It is my fondest wish to have a single store that contains every grocery item that I could possibly want, so I’d only ever have to go to one place. Among my local choices, I wish it were Hannaford. I like it there. The people are lovely, the aisles are wide.
One of Hannaford’s deficiencies is that it does not carry the Boar’s Head deli meats my family craves. Yes, that’s right. Processed meat. I’m a terrible mother. I know it’s bad for you. But jeez, sandwiches. They’re a classic for a reason. They’re easy. Now it would be excellent if my children wanted to eat hummus, cucumber, and red pepper sandwiches, but they do not. With some urging, they will eat all of these items separately, but not all together and, like, recreationally. And can you believe that neither of my daughters likes peanut butter and jelly? This confounds me. But anyway.
The other day I got off track. I was doing some work, the kind of work that takes a long time and leaves you with very little to show for it. You know, like all of the baby and toddler years. I had already steeled myself for two grocery store visits because I needed to get the Boar’s Head at ShopRite, and frankly, I can’t spend more than a minimum amount of time in that place. I don’t know what it is about the vibe, but every time I go there I think, “Oh my God, I forgot how much I hate this place.” Which is funny, because that’s very similar to what I thought when labor with J started. I was like, “Oh, my God, I forgot how much I hated labor.” Because I did. It hurt. I am not a vegan earth mother who feels herself opening like a flower while plying her older (naked) toddler sibling with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And, you know, singing sweetly.
So, okay, the pain of walking around ShopRite is less intense than labor, but it is still, somehow, painful. Something in the air there just fills me with rage. And I was thinking about this as I was walking around the store, because David Byrne was totally begging me to take him to the river and I was like, “What strange magic is this, that I can be walking around listening to old Talking Heads and still feel like I’m in a terrible mood?” That, my friends, is ShopRite. A study in contradictions. It can simultaneously offer up and ruin an old song.
I was frustrated in part because I was lost looking for extra groceries. I’d decided to buy more than just the deli meats. It had already gotten so late in the day that I was doing grocery triage. Instead of two grocery stores and everything I’d need for meals all week, I’d pick up a few extra groceries at one grocery store so I’d have everything I needed for one complete meal, and I’d head to the other grocery store the next day, when I had more time, and presumably more patience. More strength. Because at this point I was thoroughly discombobulated. I scanned my grocery list and decided to get stuff for this Asian beef noodle salad, which would be quick to make. But then I couldn’t find any freakin’ ginger. Also, I couldn’t find anyone to ask about the ginger. So then I decided to give up and get what I needed for another meal, the sandwich night. Which ruined my vague notion of saving sandwiches for a possible picnic outing, but desperation was taking over. I checked out and grouched my way out of the store.
And then, driving home, I realized that I’d forgotten to buy any chips. Chips are required with sandwiches. Not for me, of course. Much as I love chips, I am not a big chips eater. It’s just, I am much better at resisting the first chip than resisting all subsequent chips, so usually everyone else in the family is munching away while I am tossing a sad little salad. If reincarnated, perhaps I’ll experience life as a string-bean teenage boy who can consume multiple bags of chips, but for now, salad instead of chips is my lot in this life. For the rest of the family, though, if I am going to serve up crappy, processed, poisonous sliced meat on bread, chips are obligatory. This is a deeply-ingrained culinary taste that the girls have inherited from their father, the same man who has also handed down to them the preference for eggs cooked so long that they resemble a dusty lace doily and pancakes covered in powdered sugar in spite of the fact that we always, always have pure Vermont maple syrup in the house. Philistines.
But the point is, I was there, in the car, when realized that I had the makings for two almost-meals, each lacking a crucial ingredient. In other words, I still didn’t have dinner.
Another store visit. To the local co-op, which is lovely. Once in a while Cute W and I will bike over to pick up something on a Saturday afternoon, and we’ll impulse-buy some free-trade chocolate and we’ll run into people and chat and laugh and revel in our glorious neighborhood. But most of the time, I kind of hate shopping there there. And I know that that’s, like, a sacrilege in this town. In fact at one point I wrote that saying you don’t like to shop at the co-op yields the sort of dumbstruck-and-horrified expression you might see if you announced to a nursing mom that you’re feeding your infant Kool-Aid in her bottle. I really want to like the co-op more. But it feels claustrophobic, the rice milk price is astronomical, and on a day like that one the worst part is. . . the people.
You just cannot, cannot go there without running into people you know. It’s not that I hate people, it’s just that if I’m trying to run into the grocery store quickly to pick up one or two things, it’s impossible. People always say, “Oh, it’s great to just run in quickly,” and that’s a lie. So running into the co-op, under-groomed, hurrying, and in dire need of just enough food to eke out a single dinner, is not my favorite thing.
And of course I ran into someone, one of those friendly people you totally know you know but have lost track of any identifying information that would allow you to make even the most superficial chit-chat. I exchanged pleasantries in the store and was out in the parking lot clutching my minced ginger and potato chips when I eventually remembered her name.
Then I tried to drive out of the parking lot, and no one was letting me out. Do you ever do that, where you’re waiting to turn onto a busy street, and you begin to think, “I am probably going to have to live in this spot for the rest of my life, right here. . . .”? In fact, it always reminds me of a story I read in Stephen King’s Night Shift, where these reckless drivers cause all sorts of havoc and accidents and then they’re stuck in a traffic jam and gradually they realize that they’ve died and they’re in some sort of hellish afterlife in which they’re just going to be stuck in a traffic jam forever. I think of that story often when I’m driving.
But anyway, at this point my grocery rage was erupting, so as the cars hustled by, not letting me in, I would shout at each of them (behind my closed car windows, in full-on passive-aggressive mode), “Thank you!. . . Oh, and thank you!. . . Thank you, sir!” At one point the car going past me had a Bernie sticker, and I was full on yelling, “How the hell do you think you’re going to make a revolution when you won’t even pause to let a person into traffic while you’re rolling up to a red light?” I just don’t feel like that person will actually redistribute his or her resources in any meaningful way. He was probably on his phone making threatening voice mails to super delegates.
Finally, I arrived home and, now that I had my minced ginger, I started to make that original beef noodle salad recipe. Which was when I realized I didn’t actually have noodles in the house. I mean, it was one of those days when you wonder, how is it that I’m ever able to function in society? Clearly rage shopping is not effective shopping.
Everyone had sandwiches for dinner. And we all ate them with chips.