Sunday, January 4, 2015
But are your vegetables really clean?
Tofu is white, cool and gelid, and if you need to find it in a grocery store, you would proceed to the ...
No, no, wait, hold that thought. I'll answer it shortly.
Well, eventually. I'll answer it eventually.
There's something more incredible I want to tell yo about.
Did you know they sell a product designed to clean the inside of your washing machine?
Tide, of course. "Washing Machine Cleaner." I took a photo in case you didn't believe me. I could hardly believe it myself and the thing was right in front of me.
Were I been less busy, maybe I'd have stayed and studied the product. As it is, I snapped this and hurried on to my task. I don't know if the cleaner is a sort of liquid or an infused sponge or a kind of hand grenade.
I would have thought that the drum of a washing machine is already very clean, since it's always being filled with sudsy water, then agitated with wet clothes, and rinsed, thoroughly.
But wait, as Ron Popeil would say. There's more.
They also sell a spray to clean vegetables.
An expensive spray it is. $5.99 for 16 ounces. You can buy red wine for far less.
Red wine from France.
And the vegetable cleaner comes not in one, but in a variety of brands: three types offered for sale at Sunset Foods. Who buys that? You'd have to be insane.
If you're wondering where this is coming from, my wife has the flu. I was busy making peppermint tea and pumping ibuprofen into her when she informed me that I would have to do the shopping. Of course dear...
What was I supposed to say? No...?
Target. Sunset. Max & Benny's. Sure, I've been to these places. All the time, on small scale errands. But never on a Saturday. With a list.
A long list.
I'm tempted to post the list, but that strikes me as crossing some sort of line. Spousal cruelty, perhaps. As it is, this is a fraught topic, but my wife is a good sport, or will be, when she's feeling better.
The list. A full 8 x 10 sheet of paper, covered —covered—with a small scrawl detailing products and brands, flavors, sizes, prices, beginning with "—Bounty Paper towels [lg amount -select sizes if available]."
Before I left she stressed the Bounty part. Don't be gulled into getting cheap paper towels that don't work. This was foreshadowing, but I missed the logic at work, and didn't realize it applied to more than paper towels.
Nowadays a "large amount" is a given. Try buying a small amount somewhere that isn't a 7-11. Stores realized that customers will warehouse their merchandise for them if given a small discount. I bought an enormous slab of paper towels-- 8 rolls--for $9.99 and a second, equal size slab because it was half price. I didn't even try to figure out what "select sizes if available" meant. (A reference to the way the towels are perforated; my wife had actually explained that to me, prior to my leaving, but in the heat of the moment, I forgot).
Space—or rather, your attention span; space here is unlimited—won't allow me to go into the careful calculations required before each item was slid into the huge red bin on wheels Target calls a shopping cart. My wife had written simply "Ibuprofen." The price range was astounding -- 100 200 mg tablets cost the same as 40 200 mg liquigels. Less than half the cost, per dose. I compared the small reddish pills—they looked like Tylenol, and we had that--with the ovoid blue caplets. I didn't remember any instructions as to one being superior to another.
The true difficulty came with "Aquaph0r." I was fairly confident, Aquaphor-wise, as I remembered the squat white jars with the blue lid scattered around the house. So I know what it looks like. But standing in the vastness of Target, I realized I had no idea what Acquaph0r is. A cream? A cleanser? A lotion? My wife and son both use it. Something for the skin. Not knowing its nature, I couldn't figure out where to search for it. Personal hygiene? Office supplies? I approached a lady with a name tag, begged for help, and she guided me to the right expanse of shelf, which is where the real trouble began.
A small, 3.5 ounce jar of Aquaphor is $6.99. A monster 14 ounce jar, $14.29. Two small jars would yield 7 ounces of the stuff, whatever it is, for $13.98. You were paying almost twice as much for the convenience of small jars.
If my wife has a Primary Shopping Directive, paper towels notwithstanding, it is this: save money. Drilled into me. For years: I am a spendthrift idiot for not looking at prices, figuring out amounts. Be be be. Frugal frugal frugal. Why buy brand names when the ShopCo brand costs a fraction of the amount?
So I tried to think on my own, using the Primary Directive as a guide. Was this not a huge saving? Twice as much Aquaphor gloop, whatever it is, for the same price (God, I sure hope it isn't some embarrassing personal hygiene product. I'm utterly buggered then). I took the large jar and put it in my cart. She would admire my ingenuity.
Or would she? Qualms set in. I had never seen a jar that size in our house. If it was such a bargain, why hadn't she bought it? Maybe I, me, could have some input in the household process. Okay ... I ... I would swing by the pharmacy, where they had all those travel tubes and empty jars, buy a small jar—it wouldn't cost $7 certainly—and scoop out some of my bargain Aquaph0r.
The image of myself with a tablespoon transferring white cold cream, or clown make-up, or hemorrhoid ointment, or whatever, from one big jar to a little travel jar spurred me to whip the phone out and bother the sick woman to confirm the wisdom of this.
"Honey," I began, explaining my reasoning.
"Absolutely not," my wife instructed, explaining that in this case the need to divide the cream trumped the need to save money. My divide-the-larger-jar-ourselves idea was waved away as lunacy.
I won't go into the internal debate over the dizzying array of brands of toilet paper. I was attracted to a brand with ridges. I had never seen it before. It looked futuristic, like the toilet paper you'd find aboard the Pan Am rocket ship from "2001 A Space Odyssey." But I had to buy 18 rolls of it. I couldn't sample one, as a test. We'd have to live with that ridged toilet paper for a while, and what if it was the Wrong Toilet Paper? What if there were something inherently wrong with ridges that I didn't know about? You can't very well take toilet paper back, can you? "I'm sorry, I'm returning this plastic wrapped palette of toilet paper. It has ridges."
