Monday, December 31, 2007
greetings from the temple of smoked meats
As you may have guessed, we're absorbed with holiday shenanigans and then some -- and on top of it all, I leave tomorrow for 10 days up in the holler to see my mother through surgery. Yes, I'm from Appalachia, and we pronounce that Apple-LATCHa, thankyouverymuch.
At the moment, in fact, we are in beautiful sunny northeastern Ohio. Not so much with the sunny.
K and I volunteered to cook supper for the family tonight (latkes, smoked sausage, and blintzes with cherry sauce for dessert), so we headed off the supermarket ("the Click") -- and that's what I'm here to write about.
You know I have elaborate opinions about grocery shopping around Pomona, and I don't exactly suspend judgment when I'm away from home. And shopping at the Click was an eye-opening experience: Don't tell me that modern communications have smoothed out geographical differences.
Our list: Lemon, a fresh veg for dinner, smoked sausage, beer, snacks, and ice cream.
Grab a basket
I now remember that when we moved to California 13 years ago, I found the grocery aisles awfully cramped, and the horizontal aisle (the cashier-line overflow lane) most of all. I had forgotten about that, but the Click reminded me in a big way. Such vast expanses! I felt like I was strolling a linoleum prairie.
Pick up a lemon
Then there are the differences dictated by climate -- otherwise known as the produce section. It's just inside the door, like at the Von's and Albertson's on Foothill, but keep an eye out, because if you blink, you'll miss it. There's a decent supply of apples, but the citrus section was almost exactly the same size as the trunk of a Miata -- and it contained peaches (at $5.29/lb.) as well as oranges, limes, and lemons. What's that you say -- you want grapefruit? Tough luck. Here, have a single lime for $1.99. Welcome to the Frozen North!
What veg do you want for dinner, honey?
The green veg display was a mixed bag. The zucchini looked pretty good ($1.99/lb.), as did the green beans ($2.99), although there was only a mixing-bowl's worth of them. I spotted two, count 'em, TWO crowns (not bunches) of broccoli, to K's relief -- he does not share my adoration of the broccoli (rhymes with "Adoration of the Magi," of course).
Arugula, to my surprise, was well represented -- on the herb rack, in one-ounce blister-packs, as if we would need no more than a tablespoon, minced finely. And one ounce was $1.99, just like the 14-oz. bags we buy for salad at Trader Joe's.
Where do you think smoked sausage would be?
Other differences are dictated by demographics, and things look considerably brighter here. As you probably know, northeastern Ohio is dominated by Slavs of various nationalities, and boy howdy does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny.
Back in Cali, smoked sausage resides in between the bacon and the hot dogs in the run-down suburbs of the meat counter. But in Slavlandia, cured meat products have the whole back of the store, with separate signs in giant letters reading BACON and FRANKS and SMOKED SAUSAGE, the way that our stores have signs that read "Produce" and "Dairy." As K marveled, "We truly are in the temple of smoked meats."
Hey, we need beer!
We moved to Cali from Georgia, where we couldn't buy beer on sunday or after 11pm, so we thought we'd died and gone to heaven when it came to beer. Anchor Steam! Pete's Wicked! Imports in every store!
But in fact we don't know from beer compared to northeastern Ohio. They have such an amazing selection of local beers here, I almost passed out. When I mentioned it to K's mother, she scoffed and told me that the other store has a much better selection.
Your mom wanted snacks
We did get potato chips as commanded, but while wandering the aisles, we saw a container of sauerkraut balls. Both K and I are krautophiles -- we looked at one another, and no one even needed to say, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?" Into the basket they went. (In the event, they weren't half as good as the sauerkraut cakes I make from scratch.)
Um, don't need wine
On the other hand, this ain't no wine heaven. Barefoot Red was $10.99, I kid you not. There's no Trader Joe's around here, but if there was, I bet they'd sell Eight-Buck Chuck.
We should get the ice cream last
Just as one outer wall was devoted to smoked meats, the whole right wall of the store was lined with ice cream coolers. Slavlandia clearly loves its ice cream, because each brand had several sizable cases and a big sign overhead -- and a dozen brands we'd never heard of, many of which are local premium creameries. (We still got Haagen Dazs, to be safe.)
After having checked out, we passed a large table of marked-down Christmas items. I think we both deserve voluminous praise from all quarters for having resisted the temptation to buy My First Drumkit for the niece and neph -- but every child we know gets a drum from us sooner or later.