Grocery shopping has a lot of emotional highs and lows for me. As the food-oriented individual that I am I wish I could say "marketing." I wish I went to farmer's markets more (I go approximately once a year), but I've never quite gotten my system of time to gibe with it. Someday perhaps I will. (I do, during the growing season, actively do City Fresh, a social-justice minded CSA. More on that when growing season begins again.)
But grocery shopping, in a modern American supermarket. What an historical anomaly. Sometimes it completely overwhelms me. I can lose time in a supermarket. Sometimes I text David for help, like holding a string in the minotaur's labyrinth. I have been known to cry. Once I stood in line at a Giant Eagle late at night and watched someone buy tomatoes and ground beef both package on black styrofoam trays and wrapped tight in plastic and I saw the doom of our civilization. Once I met a yogi from Australia (where they apparently have different food marketing) who spoke of being paralyzed in an American supermarket as he stood in front of the milk coolers, unable to decipher the enormous range of his options. Still, I am fond of this activity.
I have vivid memories of going to the A&P with my mom when I was a kid. Animal crackers and chrome detailed shelves and learning how to balance fully loaded brown paper bags on my hip. My friend Tim and I would sometimes hang out outside by the carts and the gumball machines while my mom shopped. Tim had long hair. I had shortish hair and as a liberated hippie kid had no problem running around shirtless (I was 7 or 8, let's say). We would laugh and laugh when the old guys in feed store hats would call me Sir and him Miss.
A&P was huge by the standard of the day with a wall of windows at the front. One of my primary sense memories of the place is the spacious brightness. When I moved to New York City I found the narrow aisled, high-stacked, cave like atmosphere of the local Gristede's distinctly exotic. In between Athens and NYC, I had the honor of being a somewhat regular customer of a Piggly Wiggly in Atlanta. (The A&P of my youth no longer stands. It has been replaced by ugly student condos. I get a weird squiggly visceral feeling when I drive past where it used to be.)
When David and I were first courting long distance from NYC to Cleveland, I had fantasies about picking out tomatoes together. When I moved here we did our shopping together a lot, and I still feel sad when we go to the store together and split up for efficiency.
|OMG, there's a blog about old A&Ps.|
When Z was a baby I would take her to the store in a front carrier and talk to her the whole way through the store. This is a cucumber. Which should I get, the penne or the rotini? Look at all the different canned beans. Have you ever seen such a thing?
Both the kids have been lifelong participants in the shopping (and the City Fresh experience), by both necessity and design. I want them to be aware of their food, of the choices made, of the on-the-fly price calculations, of how a week of food is planned and executed. Sometimes this is a pain in the ass. Sometimes a great joy. Usually a combination of the two.
Yesterday, ZandO and I stopped at the giant Texas-based, libertarian-owned emporium of utopian fantasy food choice wonders on our way home from soccer, intending to get perhaps 7 items we needed for the weekend. The first pain in the ass was that parking lot was so full I had to circle twice to find a spot. Really? The second was that O was in full distractable 9-year-old-boy mode (We could get this. Oh, what about that. Mom, mom, mom! Ohmigod, look how big those onions are. Mom! I like how there is mist all over the greens; it means you don't have to wash them as much when we get home. Mom, mom! You said we could get the fresh orange juice sometime. Mom,, mom, mom! Hey, mom! I'm going to go see what's in that sample case over there. Wait, what did you ask me to get?)
The great joy was that in the course of an hour (!!!) the three of us discussed, planned, and purchased the food for a week's worth of varied, easy, healthy dinners (of the partly convenience, partly fresh produce variety). Dinners they will help me make and will enjoy eating.
Reading: If you've never read John Updike's story "A&P", you should, and now's your chance.
I don't really know why but I have become, in my leisure time, a very slow reader. Maybe this is a response to all the professional reading I have to do. I went away for the holidays with 3 books and the year-end double issue of the New Yorker. My goal was to read the whole damn issue, because when do I ever get to do that, and then read at least one of the books. I am currently two-thirds of the way through the magazine and break ends tomorrow. Part of the great slow down of '15 has to include more better reading habits.
Dinner: Spaghetti with oniony, garlicky marinara and a mixed greens salad with cuke, tomato, dressed with oil & vinegar and topped marinated "feta salsa" from the utopian food choice emporium.
But what was really on deck yesterday was the soundtrack to Big Night (in the car) and an internet Classic Banjo Radio station (during family work/reading/dinner prep time).
Random thing: O told us the other night at dinner that when he was a toddler he "had a very narrow palate" and that is why he wouldn't eat anything. 1. This is false. He ate everything except peas and cabbage. (Cabbage he will now generally eat. Peas, no, unless they are fresh out of the pod.) 2. What the hell kind of a phrase is that for a 9 year old?