a book about auto dealerships or realtors if they outlined how everyt
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
ARC copy from ALA Midwinter--excellent microhistory.
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Everyone buys groceries. Everyone should read this book and learn more about their food from someone who knows a helluva lot about it and makes it super approachable and fun at the same time
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is much more than a history of the grocery store; it is also a behind-the-scenes look at how a modern grocery store is operated and managed, and the industry’s continuous evolution.

Through interviews with the owners of Heinens, a Midwestern grocery chain, we learn about the workings of different departments and even learn the real reason why the dairy and freezer cases are at the rear of the store. (I always thought it was to make me walk past the snack aisle!) There is an entire section on
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food
This book was a love song by Ruhlman to his father, and that purpose, woven through this book, was touching and authentic. Ruhlman contrasts eating and shopping habits during his childhood and patterns now, from the perspective of the accomplished chef he has become. There was much interesting info in the book, but I felt a loss of focus in the last half, with many pages devoted to redevelopment of a historical building in Cleveland, a shopping trip with a fish monger, a wine and cheese car
This is exactly the kind of book I want to read. I love food; I love reading about food. This book made such a pedestrian thing as a grocery store so fascinating and intricate. This book includes a history of the grocery store in America, but it's really about the business of running a grocery store today, how food is sourced, stored, marketed, displayed, sold & eaten. This was really an ode to the grocery store, a celebration of what it does and can provide, and it gave me all sorts of informat ...more
I love food. I love grocery stores. I love food shopping, preparing, and cooking. And I love this book that is about all of these things.
Tara L. Campbell
I used Ruhlman's baking guide book Ratio to get past the hurdle of recipes and move on to a more experimental place based on science and formulas. I adore that book. This book, however, I wanted to chuck against a wall 40% of the time and call the author a pompous, self-important ass. But then I got sucked into the inner workings of supermarkets and how our industrial food system keeps the average person utterly dependent and clueless about where the food comes from. We're essentially hapless id ...more
Trudy Preston
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this terrific book 4 stars only because occasionally the author's writing is opaque and his sentence structure is sometimes convoluted as hell. But he's an excellent researcher and he provides exhaustive information on the evolution of America's eating habits. I didn't read this book because I'm fascinated by grocery stores but rather because I read multiple reviews extolling its virtues and I was definitely rewarded. Who knew grocery stores could be so fascinating?
One of the points he m
Liz Sawyer
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First I start with the question - do you enjoy nonfiction? If so then keep going. This is definitely a nonfiction book weaved with personal narrative and hands on research/exploring by the author. I really enjoyed his approach and the breadth of information he covered, yet sticking on point. I learned really interesting things about the history & trends within grocery stores, vendors/suppliers, etc. I feel motivated to support stores that are more compatible to my consumer preferences, especiall ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grocery does a fair job of describing the ins and outs of the grocery business in the US, at least from the perspective of the small, regional supermarket chain. It provides limited insight into the corner store, except as a historical notion, or into the operation of the national chains, which largely loom as soulless money machines that the plucky regionals stand in counterpoint against.

A significant part of the book is preaching on American eating habits, but covers little new ground, repeat
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
This is the first book I've read by Michael Ruhlman, and it won't be my last. The book is ostensibly about the grocery business but there is so much more to it that contributes to an engrossing enjoyable read. I'll admit to being a small-time foodie; we cook most of our meals at home (even before Covid-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders) and love to experiment with Thai, Indian and Chinese flavors and techniques.

Ruhlman focuses on Heinen's grocery stores, a chain of 22 stores in Ohio, but
Becca Smith
This book could have been easily given four stars with better editing. The main focus was not always about grocery stores, but whatever the author felt like ranting about or his food and ingredient biases. I felt a bit mislead with the title of the book being “Grocery” since that wasn’t always the focus.

He also relied on too many other sources instead of his own research, which was limited to just one specific grocery chain in Ohio, and didn’t compare this store’s practices to others, so we are
Nick Spacek
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an excellent view of the history of the grocery industry, as well as a touching personal memoir of ruhlman's father and their relationship with food. the author ties in elements of conservation, organic farming, and the nature of food to neighborhoods to create a book which is both fascinating and entertaining, but also ably demonstrative of the western world's emotional involvement with food.

the grocery industry as a whole is also explored, although very specifically tied to one particular chai
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Michael Ruhlman (born 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American writer. He is the author of 11 books, and is best known for his work about and in collaboration with American chefs, as well as other works of non-fiction.

Ruhlman grew up in Cleveland and was educated at University School (a private boys' day school in Cleveland) and at Duke University, graduating from the latter in 1985. He worked a se

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“He carried the deep, intuitive understanding of the power of food to connect people, knew that food was not simply a device for entertaining or filling our bodies and pleasing our senses but rather that it served as a direct channel to the greater pleasures of being alive, and that it could be so only when that food was shared with friends and lovers and family.” 2 likes
“More troubling is that when faced with an array of complex options,” the article says, “consumers tend to throw reason out the window and pick a product based on what’s easiest to evaluate, not what’s most important, says Sheena Iyengar, director of the Global Leadership Matrix Program at the Columbia (University) Business School. ‘We stick to the familiar or go by price because we don’t want to deal with so many choices and scrutinize label claims or nutrition information,’ she says.” 0 likes
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