Category Archives: Food Stories
This weekend was awesome. Pure, over-scheduled awesomeness. Saturday was chock full of gunpowder-scented family bonding and last minute hair cuts (12 inches off!!). Sunday rocked my socks in general.
A few weeks ago, my coworker asked me to go halfsies with her on a full share at Great Country Farms, out in Bluemont, Va. GCF is a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). What that means in practical terms is that you pay some money for a ‘share’ of their produce. Every week, for twenty weeks, beginning 31 May, two boxes will show up at my coworker’s condo, stuffed with homegrown goodness.
I am particularly excited for the deliveries to begin. Like all the other yuppies around here, I’m trying to become more ecologically conscious while being as healthy as possible. I want to get back to living as close to the earth as practically possible. Part of this involves eating only in-season produce.
Unfortunately, figuring out “in season” based on what’s available in the grocery stores is near impossible. Yay instant gratification. Demanding strawberries in December means hot house growing or international transportation from far away countries. In an attempt to offer a bigger and better product, growers lace their foods with hormones and genetically modifications, all of which get passed on to us, the unwitting consumer.
On top of that, when you shop in big chain stores, you usually get food from the big super farms from very far away. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather support the mom and pop local farms, with pesticide-free produce. Buying a share in the CSA means I’m forced to eat in season and local.
My half of the full share is $514, for twenty weeks of delivery. After signing up, I realized that even with the half share, I won’t be able to eat everything I’m given—especially during peak growing season. I want to eat locally, but I don’t want to waste food! I thought about canning it all—and I’ll probably can/vacuum seal a lot—but I have to be realistic about what my kitchen can do. It’s a kitchenette. As much as I try to deny it, the laws of physics do apply to me.
So I called Flay and asked if she wanted to split my half-share. She did. So for $257, or $12.85 per week, I will have what I hope to be the perfect amount of fresh, organic, locally grown produce delivered right to my door.
Well, my coworker’s door, who will then bring the food to work so I can take it home.
Sunday was the kick off weekend for GCF’s season, so all share holders were invited out to visit the farm. They offered hayrides to shuttle visitors throughout the fields so they could see *exactly* where our food would be grown.
I am living in the wrong zip code. Despite my SUV and deep-seated love of stiletto heels and the Smithsonian, I will always, deep down, be a country girl. I just feel more rested and relaxed when I’m out of the hustle and bustle of DC. I love the smell of grass (not that kind!), the rolling hills, and people are just…nicer out there. One day, I’m going to live there. Unfortunately, my job is in DC and probably always will be. So for now, I’m here.
Going out to the country and running around on the farm was just bliss for me. I could feel my heart rate slowing a bit as I drove out of the traffic-logged Northern Virginia streets and onto the gentle rolling highways.
In addition to what promises to be great produce, the farm also has your typical barnyard animals in a petting zoo for the kiddies…or 27 year old food bloggers!!! Just ask my coworker—I was giddy over the whole experience. They had pigs (WITH PIGLETS!!), ducks, donkeys, cows, a pony, emus (EMUS!!!!), PEACOCKS!, turkies, sheep, goats…you name it, they had it. (Pictures scattered throughout).
I was excited.
Misplaced punctuation excited.
After spending nearly $80 tonight at Harris Teeter on mostly produce, I can not wait for those deliveries to start!!
I would also like to apologize [again] for the inconsistent posting. One of the leasing agents downstairs totally called me out today for “being quiet” on the blog. I have a few recipes to work up this week, so don’t worry Rob, you’ll have more reading material soon!
Recipe testing is hard!
Background: A few weeks ago, I received an e-newsletter from Chef Matt, the instructor for my one and only cooking class back in February. He’s putting out a cookbook later this year and needed recipe testers to double check his creations. I excitedly threw my hat in the ring—I love trying new foods!
Chef Matt asked me to test a twist on the classic bruschetta, with baby artichokes instead of the traditional tomatoes. An awesome vinaigrette (that I will more likely than not be making again for like, everything) combines the mixture together, and the whole thing is spooned over hearty Italian bread. (NOTE: I’m not including his recipe today. If you want it, buy his book. The link to his blog and personal website is over on the Blog Roll.)
