At the Supermarket

Infinite Variety: With/Without Sugar, Salt, Glucose, Etc.

There is nothing like a visit to the supermarket to demonstrate that not all is well with the Republic. It seems that one could buy tomato juice with or without salt or hot chile peppers. Of course, one could buy plain tomato juice, add the salt oneself and even add a few drops of my favorite Marie Sharp’s Chile Habanero sauce. And don’t get me started on milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, you could drink milk made from almonds, oats, soybeans, and (probably) kale. There is so much variety on the supermarket shelves that one is often hard pressed to find what one is looking for.

In case you didn’t know, there are firms which arrange the products on the shelf. Manufacturers pay to be at eye level. If you’re a cheapster selling a basic product, you will be stuck on the lowest shelf, which you cannot examine safely without getting a shopping cart up your backside.

Today, I was looking for a product rarely purchased by most Americans: whole granulation kasha, or buckwheat groats. I like preparing it with egg, onions, and bow-tie noodles as kasha varnishkes, a Jewish dish that Martine and I like. But there were zero varieties of kasha on the shelves, and probably several hundred varieties of rice, mostly not deserving of the shelf space they got.

So, instead, I got a can of clams and some linguine, with which I prepared today and (hopefully) tomorrow. Martine has told me, in no uncertain terms, that she doesn’t want linguine with clams; so she will shift for herself tomorrow. (Today, she finished off he Indian kima dish I prepared on Monday.) That is her prerogative: I remember my youth, when I was the pickiest kid in Cleveland.

A Visit to the Supermarket

You Can Learn a Lot About People by Visiting a Supermarket

Today being Monday, I had to restock my groceries. Every Monday I cook a dish which serves as our main meal for three, four, or five days. That’s usually true, but Martine is suffering from another round of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so she’s reduced to eating foods that do not have vowels in their names. My dish for today was ratatouille, a vegan stew of onions, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and squash. Today I ate it straight; the rest of the week, I’ll eat it with pasta.

It’s always interesting to visit supermarkets in other places. I remember the ATAC market near the Place de Clichy in Paris, where Martine and I shopped for our breakfasts for the four or five days we stayed in the area. The market wasn’t huge like many American chains, but it had good food—especially the Petit Billy goat cheese.

Compared to ATAC, Ralphs Supermarket at Olympic and Cloverfield in Santa Monica is loaded down with frou-frou that I would never consider buying, like expensive boxes of sugary breakfast cereals. Is it so much trouble to add sugar that everything has to come pre-sugared, and “fortified” with corn sweeteners as well. There are many aisles in the supermarket that I never visit, because they have nothing that interests me.

And why are there so many varieties of certain foods? I looked for my Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter and had to settle for a large size because there were about ten different varieties of Jif Creamy for adherents of various loony dietary regimens. Thanks, but I don’t want any peanut butter with kale and quinoa. There are easily a hundred different brands of potato chips, and almost as many of corn chips (though I always have a difficult time finding Santita’s Corn Chips, which are perfect even though they are now owned by FritoLay.