Sunday, June 13, 2010

Grocery shopping like my daddy did

My mom, in my experience, places high value on efficiency - in shopping, planning and home making. She has literally hundreds of bars of bath soap stored on the stairs to her attic - all different brands based on what has been on sale, and all faithfully unwrapped - exposing the soap to the air which allegedly hardens it and makes it last longer. Buying up lots of soap when it is on sale and storing it in such a way to maximize the longevity of the soap would earn high marks in her book. Daily shopping, in my mother's opinion, wastes time, wastes gas, and wastes money by not maximizing sales and succumbing to impulse.

I have memories of my mom disparaging my dad, from whom she was separated and then divorced very early in my childhood, because he appeared to go to the grocery store every day as part of his household management strategy. He apparently was not organized enough to know his 5 mostly estranged kids would be visiting on the weekend and therefore he'd need to buy Cheerios and milk for our breakfast. He couldn't do advance menu planning to determine that when we'd visit we'd eat hot dogs with mac and cheese on Friday night and meatloaf with instant mashed potatoes and frozen peas on Saturday night.

I write this as I prepare to head to the grocery store for the second time today - this time to buy ingredients for dinner tonight. I went earlier to run a favor for a friend. I, in fact, was not organized enough to know what I would want to cook for dinner at 8:30 this morning, when I was off to buy newborn-sized diapers and People magazine to give to GPA, who had her first daughter on Friday (congrats). So now I plan what is, in fact, my third trip to the grocery store in less than 24 hours.

I'm okay with this. I love the grocery store. When I'm feeling uncentered I know that visiting a beautiful grocery store perks me up again. I love visiting markets in foreign countries, to experience grocery shopping as a cultural exchange. I'm also at peace with being a little unorganized. I have the resources to buy what I want to buy - which is usually the store brand which is cheaper than the brand brand even if it is on sale. I'd rather carry three bags into the house once a day that carry 10 bags into the house once a week. I believe it is reasonable to want - even need - to compartmentalize my life in order to manage it (e.g. separating the gift shopping trip from the food shopping trip). I like being whimsical and instinctive in my meal planning. The daily shopping has a European flair to it, where I am driven by what looks or sounds good to me on any given day - rather than having to make do with what I have in the fridge. Today is a chilly, cloudy spring day and I'm inspired to roast a chicken. The trip to the market is to buy fresh poultry and the ingredients I need to complete the recipe from my cookbook.

I have no idea why my dad shopped daily. I know that I do and, it often reminds me of one small way in which I am more like my daddy than I am like my mom.

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