I learn something new every day. A few days ago, I learned I suck at making toast. Today, I learned recipe testing goes against every culinary bone in my body.
Here’s the thing. I cook by taste, smell and look. Newsflash: The measurements I include in my recipes here are estimated. Measuring spoons are more like scoops than anything. Most of the time, I don’t use a recipe. At most, I read a couple versions of the same dish, get a feel for the general technique, and then dive in alone. A lot of people fear this amount of culinary improv, but not me. I figure, it’s not a nuclear bomb. If it’s not perfect, chances are no one is going to die.
Recipe testing isn’t like that. The whole point of testing is to make sure the proportions are correct. You can’t do that if you don’t measure accurately!
On top of that, even when I do use a recipe, I never stick to it. I substitute based on my own preferences or what I have on hand—for instance, lately I’ve started replacing white sugar with honey because it’s easier for my body to metabolize. Or it calls for cubed chicken, but all I have is shrimp. Or instead of creamy polenta, I use cheesy grits because it’s what I have in the pantry, and I don’t particularly feel like paying additional money for something that’s basically the same thing.
That’s one of the things I love so much about food. I can bend things a bit to suit my or my guest’s likings.
Food rocks my socks.
I had fun with the testing though. My buddy Jane came up for dinner, and I paired the bruschetta (served on homemade French bread I made today) with a pan fried chicken breast, marinated in white vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and spicy mustard. It was a great opportunity to try a tasty new dish and spend quality time with one of my oldest friends.
Plus, Chef Matt attached a comment card to standardize feedback. (Who likes hearing “yeah, it’s good,” when you’re pouring your heart and soul into something you adore from the very depths of your being?) It was fun thinking through his questions as I followed his recipe—I don’t for the life of me even fancy myself to be any kind of big time food writer. I write a blog about what I make for dinner each day…not exactly along the lines of the New York Times or Gourmet Magazine. But it’s fun to pretend, if just for a night.
Good night, all!!
I took my very first cooking class last night.
I’m a self/home/Food Network trained cook. I have absolutely no academic backing to my skillz. And so when a coworker mentioned that many of the higher end cooking supply stores offer technique classes, I was all over it. I silently willed traffic to move faster that night so I could get back to my laptop and sign up. Of course, being the DC area, it didn’t move faster, so I decided my next car will be a tank.
The first available class was called “Coming Out of Your Shell,” a two hour session on shellfish—mussels, clams, scallops and oysters, to be specific. I love seafood, so I knew this would be a kick ass class. $70 later, I was in like Flynn.
I showed up to Sur La Table thirty minutes early. I had no idea what traffic would be like, so I left 45 minutes before class began…and got to cool my heels in the shop. I was so excited for this class—I was little a giddy 5 year old who showed up an hour early to the bus stop and wore super bright colors because she was afraid the bus driver wouldn’t see her and she’d never get to start kindergarten. (Not like I did that, I’m just being descriptive. Yeah. Descriptive.) The cashier told me I couldn’t go into the kitchen before they opened the doors. Every time I saw movement in that corner of the store, I’d do a little internal flip out. Is it time yet?!? No. What about now?! No. Now?!?!? NO.
But finally, it was time. You know I was the first one in that kitchen, too. I found my favorite spot in any room—in the corner, no exits behind me, where I could observe the crowd. I like to people watch.
The kitchen had about 4-5 large tables, each with two cutting boards, knives, and a baking sheet of ingredients for the first recipe on the menu. I liked how it wasn’t super home-y, so you still had that “we’re here to learn” feel, but it wasn’t cold or austere, either. Five other women joined me at my table—Thais, Courtney, Patricia, and Michelle. Not to brag, but we were totally the cool table.
Chef Matt Finarelli, our instructor for the evening, was great. He was personable and definitely knowledgeable—as he walked us through each recipe, he’d explain WHY we used each ingredient to get the tastes we wanted. Instead of staying behind the large work area in the front of the classroom, he would walk around and between the tables while instructing. I loved this—sometimes people are just too damn stuffy in academic environments. It’s good when you can teach and still be a real person. I noticed that his chef’s coat had one of those sleeve pockets for pens. His had two pens…and a meat thermometer. And that’s awesome.
