Friday, September 4, 2009

Family History

Genny and Kathy were walking around an outdoors man store and checking out camping equiptment.

Genny drew Kathy's attention to a collapsible drip coffee maker.

Genny: Hey, mom, look at this. That's useful.
Kathy: Yeah it is. (Pause.) Or you could just use your sock. (Pause.) That's what my grandmother did.
(Big pause.)
Genny: Wasn't your grandmother a four foot eight Puerto Rican woman?
Kathy: Yes.
Genny: She went camping?
Kathy: No. It was a clean sock... That's just the way it was around the house.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grocery Shopping

Sometimes when I grocery shop, my mind wanders to odd places. If I got scurvy from my poor diet, would I either go to a doctor and have to pay the difference from the national health insurance deductible or buy an onion and eat it raw? If I got pregnant, would I either spend the majority of my money on a balanced diet or on doctor's visits? Sometimes I start thinking of my mother when she grocery shops. She is incredibly slow, has to walk up and down every aisle, and is a general pain to shop with. She compares the prices of everything from toilet paper to peanuts and will climb the shelves in pursuit of a good deal. Then I think about how I do the same thing and console myself with the knowledge that I don't drag anyone else into it.

With housemates numbering from six to eight with the accompanying six to eight boyfriends, girlfriends, and justfriends, an hour of silence during college was a miracle and I soon learned that grocery shopping was meditative. Driving to the store (the only time I ever used my car), finding parking, walking into the store and taking my time were all pieces of a soothing ritual. I can still remember exactly what I would do at the store. After taking the elevator up from the garage, I'd have to go out into the ground floor parking lot for a cart. Of course the smaller cart that just carried the hand basket was my preference as I rarely bought more for myself.

I'd enter the store and turn immediately to the left. Bakery. Deli on the left. Produce: fruits then vegetables. Greens on the right. With that phase over, walk into the other half of the store. Turn right and walk down the organic food aisle then up the next aisle, ethnic foods. Here I'd deviate and go look at the meats department. First fish then beef skipping the rest. Of course the milk would then be directly in front of me and I'd have to make the age old decisions: Soy or cow? If soy, what flavor? If cow, organic or generic? Half gallon or gallon? On it would go until three hours had passed, I'd walked up and down every aisle (including the baby food one), and I had maybe eight or nine things in my basket.

When I graduated from college I moved around from family member to family member before settling down on my own. Unexpectedly (to me at least) I have less money now than in college. I also have less time to spend at the grocery. On top of that, I live in a country with a language I can't read. Grocery shopping has lost some of it's initial charm, but our relationship is stronger for it. I walk to the grocery store. I'm not sure if the bicycle parking is free for more than 30 minutes. Perusing the aisles I can't read the labels and the directions on the packaging for preparing the food is unintelligible, so I stick with the drinks and prepared food sections.

I try to skip past the produce section, but if I have the time I will walk slowly up and down every aisle breathing deeply. The oranges are my favorite, but the mushroom section has a comforting odor. Seasonal fruits are a delight. I have spent minutes standing in front of the strawberries inhaling as strongly as I could and ignoring the weird stares. I look forward to melon season.

It's likely I will someday be a replicate of my mother wired on coffee and walking up and down the aisles with two full carts and four grumpy teenagers waiting to get back to life outside the grocery store. Until then, I think that no matter how poor or rich I might get grocery shopping will remain a source of entertainment and relaxation, even if I can't read the labels to check for the presence of dyes, chemicals, and mango.