Letters From the Editor

Obsessive Groceries

At the grocery store around the corner, Saturday afternoon.

There are four stacks of baskets. No clear contender, since each of the baskets on top contains a piece of trash: a wadded plastic produce bag (used?), a scrap of red-leaf lettuce, a damp paper towel, and a twist-tie. I pick up the basket with the twist-tie, grab the clean, empty basket under it, and replace the twist-tied basket to its place atop the stack.

Looking inside the bread case, I finally spot the ciabatta or whatever that I want. I instinctively reach for the tongs that are tied to the front of the case, then stop myself. I know which bread I want, why should I use the tongs? I don’t know who last used these and I don’t know how often they clean them, so there’s a good chance I’m just going to filthy up my bread if I use them. It’s not like I’m not going to paw any of the other loaves. I reach in and remove the bread by hand. A woman pushing a basket shakes her head in disapproval.

The cereal boxes all look so neat and ordered, big bright-colored rectangles aligned perfectly, left to right. Box front, box front, box front. On top of each is another box of cereal, slid longways into the leftover space beneath the next shelf, left to right, top to bottom. Box bottom, box front, box bottom, box front. Down the aisle I can see the stocker on his knees replacing cans of soup. I grab the box-front-facing Special K, take the one behind it, and replace the front-facing box, right where it was so it looks like nobody’s taken anything. I like to think this would make the stocker happy.

Each large can of crushed tomatoes has a dent in it. All almost in the same place in relation to the label, as if done on purpose, by hand. I glare at the stocker and consider messing up the Special K display. Instead I look back at the canned goods and notice that every single large can of crushed tomatoes with added basil is totally pristine and dent-free. But I don’t want that kind. I’ve never had it and I’m not starting now just because the cans are in better shape. I decide to leave canned tomatoes to next week’s shopping.

The sample table stands – unattended – in the middle of the store. Today it’s adorned with pound cakes, banana breads, and other delicious looking baked goods, all sliced into sample sizes. At the far end of the table a Dixie cup of toothpicks stands next to an unopened roll of paper towels. The food, it appears, has been much sampled, judging by the many half-bites and crumbs left behind. A pair of children run by holding bits of cake in their fingers. In the distance, a woman sneezes. I spin around, put three bottles of shower spray into my basket, and leave the area.

I’m standing over the self-serve olive bar. Two years ago I saw a woman standing in this very spot, and I watched as she opened one of the canisters and took in hand the large plastic spoon that stands inside the canister, the one that mingles with the olives and the brine and all the juices. She spooned up a couple of good looking olives and then crammed the entire head of the spoon inside her mouth. She then put the spoon back into the canister and walked away.

This is why I’m like this now.


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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