(Just in case your browser doesn’t pick up on the above, it’s supposed to be a row of Christmas trees. It’s called Lindvist 2; a font I discovered during procrastination prior to grading papers.)
My oldest daughter, Erin, said that I should blog about my fascination/obsession (her words) with grocery stores. (And this from the chick who won’t touch raw meat with her bare hands!). I invited her to be a guest blogger, but she declined. I’m just letting you know that up front so that you’ll know why this may not be an entirely objective undertaking. She’s afraid that my grandchildren will return to their parents with tales of wonderment from cruising the International foods aisle and beg for mini shopping carts for Christmas.
As a mother of five, all of whom demanded no less than three meals daily, I found myself in the grocery store frequently. Either daily one-basket rounds or weekly rounds which involved commandeering a train of baskets. And, I am still proud of the logistics required in making that happen. Remember, this was decades before the grocery store baskets became rides for kids all on their own. First, I had the eight-year-old and the five-year-old pushing a basket or fighting over which one of them would or would not push the basket. John, still not yet mobile, was carefully positioned in his little baby tray in the bottom of the basket I pushed where Sarah was strapped in the seat. Shannon, God bless her, either toddled next to me, strapped herself in for dear life in the basket one of her older siblings pushed, or gave up altogether and wedged herself like a tiny contortionist around her little brother. All of the soft goods had to go into my basket so John would not have a head injury from cans of green beans inadvertently tossed in or find himself swimming in a sea of broken eggs. It was all quite adventurous. Besides, I wanted my kids to know that spinach did not pop up from the ground in neatly packaged boxes.
But I’m a quick study. I started waiting until their father came home to make grocery trips. Then I made this glorious discovery. I could be legitimately away from the house for a rather long period of time without feeling guilty. (And still spend less time in the store than it took for the average round of golf. Hey, but who was keeping time, right?). No point in rushing through. Didn’t want to forget an important item–like capers or something. And of course I had to stroll every aisle. Alone.
What really makes my grown-up kids scatter like photographers after Britney Spears is when I tell them I’m off to the grocery, and I’m waving fistfuls of coupons. I’m a sucker for those double and triple bonus coupon offers. Now that the cost is shown at the price per ounce or pound or inch, my kids are certain I’m computing the cost of individual bran flakes in a cereal box.
My grandmother’s grocery list used to follow the aisles exactly. My mother detested the grocery store. So, I’ve reassured my daughter that this fascination skips a generation and my grandkids will love being there amongst all the baked goods with me.
Unfortunately, the grocery stores in Louisiana pale in comparison to the ones I’ve seen elsewhere. There’s an HEB in Austin that I dream about. Aisles and aisles and aisles of wonderment. One of the grocery stores near River Oaks in Houston has store personnel actually select your fresh fruit and veggies for you. The meat counter is lined with housekeepers and smartly dressed drivers waiting to pick up their employers’ orders. Even the Randall’s is a worthy place to hang out.
So, what is it about grocery stores? I think it’s the visual, sensory overload of colors and textures and smells. I’m amazed by the fact that buying an apple means I have to decide which of eight varieties I want to sink my teeth into. I look at a kiwi and am astonished that God chose to conceal such stunning color and taste in the skin of something so unappealing (reminds me of humans, really). I gaze at the mangoes and papayas, nestled in their cardboard trays, and remember when I could them up off the ground in Hawaii and carry them into the condo for breakfast. I’m intrigued by packaging and how it’s come to reflect all that is great and awful in our society. Salad in a bag. Where was that when I needed it most? Did you know, though, that what ends up in the bag–at least the ones with the generic lettuce– is what used to be thrown away? Tuna with baby spoons and little mayo packs. My last discovery was individual tubs of peanut butter. Revolutionized taking apples to lunch.
I just glanced at the time. I must stop, though I realize that my emoting over the grocery could continue. I suppose I should thank Erin for this reflection. It’s made me realize how much I still relish (aisle eight) the experience. Not, I’m sure, the end effect she might have been hoping for.
When I’m too demented to remember who I am, where I am, or why I am, I hope my kids will just drop me off at the closest, most wonderful grocery store in the area.