Our first dish of the night was mussels mariniere. “Play with the mussels a bit to see if they’re ok,” Chef Matt urged us. If they close and stay closed, yay! They’re good. If not, throw them out cause they suck. “Alive or dead,” he added. “It’s very Boolean.”
I love it when chefs talk nerdy.
Following a fast steam in dry white wine and garlic, the girls and I added a handful of diced tomatoes, parsley, and capers. A quick toss and voila! Food! Chef Matt showed us how to use an empty mussel shell as tongs the way the Belgians do.
Our next dish, beer-braised little neck clams, was prepped in much the same way. We picked about ¼ cup of corn kernels. While they were swimming around in the drink, the girls and I combined beer, water, peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, garlic and some lemon juice, brought it to a boil, then dumped those delicious little clams in. While they were steaming, we drained the corn (saving the pickling liquid for a later use—I had no idea you could save that stuff! Yay reusing things!), chopped some tomatoes and cilantro, then gave a quick toss. By the time the clams were done. The instruction packet said to “divide between four plates” before spooning some of the salsa on top…but my table wasn’t that formal. We just dug in. And they were fabulous.
After a quick break, we were on to our third, and in my mind, the most amazing dish of my entire life.
Do you ever have those moments in your life where you know it’s a turning point, and nothing will ever be the same again, ever? This was that moment for me.
I have never in my life been able to make scallops. I don’t even really like them. Whenever I’ve ordered them at restaurants, they’re either rubbery or slimy. I don’t waste money or taste buds on things I repeatedly don’t like, so I stopped buying them.
Turns out, they sucked only because I didn’t know how to cook the damn things!
Scallops are different from other shellfish, Chef Matt explained, because we don’t eat the fleshy part under the shell. We actually eat the fibrous foot that holds to the two shells together. Standing behind the large work station, he motioned for the class to gather around.
In order for a scallop to not be gross, it should have a beautiful, crispy outer layer and a cool, medium rare center. There is A Way To Do This.
First, make sure the scallop is dry, or else the excess water won’t allow a proper sear. If there’s an extra layer of fat on the outside on the scallop, pull this off and save for later. It’s good to eat, but Chef Matt explained that it’s a different density than the rest of the scallop, so it cooks at a different rate. Season with salt and white pepper. Black pepper works too, but the white pepper disappears against the white flesh of the scallop, so it just looks prettier unless you’re going for the polkadot look.
Get the pan rocket hot and add a drizzle of oil to the pan. When it’s sufficiently pre-heated, place the scallop in the center.
There is something magical about hearing a scallop sizzle when it hits a hot skillet. As the edges began to color, I flipped it over and dropped a tablespoon of butter in. quickly, I began basting the scallop with the butter, and a beautiful golden crust appeared.
Hearing that sizzle and smelling the amazing aroma of the melted butter wafting up as I based that little sucker just made me…happy. I’m an annoyingly happy person to begin
As I removed that perfectly done morsel from the pan and nestled it in a spoonful of polenta (with a small drizzle of the browned butter over top, just because), I smiled.
Do you ever have those moments where you just know you’re doing the right thing? I had one, right then. I don’t know if the planets aligned, or the stars, or what. But it just felt…right. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with food in my life, other that cook it and eat it and share it, but I know I’m on the right track. Maybe one day I’ll make the jump to actually go to culinary school. Or open my own restaurant. Or even just make a meal that someone remembers for the rest of their lives. I don’t know. But whatever I’m supposed to do, cooking makes me happy. And I have a feeling I’m going to remember that scallop moment for the rest of my life.
Biting into that scallop was just…heaven. I barely had to chew, it just melted into my taste buds the way ice would melt into hot pavement. I didn’t even want to move on to the next recipe. I just wanted to savor that scallop.
But, we must be culinary warriors. Onward and upward, comrades!
Our final (and most complicated) dish of the night was oysters rockefeller. I’ve never had this before, so I was particularly excited to make it.
Chef Matt, again, brought us up to the front work station, where he showed us the appropriate way to shuck an oyster. (Stick the shucker knife thingy into the joint, wiggle it around and twist it until you hear a pop. Then work it around the edge until the top shell comes free. Loosen the oyster from the bottom shell with a knife, and voila!)
