Because I am, shall we say, a pathologically inflexible person, we go grocery shopping every Saturday. When this is not possible because, for example, we are on vacation or someone is gravely ill, I become anxious to the point of requiring sedation. What will we eat? When will we buy it? Will the sales circulars be different than those that I memorized on the previous Thursday?
But I digress. During the months of June through October we stop first at the Farmer’s Market, but at this time of year we are limited to what’s available at Meijer’s Thrifty Acres. (I am not making that up, couldn’t if I tried all day). It is a decent, large grocery store that is trying to respond to the increasing desire for organic and locally grown foods, and although I miss the days when I can load up on baby eggplants and fresh basil picked earlier that morning, I give them huge credit for trying. We live at least 50 miles from the Nearest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, and even I am not quite insane enough to suggest a weekly shopping trip involving a two hour commute.
Despite the stunning absence of produce that is not imported from Chile, Florida or California, I am usually very proud of my cart as I wheel into a checkout lane. I imagine, as I unload Gran Padano, Portobello mushrooms, shallots and organic milk and eggs that the people around me are secretly just a bit jealous. I discern a hint of wistfulness as the gentleman unloading 20 Lean Cuisines, a carton of Diet Coke and a Sarah Lee pound cake looks at my healthy, somewhat exotic choices. He is wishing that he could eat at my house. He is wishing that he could cook. (He is possibly wishing that I didn’t have so damned much stuff in my cart so he could get home in time to catch the start of the football game).
Suffice it to say that I buy the best I can find and afford, that I am a terrible snob, and that I wish, after the fashion of Johnny Appleseed, to inspire in others a desire to enjoy a beautiful Bosc pear instead of the grainy and gelatinous canned variety or to try a Manchego or a Cheshire instead of Processed American Cheese Food. Its a tiny highlight of my week that, in my own private world, I have a gold star on my chart for grocery shopping.
Today, because I was shopping for Sam’s birthday party, my cart was nothing to be proud of. Its hard to hide the entire contents of a shopping cart, particularly when the object is to unload those contents onto a conveyor belt. Sure, you can try to hide your feminine hygiene purchases or your National Enquirer under a couple of bags of brussel sprouts, but its tough to hide three cases of soda, four bags of chips, two dozen Krispy Kreme, three boxes of frozen waffles and two bottles of Carmel-Colored Maple Flavored Syrup Product. I tried, in vain, to put my lettuce, carrots, Clementines and Roquefort on top of the offending white-trash-o-rama, but in vain. I could practically hear the woman in the next lane with her Kashi waffles and fat-free vanilla yogurt whispering to her track-suited husband that ground zero of the childhood obesity epidemic was unloading her cart in lane 23.
Its a once-a-year walk of shame, and I guess I can’t really expect a house full of fifth grade boys to eat blini with sour cream and caviar, but still. Still, I can’t wait for the Saturday when I am making my way out of the Thrifty Acres with a baguette and carrot greens waving impressively out of the top of my bag and I see Kashi-woman stopping to pick up a bag of Doritos or Little Debbie’s Snack Cakes that has fallen from her cart, possibly jostled by the economy-sized bag of frozen hot wings that she is pathetically trying to hide under a bag of assorted field greens….