The Hapless Househusband: Shopping...
Shopping Is Not For Sissies...
Unlike most guys in the supermarket, I do not feel like the proverbial fish out of water. I prepare the meals, thus I know what food I want to buy. I am now well acquainted with the products in the cleaning aisle, and know exactly what I want in the laundry section. As someone who is perpetually hot, I enjoy the sub zero temperatures, and I have taken to checking the wheels on the cart before I enter the store, so no more Mr. Wobbly or Mr. Squeaky for me.
I am well trained. I bring my reusable bags with me, wipe the handle down with the provided anti-bacterial wipes, and head off into the store with confidence.
Fruits and vegetables come first, so no matter what you do later, you start out by feeling virtuous. If you go through the other door, it’s all breads and chips. Bad start. Choose the first door – you’ll feel way better, healthy by osmosis.
I am now an experienced produce selector, right color, right firmness and best aroma, and am not swayed by the gleaming pyramids of the lesser stuff they are trying to pawn off on the unsuspecting. Question is; how do I put this onto my résumé? These are important skills, people…
I am now immune to the smiles of the women in the store, who look at you with a “poor thing” tilt of the head. In my fantasy world, I am a world famous chef preparing an important repast for even more important clients. I watch Anthony and Emeril and Gordon, so I know the drill. Fresh ingredients cooked simply.
With shopping being one of my few excuses for going out, I do not buy for a week, but for two or three days at a time; thinking meals, rather than filling the fridge and freezer.
The reduction in waste has been considerable, and when you are primarily cooking for just two people, there can be a fair bit of waste if you are not careful. Once upon a time, with sons one and two at home, shopping at Costco was a necessity. Now it is an occasional visit, as I have no idea what to do with an entire box of tangerines. And, six months worth of Cheerios is somehow depressing. I still visit of course, because it’s fun and a cheap lunch if you are not a picky eater.
I can still be the imaginary world famous chef with my own TV show and books and stuff in the meat and fish areas, but it doesn’t work so well in the laundry aisle. To my sure and certain knowledge there are no movies or TV shows based on laundry. There are no famous “Laundrists”. No book signings for the author of, “Fluff and Fold, my life is now all put away”. Other than “Big Bang Theory” you never see sitcom characters doing laundry (Thanks, Mr. Lorre). Even on the (now curiously misnamed, when you think about it), TV Soaps, they don’t do laundry. Regular humans do not swap stories of the massive load of whites in the October of ought-six, though the occasional tale of disasters slips out occasionally.
I hurry through, as I also do in the pet food/toilet paper aisle. What does it say about me, when I can’t shop without going along every aisle? I’ve tried missing a row or two, but I leave curiously unfulfilled - such the creature of habit.
Cooking utensils have taken on the role of my tools, herbs and spices have become essentials, and pre-packaged, freeze-dried concoctions, simply won’t do. Make room for the food snob, people…
This transformation of shopping from necessity, to the selection of materials for a project, crept up on me slowly, and was only fully recognized as I started to write it down. I suddenly feel jealous of those with the means and time to shop for produce in the real markets. It evokes the magic I felt walking along Rue Mouffetard on a fall morning in Paris, or the biweekly market on the street in Milan, outside the International School, where the produce transformed the drab grey cityscape into a riot of color. And the smells, the textures, the incredible culinary possibilities, all weave into the consciousness, as an event.
To be fair, the supermarkets in Lemon County have worked hard at transforming themselves into more of an experience, and any attempt to not emulate a warehouse is much appreciated. But they are designed for convenience, after all; so a little imagination is needed.
The butcher’s shop has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a child. I loved the smell of the sawdust on the floor in our village butcher, and the upside down pheasants and geese did not evoke revulsion, rather, an appreciation of their beauty. This is an image that is hard to conjure up when faced with the plastic wrapped cornucopia on display in most supermarkets, so I stare at the fresh cuts before selecting. I like to buy fish that looks like fish, and a carcass hanging behind the cuts of pork or beef, makes it all the more real to me. I know I would make a pathetic vegetarian, I fully admit that.
And then I hit the bread section. Not the aisle with the plastic wrapped sliced stuff; the section where they actually bake. Hats off to the marketing maven who realized that the smell of baking bread is one of the most delicious smells on the planet. Food should be a multi sensory experience, add crunch, flake, and real butter to that smell, and I am in foodie heaven. Only roasting coffee comes close in the aroma department (and the attendant disappointment that it can never taste as good as it smells…)
In this way, utilizing imagination and invoking great memories, the shopping for food becomes an event marginally closer to our hunter-gather roots. Beats the heck out of reality anyway…
Dear Hub Reader
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