Using the larger shell as a base, slather in a layer of roux (made from butter, flour, milk, anchovy paste, and pernod), then a layer of sautéed spinach, the oyster, another layer of roux, and a light sprinkling of parmesan. After a short stint under the broiler…again, more heaven! I rarely eat oysters due to the price and labor involved, but that will now change. (I also have a yet=unscheduled offer for oysters on the half shell, which I’ve also never had. Expect a blog entry on that, too!)
In the car, I called my mom, and gushed about everything I learned, the food I ate, and the people I met. I’m sure she had flashbacks to my early childhood where she kept herself entertained by counting the “and then”s.
And then we made mussels…and then it was really good and I had some and I liked it…and then we made clams and I liked that too…and then we made scallops and then I was happy…
And then I can’t wait to take another class. But for now, I’m going to bed. Good night world!
I went to a sugar festival this weekend!! And not just any sugar festival—a MAPLE SYRUP festival.
Every year, the Montgomery County park authority holds a maple syrup festival in Wheaton, Maryland. I found out about this through a wonderful group on Facebook I joined a few years ago called “The February Campaign.” This group acknowledges the February is the worst month ever, and works to balance the negativity with fun activities. One such activity is the Maple Syrup Festival, and since it had to do with food, I went to it.
I dragged my buddy Linder along. We know each other from years and years ago, when we were both struggling opera singers just trying to get a job. Although we talk every day online, it had been a while since we actually physically saw each other. I was excited to catch up with an old friend!
After meeting in the parking lot of a local Staples, we piled into one car for what will now be known as Linder and Mel’s Excellent Maple Syrup Adventure. We headed to Wheaton Regional Park, and after following many oddly placed signs, finally found ourselves to the visitor center.
It was there that our true education began.
Linder and I crowded into a room with eleventy billion kids and their affiliated parental figures. A veteran park volunteer launched into what was probably her twentieth presentation that day, explaining how the maple syrup is made. If it wasn’t for the snot nosed little teachers pet in the front row who kept interrupting the speaker to ask and/or answer hypothetical questions, it would have been really interesting.
The Wheaton area is special in that it is densely populated with red maple—I’m not sure why, but these are different than the maple trees up in New England where a majority of the country’s maple syrup is made. Due to the limited number of tappable trees available, they’re not able to produce enough syrup to actually sell, but enough is produced to give us all a light slathering on a cold silver dollar pancake, so I was sated.
Volunteer Lady popped in a VHS (yes, a VHS) into the machine and on came a video about…what else? Maple syrup. The circa 1975 video featured a flock of school children visiting a Vermont syrup farm on a field trip. It also featured very bad, John Denver-style folksy music with corny lyrics. Linder and I, both uppity classically trained vocalists, snickered in the back row.
In late winter, specially trained tappers (no idea if that’s what they’re called, but that’s what I’d call myself if I tapped trees) head out into the woods. Using a special drill, they bore a hole into the maple trunk approximately four inches deep and insert a small spout. Volunteer Lady assured us that when done properly, this does not harm the tree. She also said there are some trees in Vermont that have been tapped continuously for nearly one hundred years.
When the weather fluctuates above freezing during the day and below at night, the sap begins to flow. If the tree has been tapped, it drips into a specially made bucket. This is later collected (by school children, if the video is to believed) and boiled down into maple syrup.
Following the video, we were duly shepherded out to the woods where we were invited to observe the wonderful maple
syrup making process. At the top of the hill were many trees, each with a silver bucket affixed to the trunk to catch the sap. A small folding table had been set up, with a teenage volunteer offering a small taste of maple sap.
Against my better judgment, I tried the sap. I didn’t think it could possibly be any good, but I was surprised that I actually liked it. It was only slightly sweet—not the super concentrated sugarness of a traditional syrup. Sap is mostly water (hence the boiling), so the sugar content was very diluted. It was like a flavorless Pedialite, if that means anything to anyone.
Walking down the hill, we could watch volunteers boiling down the sap in a big vat. To the left was a small early American reproduction cabin. I stepped inside, and was able to get some cool shots of some reproduction kitchen utensils. Always the kitchen gadget lover, I snapped a few shots of bowls and spoons laid out on a table. I’m not sure about the bowls, but the spoons are handmade by a local volunteer, Lev Friedman. I got a chance to talk to him about how he got involved with making the spoons—apparently he found a ‘how to’ on a message forum online and delved right in. Very cool!
