Dear Diary 005: Bicycle Grocery Avenger and Coming Home

Bicycle Grocery Avenger

I hate grocery shopping.

Which is weird, because I love cooking.

But it’s not the food I mind, it’s the humanity. All variety of everyone bumping into each other, reaching for the same cheese, making desperate eyes at the butcher. Rushed, tired, grumpy. Nevermind the inner-aisle dwellers with baskets full of processed food and sugar and insta-diet-meals.

I want to pull them aside and say, “You are killing your children!!” but that doesn’t seem very appropriate.

For a year there I remedied my Grocery Store Problem by going to WinCo Foods at 5 in the morning. Say what you will about this place, but it is worker-owned (holler!), cheap as shit, and open 24 hours. That meant it was just me and the stock boys duking it out with pallets full of godknowswhat. I was alone with so many aisles of mega-everything. The place was in disarray. No one was watching.

I carried coffee with me and paid with cash. It felt like getting away with something. Very covert, this grocery shopping.

But the weight of it got to me. One day I took a photo with my phone in the parking lot: two packs of Marlboro Reds and an empty bottle of malt liquor. Someone must have had a really fucking amazing night in the parking lot getting loaded and smoking to death.

It was too depressing. I couldn’t go back.

Trader Joe’s was no better, but for the opposite reason. I went during the day to avoid the crowds and found myself faced instead with happy mommies – babies swinging their legs from the shopping cart seat. Perfect avocados, pleasant employees, hawaiian shirt mania. It was good. Too good.

Who the fuck are these people, I thought to myself.

I still think that even though I’m one of those people. Ironic, huh?

Yesterday I put a big cargo backpack on and climbed onto my errand bike – a black IRO with the “IRO” parts taped over with electrical tape. Sal had just installed swept-back handlebars and a new bell, so I was feeling extra special.

I pedaled over to the nearest grocer – a Fred Meyer – and smiled back at people who gave me grin along the way (there were a lot of them). In the aisles I carefully calculated volume as I selected items. I eye-balled objects for portability. I chatted up the butcher and he let me in on a good deal on T-Bone steak. We made the whole trout that I purchased talk to us, like a puppet (which is how I really knew the butcher was 100% rad).

In the dairy section I contemplated anew the fragility of eggs and the effectiveness of modern-day egg packaging (I bought a full dozen anyway).

I bought a 22oz bottle of Ninkasi’s Spring Reign Special Release even though it was a risky proposition because I was nearing the limits of my pack. (It fit. Also – it was worth it.)

My calculations proved to be impeccable and in the end the green backpack had exactly it’s maximum capacity. No more, no less. Not one more Brussels sprout could have fit into that bulging sack.

The enormity of my cargo made me look a little ridiculous on the way back.

A girl in tall boots and skinny black pants with a billowing scarf and a bag the size of a Sherpa. At home I impressed the boys with my incredible urban hunting and gathering skills.

We made a steak and poured a glass of wine. We roasted Brussels sprouts with fennel and garlic and shitakes and rubbed our bellies.

I like grocery shopping again.

Unexpected Calm

I’ll be honest – I didn’t want to leave Arizona.

On the day we had to pack up, I threw a fit and stayed in bed, wallowing. Sal bribed me to be happy again but I only moaned and whined.

“I don’t wannnnnnnnnnnnt to leavvvvvvvvve.” I said.

I poured a glass of wine at 4 in the afternoon and said, “I’m not leaving!!”  I stamped my feet.

Truly, I was kind of a nightmare.

But can you blame me? On top of sun, I had quiet. Social quiet, literal quiet, mental quiet. I rode my bike and wrote stories and copy and words for people.  I didn’t see anyone besides Sal for days. My inner hermit came out – and she was happy.

Luckily, we were headed to a better place. Arriving in San Jose is always pleasant, if only because I have an adopted family there who shows their love in the form of Cannoli and handmade pasta. It’s not just that the food is good – it’s that the people behind the food are good. Cannoli is one of the highest expressions of love. Remember that.

In San Jose I came to terms with going back to Portland and, by the time we were set to shove off, I was ready.

Really ready. Excited even.

When we pulled up to our house I said, “This is where we live.”

I saw the little bungalow with new eyes. The worn off paint and the big front porch.

This is where we live!

Inside, the cats were indifferent and undramatic. “Oh, you again? We know you guys.” But at night the little one snuck into the bed and begged me to let him crawl under the covers. He pressed his furry warm body against my side and I slept, unmoving, for eight hours on the single most amazing mattress in the entire Western territory.

The next day we woke up and I looked at Sal and said, “This is where we live.”

It was our 11th anniversary and everything was perfect.


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  1. princesshungry

    When I read the first sentence I couldn’t believe it! I would much rather go grocery shopping than shoe shopping (*gasp*).

    My favorite method of hunting and gathering is by xtracycle. That steed could carry 4 FULL paper bags of goodness. But now that I am living alone again everything mostly fits in my baileyworks when I ride.

    There is something more rewarding having “worked” to bring food home. Tastier methinks.

  2. weird … just the other day, in the dairy aisle, this huge guy gives me a dirty look, walks over to me, shoves a list in my face, and says, “She told me to get 2 cups of grated mild cheddar, and two cups of grated sharp cheddar … and all they got here is m___-f___ing medium and sharp. What’s that supposed to mean? What am I supposed to do about that?”
    was about the most scared I’ve ever been. he was all in my face about this list not making any sense, that the cheese selection didn’t make any sense, and that he had no idea what his wife was trying to make, so he couldn’t make a call on it. And he was fuming … at me! When I tried to break contact, he just followed me, followed me over to the eggs, waving his list.
    so I said, this is what I’d do … see, not telling him what to do, just telling him what i’d do. that’s i’d get two mediums and one sharp. ’cause i think medium and mild are the same. but if he thinks his wife will disagree, he can just be there to help her when it’s time to make whatever, and he can pour the right amount of whatever into a big mixing bowl and she’ll never see the bags it came from.
    The guy liked that, actually smiled, and i went from thinking i was going to get my ass kicked to helping some guy take one thing off his to do list that was really bugging him.

  3. earl patrick

    so um, cannoli. let’s talk. or rather, can you dish?

    i used to live in boston and new york where a good cannoli isn’t hard to find. i would do indecent things for a good cannoli in portland. i can’t find one. anywhere. seriously, i’ve looked for years and they always have things in them. like dried or candied fruit. i swear i saw one in seattle that had smoked salmon in it.

    i just want a plain, vanilla, honest to god cannoli. i even tried making the shells once from scratch myself, but the deep frying was a disaster.

    any hints?

  4. earl patrick: I documented the entire cannoli process after the dough was made (she did this part without me and I think it was on purpose!) Sneaky! I had extensive coverage of the deep frying technique. I’ll try to get a post up in the next week about it!

    I also have a very easy way to make fantastic homemade ricotta for the filling.

    Also – I have not found great cannoli in Portland. :)

  5. earl patrick

    awesome. there’s hope at least. i look forward to the lesson in deep frying….

  6. welcome home.


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