Frustrations of a Small Town Cook
I love reading food blogs- I have at least six that I check daily (oh, all right, every few hours), and several more that I jump around when doing recipe searches. What frustrates me, though, is that even with the simplest recipes oftentimes I'm not able to get the ingredients at my local grocery store. For example, here are return questions I've received when asking store clerks for various items:
"Ta-whatie for hummus? What?"
"Alfalfa sprouts? Err, what do they look like again?"
"What kind of lettuce is this?"- while holding up a bundle of spinach.
It irks me to no end that the nearest Trader Joe's is in Pittsburgh. I fell head over heels for the place when I lived in New York, and was thrilled to death when I discovered another less than five miles from the apartment in Washington. I got accustomed to being able to walk into the store and find organic products on every shelf, and produce that looked like produce instead of rotten piles of something covered in fruitflies or the wax fruit you use for decorating. Wegmans does its level best to fill the gap, but it's an almost fifty mile drive one way, which isn't terribly efficient if you need just. one. thing
So each day I sit and pore over my food blogs, eyeing the pictures with longing and dreaming of the next time I can get to a real grocery store and make braised eggplant and tofu in black bean sauce or curried chicken over jasmine rice. My daughter, of whom I was so proud when she enjoyed Chinese and Korean cuisine and would request various delicacies for every meal, has taken to asking me only for chicken nuggets and Cup O Soup, and I despair. There has to be a way to escape the syndrome I can identify only as Small Town Palate, but the local stores are thwarting me at every turn. I think they've started cataloguing my purchases so they can slowly shift even the little items out of the store- following the discovery of some Dubliner Irish cheese, a suspicious manager observed my *very controlled* dance of glee, and the next time I walked in the store it was nowhere to be found. I've looked for it during every trip over the past year, and never once has Dubliner shown up on the small refrigerated shelf of cheeses. Can this honestly be called a fluke?
I suppose one could be justified in saying that inventory does change from time to time, and the elimination of one cheese can hardly be called targeting. Yes, but if it were only the cheese. Since that time they have dropped the packages of herbed couscous I loved, the tubs of extra spiced hummus, the individual serving bottles of pomegranate juice, and the fat free brownie frozen yogurt that had the lovely faux-chocolatey chunks. I've actually avoided buying my favorite frozen lime bars simply because if they see me walk out of the store with a box no one else will ever have the opportunity to sample the lovelies, and I surely wouldn't wish to deprive the community of such a thing simply for a selfish wish to indulge in citrusy deliciousness. In certain cases civic duty must reign supreme.