After sampling the newly made maple syrup on the above mentioned cold pancake, Linder and I called it a day by splitting a tapas sampler at a nearby restaurant. (Operation: Dinner Party, week 1 FTW!)
Was it a wildly awesome party? Definitely not. But despite the corny video, I did learn a lot, and now understand why pure maple syrup is so much more expensive than the crappy diluted stuff. Learned a lot, had some great tapas, and enjoyed a great evening with an old friend. All in all, a great food day!
And in other way excited news…I’M FINALLY GETTING CABLE ON WEDNESDAY! I never started my service after I moved, and was focused on saving money before making the call. But things are all humming nicely now, and the installation man is going to be here somewhere between 8am and 12pm on Wednesday.
Food Network, I’ve missed you!!!
I am so grossed out.
You should know that I have a love affair with Netflix. After moving into my studio two months ago, I decided not to order cable. As in, I have no television service at all. I have a television, which I use for watching dvds and blu rays, but other than that, it is completely non-functional. I watch a lot of Netflix movies/shows (currently obsessed with Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” and have decided that I want to be him when I grow up), but honestly, I don’t miss television. I do miss Food Network and the Cooking Channel, however those are available online too. Yay saving money.
Tonight, the Netflix algorithm suggested, based on my prior movie watching choices, that I might enjoy Food, Inc. For those of you who are uninformed, Food, Inc., a documentary by filmmaker Robert Keener, delves into the big business side of the food industry. I’d heard about it before (not much, obviously) and figured it would be a good way to spend a dead Wednesday night. So I hit ‘play now’ and settled in with my lasagna cupcakes (recipe to come later, still needs tweaking.)
Gross. Me. Out. First, watch this documentary. Secondly, don’t eat while watching this documentary.
Another thing you should know about me is that I am a perpetual cynic. I question nearly everything anyone says or writes. No matter how hard someone tries, their product is always going to be skewed, even if only marginally, in some way. I question facts, myths, theories, and proven knowledge. I love to research, and while I don’t always get to the bottom of the true story, it makes me feel better that I’m not one to be spoon fed anything.
Food, Inc., is now making me do more research.
Basically, Keener describes how the food industry is controlled by a handful of large corporations, all large-scale food processors. They put profit ahead of everything—worker safety, farmer livelihood, the environment, and consumer health and knowledge. It seems that the big food businesses like McDonalds, Tysons, and Perdue are more concerned with efficiency than consumer health.
Our own government aids them in these abuses. According to the documentary, in 1973, the USDA and FDA conducted approximately 50,000 safety and health inspections of American food processing plants. In 2006, they conducted only 9,164.
It’s a vicious cycle—corn is genetically modified and fed to livestock destined for the slaughterhouse. The animals absorb the hormones, and are exposed to more chemicals (both in their feed or outright injected into them). This causes bigger and cheaper-produced meat for consumers…but then we absorb the hormones too. Humans aren’t made for digesting unnatural additives like this, and some experts have pointed to artificial growth hormones as one of the major causes in the obesity spike in America.
What made me really start to pay attention, though, was the following quote from Eric Schlosser.
“The industry blames obesity on a crisis of responsibility, but when you’re engineering food, you’re pressing our evolutionary buttons…this diet of high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates leads to these spikes of insulin and gradually a wearing down of the system by which our body metabolizes sugar.”
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder last year. Basically, my body doesn’t process refined sugars and preservatives the way a ‘normal’ body does. I just turn it to fat almost instantly. For much of my life, I’ve been overweight. Last year, with the help of a personal trainer and a shit ton of blood, sweat, and a hell of a lot of tears, I lost nearly 50 pounds. I still have about another 20-30ish pounds to go, but I still resolve that eventually I’ll get there.
I figured that this was just my lot in life. Somewhere along the way, my body changed the way it processed things. Shit happens, figure out a way to deal with it and move on. I was pretty hard core with my eating habits for a while and stopped drinking (that sucked a lot), which helped in losing weight. But now, after watching this documentary, I want to do more research into the metabolism, how it works, and how it’s affected by unnatural foods. My inability to process frankenfoods may have stemmed from poor eating habits as a child.
