In Praise of the Corner Liquor Store


liquor store

A nice piece of food desert debunkery, in the form of a gentle, evocative essay about the role played by the corner liquor store in one Hispanic neighborhood in East Los Angeles:

No one seemed to be looking for radicchio or wheat germ. People go to liquor stores because they need something small and simple, and they need it fast. In Mexico, the equivalent institution is the tiendita, the little corner store that sells things like milk, soda, and snack foods. It's a way of life. Sure, people buy liquor at a liquor store in East L.A. but it's just as often where you go when you forgot that can of jalapeños, or you need sliced white bread for a sandwich, or you need that gallon of milk. 

And some spot-on analysis of how a lot of reporting about obesity, poverty, and food deserts misses the point:

A lot of reporters writing about East L.A. seem to consider the residents there to be both more ignorant than they really are and more knowledgeable than they really are. On the one hand, you hear people talk as if the residents of East L.A. fail to grasp that a homemade stewed beef taco is healthier and cheaper than a burger and fries. Well, East Angelenos get it—they don't have a choice but to get it. They have to make food at home simply in order to save money. On the other hand, you hear people talk as if the only thing stopping residents of East L.A. from eating tofu and steamed kale for dinner is an overabundance of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drinks. That's of course not the case either. 

Lots more Reason on food deserts.

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  1. Not only does a food desert cause obesity, so does driving to a supermarket, which in turn causes…global warming. What?! We can’t win Check out the reasoning here:


  2. One of the big failures of American food culture is Mexicans thinking that whites won’t like the real Mexican food they fix at home. Sadly most of the time when Mexicans start restaurants they are afraid to cook the real stuff and make the fake stuff, which is very inferior.

    1. Counterpoint: King Taco
      Don’t even think about touching the red salsa there if you are a gringo….

      1. Those are rare sadly. Some of the taco trucks are pretty good sometimes. Real Mexican food is great. I don’t understand how we got hooked on the fake stuff.

        1. Depends on where you are, I guess. I live in an upper-middle class area in CA, but I only have to drive 2 miles east to find menudo, al pastor, lengua, and other “real” mexican foods on every corner. Probably holds true in other border states…
          When I ate at “The Best Mexican Restaurant in Anchorage” last summer, it was exactly what you might expect. Bland and shitty…

          1. I think California is the exception. East of the Mississippi it is impossible to find. Texas actually has a lot of crappy fake stuff. There is surprisingly enough a really old Mexican restaurant in Wichita of all places that is great. But most of the country is a Mexican food desert.

            1. Yes there is a lot of “fake” stuff in Texas but there is also a lot of the real stuff. There are hundreds of Mexican food places in Houston of all varieties.

      2. Think I’ll go to lunch at King Taco today. Thanks for the reminder, Playa.

        1. Can you do the red salsa? I was sweating bullets after a few drops, and there was a pregnant 16 year old next to me pouring tons of the stuff on her tacos. Really made me feel like a man….

          1. No. My days of eating the really spicy stuff ended around 2001. I prefer to taste my food. And my colon was threatening a revolt if I didn’t give it a break.

  3. On the other hand, you hear people talk as if the only thing stopping residents of East L.A. from eating tofu and steamed kale for dinner is an overabundance of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drinks. That’s of course not the case either.


    1. Hugh thinks it’s because there is an overabundance of strawberry Yoo-Hoo. Or the extremely elusive coconut Yoo-Hoo, which I saw in a NYC deli in 1988, but sadly did not buy.

      1. So you’re one of those, huh? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. But let me set you straight, Epi: there is no such thing as Coconut Yoo-hoo. There never was. I don’t care how many blurry pictures on the internet you point to, it’s a fucking myth.

        Yoo-hoo makes a fine line of products, including strawberry, Yoo-hoo lite, and the decadent double fudge. They would never poison their customers with the tropical turd known as the coconut.

        1. I have seen it with my own eyes, you heathen. Sitting on a bodega shelf, covered in dust, it called to me, but I bought the strawberry Yoo-Hoo instead. I knew I should have tried the coconut, but I was young and reckless.

          1. This sort of naivete might have been cute when you were a kid, Epi. But it’s time to grow up and put away the childish belief in mythical creatures like Coconut Yoo-hoo, STEVE SMITH, Mariners fans, and limits to executive power.

      2. Coconut Yoo-Hoo? Sounds delicious.

        As for Yoo-Hoo, I always liked Choc-ola more.

  4. three winters ago, we had a massive storm that shutdown the city. The roads were impassable, but still, the nearby liquor store was open. We walked through the drifts, bought a bunch of snacks booze, and came home to hunker down until the plows were done working. Good times.

  5. Good article. But it goes off the rails in the last paragraph.

    That’s the sort of change that comes slowly, as a product of education and improved economic circumstances. It costs more to eat healthier, and it takes more knowledge, too. So either healthy food needs to be cheaper, or people need to be better educated?or, ideally, both. Instead of just bringing healthier, more expensive food to the corner store, policymakers would be better off ensuring that nutrition gets more attention in schools and that health food is subsidized so that it’s not an economic burden for people to make the change.

    It is not more expensive to eat healthier food. Policy makers should not even be concerned with this issue. Don’t waste time teaching nutrition in schools, instead teach English, math, and other important things. Please stop subsidizing food.

    1. Yeah, Mark Bittman demolished that myth pretty effectively.

      …[A] typical order for a family of four ? for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas ? costs…about $28.

      You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9.

  6. 2. A lady in her 50s walked in and said “just one.” Lily knew what she meant and handed her a single Marlboro Light cigarette for 50 cents.

    A blatant violation of federal, state and municipal law.

  7. testy westy

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