I am so often nonplussed these days that I have forgotten what a good plussing feels like. And one of the places that seems to take it out of me most is the grocery store.
Don’t get me wrong – I like stores and I like food and I like to eat. I’ve no allergies and few aversions when it comes to cooking. But the long aisles of shelving can be daunting. There are so many things to think about:
a. Am I being too mundane with my purchases? Is getting a tin of green peas at the local IGA rather than a hand-woven basket full of fresh-picked pods dewy with the dawn from a roadside stand in Shepparton just a sad reflection on my life? Would I get the same benefit if the peas are in a dewy-fresh frozen packet from Shepparton? And I just googled up a view of the main street?
b. Is this stuff made locally? Is it made in Australia at all? Okay, I do not expect chocolate-coated rice weevils in Hyow Twang sauce to be made in the Swan Valley…I’ll accept that Asia might be the best supply base for these, but the business of the peas comes back to mind. They grow peas in Australia. Let’s have a crack at them.
c. If I am in the Asian specialty store, what is the difference between one brand of curry sauce and the next? There are 15 different varieties there and I need some help sorting out the poisonous from the merely fearful. And it’s no help when the grocer says he doesn’t eat that stuff himself…
d. Fish. I like them on a plate and I like them in aquariums, but everything in between unnerves me. Is the thing with the eyes fresh? What do you do to it? Will it have poison spines that stab me when I try to clean it? Will there be enough flesh on to justify the price? Will it smell better at home than it does here?
e. Vegetables 1. Is that orange capsicum the product of a farm or Fabergé? Judging by the price I should guess the latter. How far up the street did you have to look to see me coming?
f. Vegetables 2. Thank you, Mr. Grocer, for giving me the choice between open produce and similar fruits and vegetables sealed in plastic bags. I am not such a fool as to imagine that they are the same things, and judging by the prices, neither are you.
g. Cheese 1. Sliced cheese is a wonderful invention if you are incapable of using a knife. As you invariably do have one in hand to spread the butter or the Vegemite for the cheese sandwich, this shows the effects of not thinking as fast as the accountant at the dairy company.
h. Cheese 2. A gourmet cheese shop is a wonderful place – next to Fort Knox, it is the only place on the planet where you can see that much currency tied up in such small blocks of matter. The exotic gourmet cheeses that the shop sells – presumably to exotic gourmets – do not last, and neither do the shops. When the mining money caves in we all go back to Kraft Coon Cheese.
i. Cheese 3. All cheese comes from something that makes milk, and by the time you get it, that milk is not fresh. Steel yourself.
j. Bread 1. ” No artificial preservatives “…” No preservatives “…” Free of gluten, lactose, sucrose, fructose, and 300 listed ingredients “. Either eat it at the bus stop on the way home before it turns green in your hands or take it into the shed and nail it to a bookcase as a new shelf.
k. Bread 2. ” New Honey Soy Linseed Flower Petal, Raw Cellulose Bread ” Get it this week before the people who bought it last week get back to the store and throw it at the cashier. You’ve got a couple of days – most of them are still on drips in Outpatients.
l. Meat 1. Never mind the packaging or the cut or the price or the look of the thing. Demand to see the butcher’s passport. If he or she was born in the Balkans, Poland, Germany, or Italy just give them your meat money and take whatever they cut for you. Ask how it should be cooked and follow orders.
M. Meat 2. Offal meats. They generally are.
N. Biscuits and Cookies. The fancy imported ones at the front of the store are there to take your money without making you happy. The ones down the back in the plain generic wrappers are also going to disappoint. Pick a national bakery, pick a biscuit you like and stick to it. Don’t eat chocolate ones in high summer.