In writing about the literature of postmodernity, with its sci-fi tropes of 'speed-up, global village[s] [and] overcoming spatial barriers', the geographer Doreen Massey has advanced the more modest proposition that 'Much of life for many people still consists of waiting in a busshelter with your shopping for a bus that never comes' (Massey, 1994:163). Although it is conceivable that the shoppers' bags are bursting with durables or luxury goods, it seems much more likely that they contain food. The purchase of food is what most of us mean, most of the time, when we say we are going shopping.
Massey's focus on the bus stop astutely summons up a slightly anachronistic, vision of post-war British consumer culture. Public transport is undoubtedly a prominent issue in the UK, but the doubling of car ownership since the 1970s and transport deregulation in the 1980s problematize the notion that standing at a bus stop is a representative shopping experience. Instead, this urban vision works by establishing connections between the 'new poor', mostly younger and older people without access to cars, and the working class of the post-1945 period for whom bus travel was a less stigmatized, if still markedly gendered, activity. Rather than thinking about the world as recently reinvented, Massey asks us to think about change as an uneven process in which old cultural forms, attitudes and practices persist into the present, often as uncomfortable reminders of inequality. The image of a communally dismal shopping space summons the notion of a durable common culture.
We begin with this geographical take on food shopping for two reasons. First, you will now be familiar with the importance of space and place to food culture, particularly in relation to the questions of globalization and national identity discussed in the preceding two chapters. This chapter considers the global reach of the food retailing industries in relation to