Monday, September 20, 2004
Perhaps the most common shop in New York City is the "bodega," or maybe I should say the "deli." In Brooklyn, I often find a store that Manhattan residents would call a bodega referred to as a deli. I have no clue what they call such stores on Staten Island – nor does anyone else from any of the other four boroughs, since none of us have ever been to Staten Island...Also, does anyone know what to call those claw-tipped pole thingys that you use to grab the paper towels from their shelf fourteen feet from the ground?
Also common in New York City is the "grocery." To the untrained eye, it may be nearly indistinguishable from a deli/bodega. But after many months of study, I have found the key to quickly establishing which of the two you are faced with: a grocery, unlike a deli or bodega, is required to have three or four large bins of rotting produce for sale.
That’s not an easy hurdle to leap. In fact, it's almost impossible for the owner to ensure that all of his produce is always rotting. Eventually, the condition of some of his fruits or vegetables will become so foul that even a New-York-City-grocery-store owner can no longer bear to offer them for sale. He will be forced to dump them and re-order, which means that, for a few days, his bin will be filled with decent-looking samples of the produce in question. Nevertheless, at any given time, he can rest easy in the knowledge that the vast majority of his produce is in an advanced state of decay, because no one ever buys any of it. Therefore, the same, say, tomatoes that were, regrettably, fresh for a couple of days, will still pass the bulk of their time in the store as wrinkled orbs dripping a pus-like ooze from their multitude of cracks and bruises.
[Gene Callahan--Your Guide to NYC Shops]