In my introductory blog entry, I stated that my mother was a stay-at-home mom. This isn’t 100% true. Mom actually worked until I was 5. My father had been laid off from managing a Radio Shak a few months after my birth, and decided to go back to college to pursue an engineering degree. Mom worked to put Dad through school, and once he was able to get a job, she quit.
During this time, my dad’s parents, Richard and Maria (but pronounced Mariah), lived nearby. As the oldest grandchild on both sides, I was quite the doted-upon princess, and Maria adored having a granddaughter. She loved spending time with me. As in, picked-me-up-from-the-babysitters-every-day-and-took-me-to-McDonalds-for-a-Chicken-McNugget-happy-meal loved spending time with me. When we got back to her house to wait for my parents to pick me up, I had run of the kitchen. If I wanted it, I could eat it. Cookies, cake, chocolate milk—anything, you name it. To her, food was love. In her mind, she loved me too much to deny me anything.
My parents, unaware of the McDonalds runs and cookie binges, would take me home and nearly have to force food down my throat. Thinking I was just being a picky eater, I had to sit there until the plate was clean. I wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t dare say a thing about the happy meals. Maria told me it was ‘our secret.’ And the weight piled on. I’m not a mother and won’t be for some time, but I have a suspicion my hypothetical children will never be held to the Clean Plate Club rules.
My mom’s mother, Grandma Rose, would often feed me sugar sandwiches—cinnamon sugar on buttered white bread, folded in half. I pretty much got what I wanted at their house too (and still do, quite honestly), but I do remember being told “no, that’s too much sugar for a little girl,” on more than one occasion.
Now, looking back, I’m wondering if that set me up for a lifetime of weight problems. If my body was being conditioned to crave the fat, sodium, and sugar that makes up a majority of fast food, why wouldn’t I eventually have problems processing unnatural food additives? Opening too many applications on a computer eventually slows it down until it stops processing anything. Why wouldn’t a body work the same way?
I’m not passing the buck here. I don’t blame my grandparents or my parents for my eating habits or my weight problem. I am an adult, and I am 100% responsible for the food I put in my mouth. And how much. But it also helps to get to the root of the matter before charging ahead with a solution, so I know I’m fixing a problem rather than treating a side effect.
I could go on for pages and pages describing what I’ve seen in Food, Inc. I don’t need to regurgitate it for you. I will say again, however, that it’s enough to make me want to learn more. Because I am really, really grossed out. Never before had I seriously considered anorexia as a way of life.
In the meanwhile, I’m issuing myself a challenge. For the next 30 days, any additional produce or meat that I buy will be from a local, organic farmer. I have a lot of meat in my freezer, so I don’t need to replenish that for a while. I have two year-round farmers markets near me, so I know I can get produce and maybe start up a friendship with a local grower or something. Who knows!
Is this going to turn me into a hippie? God, I hope not. If you see me on the street and I’ve stopped showering, am wearing tie-dye, and urging you to ‘feel the love, man!’ you have my explicit permission to slap me. Hard.
I saw a quote I liked the other day. “To live well is to eat well.” I guess this is just another step in the journey to find out if that’s true.
Children do not belong in grocery stores.
No, that’s not right. I should qualify that. Ill behaved children do not belong in grocery stores.
Ok, I’ll correct myself again. PARENTS of ill behaved children do not belong in grocery stores.
I love grocery shopping. I run a food blog. No fooling, I love grocery shopping. I adore the entire process, start to finish. Figure out what you want to make, and decide what you need to buy. Make the list. Decide which store(s) you’re hitting up for the best deals. I always get a shoppers high when I swipe my debit card at the register. There are good things in my reusable shopping bag, and I’m going to cook them.
Tonight, unfortunately, was not one of those shopping trips. I’d stopped by Shoppers just for a few quick things. I knew I couldn’t make it a marathon trip. Not like I couldn’t lose myself among the shelves of mustards, vinegars, and eggs, but I was wearing my work appropriate hooker heels and damn were my feet killing me. (Note for my female readers: these shoes are cute as hell. 3 inch heels, black, open toed, with a little bow on the front. My toes felt like ice in this weather but I was fine with it. I looked good.) All I needed was a carton of milk, cat food, and kitty litter. And that’s what I got. Along with rosemary roasted chicken (on sale), Baby Bell cheese, and two chocolate muffins.
