Grocery shopping in the south has always been an adventure for me. It’s different. Every week, I’m reminded I’m not from around here.
First, I have to do all of my shopping in one place. There are no butchers or bakeries to speak of. No Hood milkmen cruise neighborhoods, stopping to place milk, cream, butter, eggs, and ice cream in shiny silver boxes that sit on back porches.
Imagine, if you will, a world with no Hoodsies. That’s my world.
No Cain’s Mayonnaise (although Dukes, the local replacement, isn’t bad). Yodels are Swiss Cake Rolls. And Drake’s doesn’t make them Little Debbie does. In my opinion, she’s far too young to be baking. And, although they look the same, Yodels and Swiss Cake Rolls do not taste the same.
No Yankee Doodles.
Lamb is hard to come by (and very expensive). But many stores carry hog jowl and chitterlings, called chit’lins locally. Pig intestines. Really. Around Easter I can find lamb chops, and probably a leg. Shanks, a common cut in New England, are mostly unavailable, except at Sam’s Club (owned by Walmart – I can’t shop there for political reasons, probably a different essay). When I’m in the mood for shepherd’s pie, shanks come in handy. They’re the cheapest cut and produce the richest drippings. But no, a shepherd’s pie must be made from a leg of lamb, when I can find one. Recently, the local grocery store had one for $31.50. And it was frighteningly small. Sure, sure, I could have had a roast lamb dinner – but there’d have been no leftovers for the pie!
There are no lobster tanks strategically placed near the meat department here. Periodically, I’ll see a man in the store selling frozen lobster tails from Canada. $4.99 each. Well, the lobsters are from Canada, I don’t think the man is. When I asked about them he replied, “have y’all ever had lobster before?” They’re not bad lobsters, kinda small. And whilst freezing diminishes flavor, they still taste like home. Whole clams are unheard of – even in restaurants.
I was so excited to find Linguica recently that I photographed it before buying every package on the shelf. I then sent the pictures to Chris. He was filled with envy. It gives me hope that one day there will be Salada Tea, Ah-So Sauce, Bar Harbor Clam Chowder, Drum Rock Clam Bake Mix…
…a Clam bake…
Be still my heart.
I have adapted to shopping here, gotten used to where things are in the store. There has always been an international section that boasts English, German, French, Italian, and Hispanic foods. There’s a smattering of Irish dishes, but usually it’s just oatmeal. I had learned that the peanut butter was in the trash bags aisle, and that the “health food,” or holistic, organic foods were located next to beer and wine. It was idiosyncratic, but I could shop for the week in just under an hour.
But no more.
The store has decided to “reorganize” the shelves. And by reorganize I mean, eliminate any sort of order whatsoever. Larry, Moe, and Curly could have done a better job. Shopping has reverted to a nightmarish activity not unlike a visit to the Twilight Zone. The first week, I couldn’t find the canned vegetables or Little Debbie’s (not for me, but for other people in the house) at all. The next, I couldn’t find the San Pellegrino. But this week, was the icing on the cake. I found apple sauce with canned fruit. A fellow-shopper informed me that the individual serving apple sauces were “a few aisles over.”
I never found them.
Why would you not put all of the apple sauce together? Why are the Little Debbie’s at the end of the diaper aisle? Why would canned veggies be next to the Vienna sausages and spam? It’s irrational that’s all.
And it annoyed me. Or it did until I wondered if there were still huge piles of plowed snow in the parking lot at Johnny’s (it was still Purity Supreme when I last shopped there). It was warm enough to be out without a jacket yesterday. I rode home with the windows down. Until I thought about all of the reasons I left New England. The insanity of the grocery store seems mild when compared to the insanity of particular individuals…
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