Jan 29, 2008 :: The Joy of Grocery Shopping

A lot of the time, when I'm pressed for time I'll make my daily walk a trek to the store. At work, I can walk to a couple Kroger's and Publix. At home, Little's in C-Town (stocked mostly with organics and local produce, which is thin mid-winter) is my only real option. Regardless, the bundling up, the slow-plodding journey, the leisurely but conscientious way I peruse the produce knowing that I'll have to carry everything I buy back, really makes me feel better as a buyer of things. Especially food things, which typically ride a cushion of diesel fuel into the country and into the supermarket, to ordinarily be hauled away on another cloud of unleaded.

Until we get our garden going this spring, I've vowed to do most of my food-shopping on foot. Unfortunately, this means I can't really visit the best places to buy - the farmers markets - because I don't live close enough to them. So maybe the pledge may be, "shop at Kroger if you can walk, shop at the market if you must drive."

The result of this thoughtful shopping has been wonderful. Blake and I have been cooking most of our meals since right after we met. I used to meet him in Marietta on random weeknights after he'd visited Trader Joe's for good, organic meat and fresh vegetables. (my guy, for some reason, doesn't like starch...which is probably good for me in an Atkins-like way, but I need some potatoes and rice now and again.) We'd scavenge spices and left-over stuff from the bachelor fridge, and always cobble together something tasty. Now we plan meals by text message in the middle of the day. Last night, it was brown-buttered corn with thyme, rosemary-grilled pork chops and spinach salad with avocado, feta, and lemon-garlic dressing.

I used to think cooking was an expensive hassle.It always seemed like I could get a perfectly great meal somewhere else, already made, for about the same price. Food seemed complicated, its pieces foreign. And I didn't have much help in the form of a willing epicurean partner then, either. Apparently, I just didn't know how to shop, or what to buy, how to budget my time, or (importantly) how to recognize a stressful situation and then extricate myself from it. Something a while back just clicked, and I think it was Blake's casual, spontaneously simple approach to dinner that did it. You can make so much great stuff with just a few things buried in the back of the cabinet and in the bottom drawer of the fridge. As long as everything's of good quality, there's no stopping a tasty meal. I guess I was just making it complicated way back when - kind of like everything else.

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