I know, I know. Impulse buys. Here’s a tip: make a list before going shopping to minimize impulse buys.
And another tip: Only buy what’s on the list. That’s the kicker.
Anyway, I made it through the wonderful jungle of produce and hacked my way through the processed frankenfoods to the check out line. That blessed, blessed thing, the check out line. After nearly 8 hours in heels meant to be sat in for 3, I was ready to Go Home. My ankles were ready to buckle and I was hungry. It didn’t help that the roasted chicken smelled so damn good.
I walked up to lane 2, bypassing the self check outs. I hate those things with a passion. I think they’re stupid. When grocers set their prices, they take into account their employee’s salaries and build that into the price. When we go to the check out lines, we’re basically paying the cashiers for their service. Then all of a sudden, someone thought it would be a good idea to make me ring myself up. Now I’m doing the job of the cashier, but do grocers offer a discount for going through the self check out line? No, no they don’t. What’s more, it depletes the job market. One person can run four lines at once, and now three tax-paying Americans and/or legal residents are out of work. Yay unemployment lines.
So I stood in line. A line with four ill behaved children behind me. I shouldn’t really call them ill behaved. They were behaving the exact way that normal children would, if they had a mother who paid more attention to the latest issue of Star and her iPhone than her children.
“Ok kids, heres what we gonna do. I gots to get yo’ daddy from the train station, then we gotta come back here and go to the doller store.” Ghetto Mama barely looked up from her phone at her four children milling about her.
“NO MOMMY!! I WANNA GO TO THE DOLLAR STORE FIRST!” Ankle Biter 1 started screaming, obviously perturbed that her night’s schedule had been disrupted. All four children ranged from about four to ten, and I’d put her around five.
“He out in the cold. Now hush up.” Somewhere, my elementary school English teacher began spinning in her grave, and the poor woman hasn’t even died yet.
“I want candy. If we can’t go to the dollar store, we should get candy instead.” Ankle Biter 2 popped up at my elbow. I don’t know why this particular child was looking at me when he said this. I had neither the want nor the ability to get him the candy he wanted.
At this point, I was more amused than anything. I could tell Ghetto Mama was a less-than-involved parent, which I found sad, but at this point it wasn’t really affecting me. GM was standing about three feet behind me, mindlessly thumbing through one of the low budget tabloid magazines, and tapping her two-inch long acrylic nails together.
“What candy does you want? No chocolate, only the good stuff, k? Starbust or Skittles.” Then she went back to reading an article about a Nebraska woman claiming to have conceived twin Elvis alien babies after seeing Jesus in a potato chip. Ankle Biters 1-3 were overjoyed. Ankle Biter 4 was ambivalent about the candy, and instead was staring at the Pepsi bottles in the small cooler at the end cap.
I should note at this point that the cashier was extraordinarily slow. I don’t know if he was slow, or if they chose to staff with slow moving people to encourage customers to use the comparatively faster self check out lines (see above rant) but whatever the reason, I was stuck. Two Hispanic women in front of me were having a lively conversation with him about something I couldn’t understand. Cashier Man let the plastic divider fall in front of the motion detector, so the belt wouldn’t move. Instead of moving the divider so the items would slide to him, he’d just reach farther down the belt for the items. This meant that my items didn’t move, and GM wasn’t able to load her food. She was not happy about this, and for some reason chose to glare at me. I gave a small shrug and a shy smile. More glaring.
The kids gathered around the candy display, each contemplating the complex and difficult decision before them. Starburst? Or Skittles? This wouldn’t be half so annoying if they weren’t attempting to squeeze five bodies (four children plus me) into a space where only one (me) had been standing. They had absolutely no concept that anyone else was around, or that maybe they should wait two minutes so I could move ahead.
Relax, Mel, I thought to myself. They’re young children. You don’t need to snap at children. They just want their candy. For those of you who read my introductory blog entry, you may remember that I have been dealing with a metabolic disorder for the past year. My blood sugar tends to drop suddenly, usually if I haven’t eaten dinner by 8pm. This causes me to get hurricane-level bitchy quite unexpectedly. I realize this and do what I can to curb it, including mentally reminding myself not to make children cry. I’m sure their mother will say something to them soon.
