Brian and I have a lot of differences, but fortunately we have similar feelings about food—particularly when it comes to buying it.
We both looooove grocery shopping. Wandering through the aisles together trying to remember if we already have that kind of mustard or not; campaigning for and against certain salad dressings, and debating whether we can really continue eating chicken twice a week, or whether I might go crazy if I have to eat another chicken taco. We’ve grown respectful of each other’s strange food proclivities. I look the other way when he grabs a box of soluble protein powder; he shrugs when I add a box of SpongeBob and Friends macaroni and cheese to the cart. But it’s shaped like SpongeBob! And his friends!
If there’s something we eat regularly, we tend to stock up on it. I think we like knowing that if there is a hurricane, we will have the ability to reinforce the windows with bacon. We like knowing that behind that jar of pasta sauce in the pantry is an army of other jars of pasta sauce. There is something comforting about a well-stocked kitchen.
Indeed, Brian’s Costco membership has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘stock up’. Costco does not kid around when it comes to economy sized offerings. It’s a little intimidating, even now. I ventured into my first Costco a couple of years ago when we started dating, and it was a disorienting experience. It was like that Super Mario 3 World where everything is giant. At every turn there were cracker boxes that shared my sweater size. Huge bags of almonds stared me down; I picked up a bottle of juice and realized, too late, that I should have lifted with my knees. I felt like a hungry garden gnome. I know that buying in bulk is more cost effective and saves on packaging, but it’s also not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted. “I like pickles,” I found myself saying, “but do I like ten pounds of pickles?” Fortunately, Brian eats in bulk. The idea of buying block of cheese that I could hide behind became less frightening once I discovered that it was usually gone in a week or two.
I particularly like to stock up on random foods. I tend to see meal preparation as food roulette, and the more filled your pantry is with strange odds and ends, the higher the chances are that you can piece together a meal without having to send out for grocery reinforcements. The last time I went shopping, I picked up a bag of dried split peas, so that one day when I am struck with the urge to make split-pea soup, I will recall with a thrill that I already have the main ingredient. I know that’s probably not normal.
When I was growing up, Mom would make huge shopping trips once a month or so, and have the groceries delivered to our apartment. We walked to the grocery stores in our NYC neighborhood, so what you couldn’t carry home yourself had to be delivered. To this day, grocery shopping with a car that you can put all of your groceries in instead of carrying them home fills me with delight. Anyway, as a kid, when those dozen or so shopping bags arrived, it always felt like Food Christmas. My younger sister and I would prance around digging through the shopping bags, ostensibly to help put things away, but really, we were looking for Keebler Elf cookies.
My problem right now is that I need to cut back on those two-faced little ‘one-stop’ trips to the supermarket by myself. You may know the ones I’m talking about. Where you think, ‘Oh, I need milk, and eggs. I’ll just run in.’ and you come out twenty minutes later with milk, and chocolate chips, and a giant bottle of wine, and a breath-freshening bone for the dog. You just spent twenty dollars more than you had planned, and you forgot eggs.
Those are the trips I need to avoid, and yet, they are often the most fun trips. It feels like I’m just dropping by the supermarket to check in; just seeing what’s new and kicky in the world of food I like to eat. What could be the harm in that? In this economy, with my state of employment (or lack thereof), they’re probably not the best trips to make.
I am working on making a list before I go shopping, and just sticking to that list once I’m in the store. Ideally I will be too embarrassed (or will forget) to add things like, ‘day-old bakery donuts’ and ‘scrubbing-bubbles-shaped nightlight’ (what? It made me happy) to the list, and then I’ll be tricked out of picking those items up along the way. I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meantime, I need to go pick up some day-old bakery donuts.
I have begun a small side-blog.
It’s about sandwiches, because who doesn’t love sandwiches?
A few weeks ago a group of friends and I emailed back and forth for several hours about different sandwiches we had loved and eaten, and I got to thinking. I decided to start collecting a list of these different sandwiches, in order to inspire the creation and digestion of yet more new and wonderful sandwiches.
Please, email me your favorite sandwiches, to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will list them here:
May it serve as a sanctuary for lovers of bread, cheese, and everything in between.
I baked a chocolate cake last night, and it’s Jordan’s Furniture’s fault. I had neither the time nor the energy to bake that chocolate cake. I needed to pack for a weekend wedding trip, and before I packed, I needed to figure out what dress I was going to wear to the wedding, and what outfit I was going to wear to the Friday night dance party before the wedding, and before I picked out my outfits and packed them, I needed to shower.
But before I knew what was happening, right in the middle of Two and a Half Men (come on, it’s a pretty funny show, don’t judge me), a Jordan’s Furniture commercial came on, and that white-bearded and bespeckled Jordan’s Furniture guy was standing in front of a bunch of beds, holding a giant piece of chocolate cake. I didn’t hear a word he said. “I want chocolate cake!” I blurted. Brian looked at me. “So do I,” he said, in wonder. Brian doesn’t really care for dessert. Chocolate usually leaves him cold. But damned if we didn’t both burn for chocolate cake with a passion that could not be ignored.
I cracked open ‘Joy of Cooking’, flipped to page 645 (Chocolate Cake Cockaigne– Joy of Cooking delightfully adds the word ‘Cockaigne’ to the title of every recipe they think is especially delicious) and got to work. I melted down 3 oz of bittersweet chocolate, creamed butter and sugar, separated eggs. I picked out an icing and measured out butter and cream for it. The house filled with the scent of Jordan’s Furniture-inspired cakelust.
Two hours later, while watching the dubious “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” (did they write that movie in one sitting and shoot it without a single re-read? What a waste of Uma Thurman) we sat down to piping-hot slices of Chocolate Cake Cockaigne. I hadn’t packed, showered, decided on outfits. But I guess sometimes you have to prioritize. Sometimes the siren-call of chocolate cake must be heeded.
I made bran muffins this weekend. I was really excited to do so. I even invited friends to come over and have bran muffins with me, which is borderline insane. They passed on the offer. At the grocery store checkout I looked at the items in front of me on the conveyer belt and felt shame. Bran, Honey-flavored Wheat Germ, raisins, applesauce. The excitement!
Then when I made the muffins, I forgot to add baking soda to make them rise. I took them out of the oven looking more or less the same way they’d looked going in.
“At least I didn’t waste any tasty ingredients,” I said to Brian over the phone. “I’m not going, ‘oh no! My expensive chocolate chips and my dried cranberries!’ I’m going, ‘oh, darn. My bran.’ ”
Although their consistency more closely resembles a giant rubber bathtub drain stopper than anything else, all things considered they’re kind of tasty. To me. I will eat them. All I wanted was something to eat in the mornings that would keep me from being hungry for hours, and that’s just what they do.
[Subtitle: Molly Might Need to be on Clozapine]
Sharp Cheddar: Is fun to have around but sometimes hits a little too close to the mark with her jokes. Zesty.
Mild Cheddar: Bland, but dependable. She’s who you’d call if you wanted someone to see 27 Dresses with; if you actually want to see 27 Dresses. I do not.
Monterey Jack: Is that guy you are always trying to set friends up with, but it never pans out. He’s too nice or something. Or he sweats a lot, and tells meandering stories. Either or. Somehow off.
Swiss: This guy’s got a nutty flair, and an exotic European edge. But there’s something you don’t trust. Sometimes you feel like you can see right through him.
Things They Should Have, Addendum:
Bullion Sport! For when you crave that meaty taste and need that extra boost of sodium. Available in Chicken and Beef flavors.
Maybe my list of Things They Should Have ought to become a list of ‘Things That Should Have a Sport! Version”.