The Ideal vs. The Reality — Grocery Edition, part 1
The Ideal: I live on several acres of rich, loamy soil, in which my own organic garden is planted. On the property is a little henhouse, with a dozen or so birds to supply our eggs. Placidly roaming another part of the property is a small herd of sheep — maybe six or so, who clip the grass, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. From my sheep, I make my own cheese, craft my own milkfat soap, shear and card my own wool, and knit lovely things after I’ve dyed the wool with natural, homemade dyes. We raise a number of other animals, including some miniature cattle, which are always grass-fed, and from which our year’s supply of meat is derived. For the things I cannot grow, I visit, weekly, the farmer’s market in the nearby, picturesque village. I know all the farmers by their first names.
The Reality: Um, not that.
To add to the conflict I feel about not raising my own food are some of the e-mails I receive from a local Yahoo celiac group. The moderators of the group are AWESOME. They are ladies of expertise and experience, with the word of kindness and graciousness on their tongue fingers. There are some members, though, who continue to stipulate that a product is objectionable unless it is, apparently, farmed by celiacs, using organic, gluten-free fertilizer. To avoid cross-contamination, each item is processed and packaged in hermetically-sealed facilities, which ideally (of course!) are small and family-owned, and whose specially-educated employees are well-versed on the needs of the gluten-free consumer. Additionally, all packaging contains no plastic and is printed with soy-based ink. Otherwise, said members won’t purchase the products, and send tersely-worded condescending e-mails out to those (like me!) who would deign to buy from, say, Oscar Mayer, and worse, those (like me!) who might be foolhardy enough to recommend them.
To add to that, I must also stay within other bounds of reality, including a budget, and limits on my time and energy, not to mention that I cook for SEVEN, which carries its own set of demands and limitations. I love to cook — I really do. And, I love natural food. But, I can’t spend $7 on four small organic muffins that were made in a dedicated gluten-free facility! I can spend $5 on a 5 lb bag of organic carrots, but I can’t spent $5 on a 1 lb container of organic strawberries. I can travel 25 minutes to a natural foods grocery store, but I can’t travel one hour to the closest organic farmer’s market. Most often, I can avoid ready-made, packaged foods (saving money), but there are a few that I keep handy, to save time. I have to pick and choose, based on what is do-able, balancing the ideal and the reality as best I can.
As it is, I split my grocerying between six stores: Fry’s (a Kroger affiliate), Bashas’ (a local, family-owned chain), Sprouts (a locally-based chain of natural foods stores), Trader Joe’s, Lee Lee (a local Asian market), and Costco. Each week, I typically visit 2-3 of those stores, usually in a marathon 3-4 hour run, most often after the kids have gone to bed. 🙂
On Tuesday night at Fry’s at about 10 p.m., one of the night stockers stopped me. “How is my favorite customer?” he greeted me.
“Wha–???” I was flustered, as I have never said word one to this man, nor did I know his name, though I did recognize him as a store employee. “How in the world could I be your favorite customer?” I wondered aloud.
“Well, you always shop at night, when I’m working,” as if that explained anything.
Internally, my eyes narrowed. Though I’m now unaccustomed to the scenario, I began to suspect that he was flirting. I put a stop to that the best way I knew how: “Well, I have a lot of kids. Five of them. I find it easiest to shop after my husband and I put them to bed.” It didn’t stop him. So, I excused myself as politely but as quickly as I could, and continued with my shopping… Night stalker, more like it.