Monday, June 25, 2007

My Trip to the Grocery Store

My daughter is home sick today (nothing serious) so I got a chance to do what I love to do most. Well, one of the things I love to do most—I got to browse around in the grocery store. I needed infant Ibuprofen for her, and so naturally I figured I’d just check things out and see what was new. A few random thoughts occurred to me that I thought I’d toss out there.

There Just Isn’t a Brand of Natural Peanut Butter I Like Out Here
I prefer the “natural” peanut butter to the stuff with sugar and other random ingredients in it. Although I was raised on Peter Pan, I switched over to the natural kind for reasons I no longer remember, and now can’t stand the peanut-flavored sugar spread.

Today I was looking for a crunchy natural peanut butter to use in a recipe. I used to buy Smucker’s, but for some reason, while they carry all varieties of Smucker’s jams in my grocery store, peanut butter is beyond the realm of their imagination. Or they don’t have the shelf space. Or something. Anyway, all they have is this brand, Adams, which is nast. I tried it when we first moved out here. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, since how can you screw up pulverized peanuts, but the company that makes Adams has found a way.

And because I’m an internet-addicted freak, I just looked up which idiots that would be who make Adams natural peanut butter, and lo and behold, it’s our old friends at Smucker’s. I kind of had a hunch that was the way it was. Best Foods mayonnaise is Hellman’s, and Eddy’s and Drucker’s ice cream are the same, too. I suspect there’s a lot of this. But knowing this doesn’t help me at all, because they’ve done something to the formula of Smucker’s natural peanut butter and it just doesn’t taste right. I did find that Skippy (or maybe it’s Jif) makes a “natural” version that’s OK, but this particular store didn’t carry it, so I’ll have to look elsewhere, I guess.

This 100 Calorie Pack Thing is a Pretty Annoying Trend
Something you just can’t avoid if you set foot in a grocery store these days is packs of high calorie junk food in “100 Calorie” bags. Everyone is packaging everything you can think of in 100 calorie packs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for portion control, but this is ridiculous. I can now buy 100 calorie packs of Oreos (except they’re not Oreos—they’re just little chocolate wafer cookies, which I think is false advertising), Chips Ahoy!, Cheez-its, and both cheddar and chocolate Chex Mix. Oh, and Doritos and Cheetos. And because they’re in 100 calorie portions, they’re healthy, right?

On the plus side, I did get a giggle out of it. The Doritos and Cheetos are, of course, on the chip aisle. As I was continuing down the aisle, I noticed the large bags of Funions and started thinking about how they could do a 100 calorie pack of those things. You’d either get three, or they’d give you a little pouch of Funion dust. I can’t wait.

Grocery Stores are Dangerous
This isn’t something that’s exactly a new thought to me. I realized it a long time ago, but it came home to me again today. I went in for one thing, as I mentioned: infant Ibuprofen. I walked out with this: infant Ibuprofen, infant Tylenol Cough & Cold (I think I can be excused for this), fresh rosemary, cream of tartar, smoke flavored sea salt, two toothbrushes, the July issue of Gourmet magazine, the July/August issue of Cottage Living magazine, and a greeting card.

Just what was I thinking? You may well ask (or you may not ask, but if you keep reading, you’re going to find out anyway).

The rosemary I realized we would want because we’re having lamb chops for dinner tonight, and the rosemary we had in the fridge is pretty old so I wanted to make sure we had enough to make the recipe.

The need for cream of tartar occurred to me because I made blueberry muffins yesterday, and as I was making them I was thinking (as I always do when I use baking powder) of making my own baking powder. It’s just a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar, so it’s not like it’s hard, but homemade doesn’t have the sour taste that some commercial baking powders have. I’ve never gotten around to making this, but I always mean to, so I bought the cream of tartar so that next time I get the urge (and have my copy of Edna Lewis’s Taste of Country Cooking unpacked, which it is not right now because we’re in residence limbo), I’ll be ready.

The smoke flavored salt (which sounds like a nasty cousin of Liquid Smoke) was called for in a recipe I was reading over the weekend, and I toyed with the idea of making it, so I bought the salt when I saw it, rather than risk it not being there when I was ready for it. This has happened to me far too many times. I see a recipe and think “Hm, that looks good…I’ll make that some time.” It calls for an unusual spice or seasoning, which I notice in the grocery store the next time I’m there, because of course I’ve just been reading about it. Finally the day arrives when I’m ready to make the recipe, and I go off in search of juniper berries, or orange flower water, or smoke flavored sea salt, and it’s nowhere to be found. This time I decided to buy the salt when I saw it, since salt doesn’t go bad, and it’s not exactly a staggeringly expensive ingredient to be stockpiling.

The toothbrushes were on sale, and I realized I didn’t know if we had any spares. I dropped mine on the bathroom floor this morning after brushing my teeth, and that, naturally, was the end of that toothbrush. So I bought two new ones, just in case.

I love magazines, and I probably ought to just flat out subscribe to Cottage Living, because I think I buy it every month on the newsstand anyway. I bought Gourmet to confirm that I still hate Gourmet. Several friends and I agree that Ruth Reichel just ruined that magazine. It used to be interesting, and have good recipes, even if it was a little pretentious. Now it’s lost the interesting parts, and the good recipes, and has retained the pretension, so that it’s downright unbearable. But every couple of years I buy it to confirm that, yes, I still hate the “new” Gourmet, and won’t be buying it again until Ruth Reichel moves on to something (anything) else, and someone else takes over and makes it a good magazine again. Check back in a week or so, and I’m sure I’ll have a tirade about what it is I hate about the “new” Gourmet magazine posted here.

The greeting card is for a friend. It was one of those “This is TOO perfect for so-and-so” cards, so naturally I had to buy that.

A friend of mine and I had a discussion about this very topic the day she went in for something like bouillon cubes and walked out with $75 worth of stuff. She remarked that it seemed that every time she went to the grocery store, even if it was just for “one little thing,” it set her back at least 50 bucks.

I think what’s so dangerous about grocery stores is that it all seems so legitimate. You have to eat, after all. And you need things like paper towel, and greeting cards, and those things don’t go bad, so why not buy them while you’re there? I know this is just exactly what the grocery store marketing people want me to think. Well, congratulations, ladies and gentlemen, it worked. Of course not everyone is as big a sucker for a grocery store as I am. I just go in to browse. But even for people without the strange genetic flaw that causes them to find grocery stores to be fascinating places to wander around are taken in by this marketing ploy. I can’t decide if I’d rather be an unwitting victim who just wants to get in and out of the grocery store but winds up leaving with a sackful of things anyway, or if I’m glad I’m an informed, interested victim who falls willingly into their outstretched hand. It’s sort of a moot point, since I am fully aware of what they’re doing, and yet continue to be sucked into the scheme.

So those, as my mother used to say, were my thought processes. I’d have thought more thoughts, but along about aisle 12 my daughter started to get fussy and I felt it was best to get her home and give her some Tylenol and a bottle. And I’m sure everyone reading this is glad I did, and kind of wishes maybe my daughter was less patient, and had gotten fussy on aisle 3 so I’d have had less time to think things.

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