Saturday, August 09, 2008

Food, Love, and the grocery store

My brother found a book that he thought sounded just right for me, so he and Cindy sent it to me for my birthday. It's titled Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love, only on the cover there's no word "Broccoli," just a drawing. It's a beautifully designed small book (when you publish you look for these things, and I really think small, off-size books are a new and cool thing). It's maybe 4-1/2 x 7 inches (most books are 6x9). It feels good in the hands.
The stories are about emigrants from Eastern Europe, stories in which so the flap tells us "food and love intersect." I've only read the first story, "A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf." It's one of those stories where I'm not sure I get the point, or maybe there is no point. It's a "slice of life story" that surely does not fit the standard formula I used to teach in creative writing classes--beginning, middle, and end. You know, rising action and denouement and all those things from the days we studied Shakespeare.
But I really identify with the main character. She shops every Saturday at a Russian grocery store and buys lots of vegetables that she never has time to cook during the week. Her husband pulls out soggy, drooping broccoli and asks why she buys it. But she tells the reader, she likes buying broccoli--and the end of the story involves a miraculously still-fresh bunch of broccoli that she and a new man cook together, but for my purposes that's neither here nor there.
I am that lady. I go to Central Market every Saturday, and I go wild in the produce department. Everything looks so delicious. Last week, I threw away a slimy bunch of green beans--I think they'd been in the back of the vegetale drawer for two weeks, three tomatoes (one really liquid and squishy and awful in the veggie tray on the counter) and two moldy nectarines. So what did I buy today? Nectarines and tomatoes. But I eat a lot of it--stir-fried veggies last night, broccoli with lemon butter tonight, blueberries with banana for lunch, raspberries after supper--the freshest, best of the season.
This morning I had a coupon that told me if I spent $40, I'd get $10 off on chicken breasts, which I can always keep in the freezer--I cryovac them--and pull out for sudden company, as I did last night. I thought I'd never spend $40 and almost didn't take the coupon; in fact I had to circle back to get it because I had left it at home. I spent $61, after the $10 discount. Most of it was produce. Well, there were also three chocolate bars--my newest passion is a milk chocolate bar flavored with peanuts and jalopenos. Now I would tell you that I do not much like peanuts and jalopenos not at all, but this is extraordinary.
It's close to 8 p.m., and since I've sworn off eating at night in my attempt to lose a few pounds, I need to stop writing about food! It's making me hungry, and that chocolate bar is right there in my desk drawer . . .

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