Nope. She put her magazine back and helped herself to another one.
“Hi, could you move back, please? Thank you.” Ankle Biter 1’s eyes got wide, then she quickly dropped her gaze to the ground. Ok…fine. I don’t expect an answer, but at least move back when you’re asked to, kiddo.
Cashier Man was still slowly processing through the order ahead of me. Customer Lady couldn’t figure out the credit card machine. She kept hitting Cancel. I kept hitting my Wall of Patience.
By this point, three of the four had made their choices and were eagerly trying to show Ghetto Mama their candy. Now bored with her magazine, she was focused on trying to dial a friend. Had I not been peeved and hungry, I would have found the sight of her trying to use an iPhone touch screen with unnaturally long nails hilarious (do you remember the SNL skit where Kristin Wiig and Neil Patrick Harris played two air traffic controllers with obscenely long finger nails? It was like a ghetto fab version of that). She began gossiping with a woman named Shenay (phonetic spelling) about how her baby daddy just ain’t no good, and she needs to start taking care of her babies and be a good mom. May I point out that as Ghetto Mama was telling Shenay to be a good mother, two of her [ignored] children began playing the punching game, and were dangerously close to face shots. Oh, irony.
I tried to move as far forward as I could, without being uncomfortably close to Customer Lady trying to figure out which was the green button. Apparently this was not far enough for Ankle Biter 2, who…no joke…pushed me out of the way.
Oh, that’s right. He knelt down to get a better view of the Skittles box, decided I was too close, so he reached back, touched my knee, and pushed. Hard. Ordinarily, this would have elicited a very strongly worded response from yours truly…however I was bound and determined not to cause a scene. And I really didn’t want to be That Girl who made a five year old cry in a grocery store. On top of it, I wasn’t 100% convinced that his mother wouldn’t attempt to cut a bitch. I just wanted to go home.
The grocery gods heard my prayers. Customer Lady found the green button and her order was [finally] processed. Cashier Man began scanning my order. The belt began moving forward and DM was able to unload her groceries—with wild, angry abandon.
Cashier Man scanned my cat food.
“Oh! You have cat!” [SLAM] GM threw a box of frozen chicken patties on the belt. I jumped about a foot. I was unaware boxes could make that loud of a noise. “I love cat!” [SLAM] Prepacked ears of corn. “My daughter, she bring home cat last week.” [SLAM] “I love cat.” [SLAM!] “I see her and say hi kitty kitty kitty!” [SLAM] “How you kitty?”
“Um, nice. I have two. They’re cute.” [SLAM!!!]
“MAMA I WANT STARBURST NOW!” One of the Ankle Biters (I’d lost track as to which one by now) was apparently ready for his/her candy. I don’t blame him/her. I wanted my dinner too.
“No, baby. I got to pay for it first.” Ankle Biter nodded so fast I thought his/her head was going to snap off his/her body. (Is it bad that my first thought was “oh sweet Jesus don’t have a seizure. I’d feel like a bitch if I left but I really want to go home”?) The three kids (number 4 was still staring at the Pepsi. I’m a little concerned about that one) tossed their sugar pills onto the belt…right in between my milk and my kitty litter. I started to say something, but oh no, Cashier Man decided to pick up the pace at this particular moment in time, and before a sound could even escape my lips, he scanned the candy and tossed in my bags.
“THAT’S MY CANDY!!!” The children wailed in various degrees of unison.
“Hey, that’s my kids candy! Not yours!” Ghetto Mama took a break from her gab session to interject. Because I was totally trying to steal it.
“Um, those don’t belong to me. She needs to pay for them.” Cashier Man smiled, nodded, and removed the candy from my total. I swiped my card and tapped in my PIN faster than I’ve ever keyed a PIN before in my life. A few seconds later, my purchase was approved and I was on my way.
Behind me, I heard a voice.
“Yeah, I dunno Shenay, but some peoples are just so rude. Tried to walk off with my babies’ candy and all that…some bitches just don’t have no respect, you know wha’ I sayin’?”
Oh. Sweet. Jesus. Take me now.