That's when I encountered this display, for a product to clean out your clothes washer. To be honest, it further unsettled me, as if I had glanced down an aisle and seen a row of mummified puppy heads, the latest thing. What is this? (My wife later informed me that washer cleaner is not the scam it seems -- mold -- but that she used a rag with some Simply Green).
At this point in Target my mind must have shut down, because I simply left, without getting two of the 11 items on my list: milk and cereal. Basic stuff. I'd suppose that the idea of buying food at Target was alien to me, but I managed the Amy's frozen burritos--which my boys consume after they spurn home-cooked meals. I think I simply missed her elaborate explanation of the sort of milk to be gotten, four gallons (my younger boy guzzles it). As for cereal, my wife helpfully listed a few examples: Raisin Bran, Special K, Rice Krispies, in case I wasn't familiar with the term.
Maybe it was because my cart was full, packed with blocks of paper towels and toilet paper. I'd need to start on a second cart. The bounty set me back $107.50.
Perhaps rebelling against the Target mega-cart, at Sunset Foods, I chose one of those small, urban grocery carts that look like they're made for dolls. Usually they're fine for what I want, and more maneuverable, around my fellow Northbrookites, their faces masks of pain and the ravages of time, standing in the center of the aisle, blocking it with their carts, whining into their cell phones to Herbert, their husband, apparently.
I dragooned a butcher to help me with the Amish split fryers and the pork chops. With the later, he said something like, "I could make a joke about that," and I almost replied, "What? What is it? Tell me the joke! It's because I'm a Jew, isn't it?" I didn't actually say that, but took the thought as evidence my composure was starting to crack. I had been shopping for over and hour at that point.
Done? I've hardly bgun. There was the wait at the deli counter, the Banana Choice: yellow or green? Squinting at what seemed to be "comic pears" in my wife's handwriting. Looking at all the variety of pears—who knew. Anjou pears and Bartlet pears. Ah, comice pears, only 99 cents a pound. I wouldn't eat a pear if you put a gun to my head: mealy. I bought four.
Near the end of my shopping trip at Sunset, I realized I had forgotten the milk and cereal at Target. Go back? Never. It's milk. And cereal. It's the same everywhere. Right? Raisin Bran was on sale -- that would do. By the time I got to the milk aisle, my little cart was tottering with merchandise piled upon it. I'd have to get another cart. Maybe two gallons will serve. Two gallons ought to last a while, right? He's just one teenager.
A quick swipe of a red card, $121.50 vanished from my life and I was on my way to the third stop, Max & Benny's, where my list was simple: chicken soup, to nurse the sick girl. No matzo ball, which I had a hard time understanding, intellectually. Chicken soup with no matzo ball? Some kasha varnishkas on the side. My people's comfort food. Think bow tie noodles with some kind of grain tossed in. Cookies for my college student to bring to a party. Three items.
The soup was in a blizzard of sizes and varieties. I called home again. Do you want noodles and chicken in it? Or just broth? No noodles.
I picked out a pound of cookies, added six ruggeleh—little square pastries, for the sick girl. My wife loves 'em. Total bill for my soup, cookies, kasha, half dozen ruggeleh and pint of broth: $31.97. They get you at Max & Benny's.
And so home, having been gone about two hours on a cold, slushy, sleeting day. I would have been more relieved, had I not known what was coming.
They took turns reacting in goggled horror. Two gallons of milk! My younger son was aghast. I was supposed to get four. Two would be gone in a moment. And where was the Special K? "You didn't get Special K?" he said in a tone normally associated with "Lassie's dead!"
"The pills don't work," my wife informed me, of the ibuprofen. "Only the gel-caps work."
"You could have told me that," I replied.
"I can't think of every possibility," she replied.
"You told me which flavors of Greek yogurt to get..."
Then the soup. Why no chicken?
"I called," I said weakly. "I asked you. No chicken."
"They were paired, on the sign. 'Chicken and noodles.'"
She was sick, so I let the matter slide and slunk upstairs, happy to ... well, write this post assuming I don't delete the whole thing, which is probably prudent.
In the past, I vaguely resented my wife doing all the shopping -- obviously done to keep control on finances, to prevent spendthrift me from buying expensive stuff. From now on, I will only be humbled and grateful. Thank you honey for sparing me this. I thought my mind would crack. In the parking lot of Sunset, for one crazed moment I considered going home, grabbing the gasoline from the garage, spreading it around the ground floor and burning the house down, then starting life afresh as a hobo. But that would be bad. I decided it might be better just to let you do the shopping.
Tofu, by the way, though it is white and chilled and gelid, was not to be found among the cheeses and the yogurt and the kefirs and the eggs where I expected it to be, and where I searched for it, for quite some time, until I began to look for an employee, finding one on the other side of the store. It was in the "Organic produce" section, next to the lettuce, I learned this after asking a clerk, who obviously had never heard the word "tofu" before, and then accompanying him while he consulted with another clerk who had. Of course, tofu. Made from soybeans. Grown from the ground. Practically an apple.
This is what the philosophers would call a "Category error." I had lumped it with other white, cool, gelid materials, like cream cheese, when it really is a plant. Like lettuce—next to the lettuce, in fact. So learning was accomplished, though I fervently hope never to have to put my newfound shopping skills, at least not after this flu passes. Which, I'm told, should be another eight days. By evening, I was coming down with it too, and as I sniffled and hacked and ached, I thought, happily, "One of the boys can do the shopping..."