When I started this blog, I thought there would be a fair bit more story telling and reflecting on joining a new community, as well as reflection and guest posts by those already here. Over the past few years, so much has happened that I’ve fallen into a different niche, often filling in the gaps around local policy initiatives and providing analysis and different perspectives on big policy changes in the city. But I wanted to share some thoughts on my recent joining of the Kroc Center, and how it’s changed the way I move about the city (and where I shop). 

Much of my interaction with Camden happens downtown. I work here. I live here. I make an effort to support local institutions. I love walking down the street to the distillery for Petty’s Island Rum. I work out at the Rutgers gym. My life is here. 

I also try to get out to Camden’s neighborhoods — that’s part of the goal of Supper Club. I have friends in Waterfront South and occasionally catch a theater show there. I have gotten to know the Neighborhood Center a bit better in Bergen Square (and had a blast at their Gala last weekend). Corinne’s Place brings me to Haddon Ave., where I will occasionally stop in the Camden Store. But none of these things bring me regularly to the neighborhood — certainly not often enough to regularly patronize other businesses as part of my routine. 

But since moving out of the Victor (which has its own gym), my wife and I joined the Kroc Center. I also was invited to be on a hoops team that plays at Bonsall on the weekends. The result is that we’ve changed our city geography — we take State Street Bridge more often (rather than fighting traffic up Federal Street), spend more time in Cramer Hill and East Camden, and do more of our shopping at Cousin’s Supermarket. 

I’ve long been curious about Cousin’s — it’s at the heart of one of the more interesting convos in Camden, which has to do with its designation as a “food desert”. In my experience, that discussion really animates residents, some of whom have very difficult times via public transportation getting quality, affordable food and resent using larger grocery stores in the ‘burbs and others of whom love their local stores and think it’s ridiculous to call a city a “food desert” when there is a full scale grocery store with a butcher, a bakery, and fresh veggies around the corner. 

Cousin’s is now part of my weekend routine. I duck in after a workout. I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to bring my own bags into the store, and instead have to check them with security (and the security guards have figured out that Rutgers Professors try to use their own bags to avoid plastic waste). I’ve learned 100 different uses for Puerto Rican Sofrito (so good) and generally been delighted at the food from different cultures throughout the store (all without the pretension, or the price point, of a foodie grocery store). 

And, of course, I get my fair share of stares as well. This past week I picked up an amazing flatbread, that, as far as I can tell, is called Mana’eesh (pic below). 

As I was checking out, the cashier scanned the bread, looked at me and said, “Oh. So you’re arabic?” 

That made me laugh. The Mana’eesh just made me hungry.

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