Friday, February 18, 2005

Supermarket Insanity

I know it's a tired old saw that men don't know how to food shop, but these days the new super markets have stacked the deck against us.

I like to pick out a nice iceberg head, not too big, not too tight, and be in and out in a minute. Wash it and break it up with my hands, toss it about in a wooden bowl, ready for my magic herbs. One thing about iceberg lettuce, it's always the same, and it has very little taste. My dad used to tell me it's only purpose was as a dressing delivery vehicle. Being eight years old at the time, I struggled with the metaphor.

But this new trend in Super Stores has turned the idea of a quick trip for lettuce into a quaint memory. Now you can go into the Super Store food mart and spend forty-five minutes examining every imaginable type and mixture of salad greens - all prettily packaged in cellophane and neatly presented in the vast and intimidating produce section.

Yesterday, all I wanted was iceberg and a bag of spinach. Mix them up, nice dark-light contrast, nothing too strong to spoil my precious dressing. Before I find that, I've got to examine the European Salad Blend, the Caesar Salad Kit, the American Salad Blend, Italian Blend, Spring Mix, Jumbo Romaine Hearts (ordinary and organic), Baby Spinach, Green Leaf Lettuce (they're not all green?), Red Leaf Lettuce (oh!), Endive (is it all Belgian?) Romaine, and -- oh! There it is! Come to papa, you big round head of plain old iceberg.

But where are the bags of spinach, I had to ask one of the pimple-faced teenagers with a name tag and hair net. "Over there," I think he mumbled with a toss of his unkempt head, nodding toward the actual vegetable section.

And so I looked, passing by the Anise Heads, Swiss Chard (three kinds, all "gem quality," the package trumpeted), mustard greens, collard greens, dandilion greens (does anybody buy this stuff???), Chinese cabbage, bok choy and lemon grass (saving so many of us those regular trips to Chinatown, for sure).

It's all too complicated, I tell you. I checked to see if it was just the produce. Nope. Cheeses - twelve different brands and kinds of feta (it can't be that popular). Dozens of cheddars (is there really no difference between the yellow and the orange?). How about the Andrulis - Baltic-style farmer's cheese (I don't even want to know); or Kaseri - from goat and sheep milk.

And in the deli, do you know how many different kinds of turkey breast they had? TWENTY-SIX! Canadian maple. Mesquite smoked. Cracked black pepper. Hickory honey. Hardwood. Honey roasted. Each in five different brands.

How am I to know which is the right choice, fa gawdsake.

But it will all be perfectly fine with me, as long as there are as many check-out clerks as there are turkey breasts.

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