Friday, October 30, 2009

Grocery Anxiety

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m short on demoralizing waves of anxiety, I go grocery shopping.

A supermarket trip ought to be orgasmic for me, a certifiable gourmand. (Don’t let my small frame fool you. I can eat twice my weight in tofurkey.) Foodstuffs are therefore the clay I sculpt with in my kitchen playground. But for starters, much gets lost in the translation, or should I say, extortion. How can I buy bananas and almond butter and it comes to $47? Partly it’s because I require luxury chow like almond butter. However, most of my cart contains humble pasta, unassuming carrots, down-to-earth rice, and, after seeing the total bill, my escaped palpitating heart. Perfect – that’s one fewer organ I'll need to sustain if my husband and I decide to switch to a diet of not particularly hypoallergenic but notably cheap dumpster scraps.

It’s not only the prices that would get my goat, if we could afford one. Try as I might to keep my grocery junkets short, they’re usually long enough for the stock clerks to think that I, too, work there. This would be handy for smuggling out crates of salad dressing, but I’m always too busy plunging my head into the frozen vegetables section to dry up the nervous sweat I’ve generated over taking too long to shop. Guilt abounds that I’m not instead home vacuuming or some other chore that I frequently imply takes up my time but that I never actually do.

I don't get home for hours. After visiting Cheapest Mart, it’s important to let my ice cream liquefy in the trunk while swinging by Selection Central for Australian crystallized ginger and then Naturally Expensive for bulgur-quinoa patties. And for every product, I must check and recheck labels to screen out nasties like preservatives, artificial colors, and anything that might run the risk of actually tasting good.

To try and cut down on the number of trips, I always purchase truckloads of our number one staple – fresh produce. But this only doubles my desire to blend my neighbor’s cat’s Prozac into my morning Grape Nuts. (I kid you not; Fluffy’s on uppers.) This is because with every toss of broccoli and grapes into my cart, I worry that my husband and I can’t possibly eat it all before it rots into a slimy mass quite like the brain I never remember to bring grocery shopping. Yet I can never pace myself; I'm a delusional stockaholic who doesn’t need an impending snowstorm to justify buying enough fixin's to build an eighteen-story salad and a side(car) of stew.

Once home, I usually find that I forgot to pick up the most important items on my list. All week we must then eat omelets without the eggs, tuna sandwiches without the tuna, bouillabaisse without the boy and Cheerios without the cheer. I make up for that by overstuffing myself with bulgur-quinoa patties and remembering back to when I didn’t have to worry about going grocery shopping at all. I just ate whatever the heck my mother put in front of me. Rice-a-Roni, Hamburger Helper, TV dinners, and Spam.

Talk about depressing. Damned good thing I’ve got that cat Prozac.