Monday, February 25, 2008
It was a cold Sunday in early November. Doug sat on the sofa in grey sweatpants watching Henry Fool. Rebecca was walking around the two-roomed Brooklyn apartment, in old corduroys and a sweatshirt; her mullet haircut was in disarray, and her eyes distraught. Doug shot her a helpless glance, and she slid on a long white down coat and went to the corner of Maple and Flatbush to the market, she went straight for the counter, asking the shopkeeper for Midol. She hates medication, but once a month she traipses down to the corner for a pack of aspirin, two extra-strength tablets. A young man with a doo-rag puts down fifty cents for a single Newport. She also pays in change and says ‘Shukrân’ quietly to the owner.
They hadn’t been grocery shopping in over a week. The fridge was rather bare except for some organic half n’ half, some sad looking spinach and a Tupperware with one of Doug’s homemade curry leftovers. It was his specialty according to Rebecca. He did not want to go anywhere today, and neither did she, but 20 minutes later she was showered, dressed in jeans, with her cowboy boots on – grabbing her huge leather and wicker basket from Morocco.
The Midol kicked in as she took the Q train from Prospect Park to Union Square. There are no Natural Grocers in East Flatbush. Park Slope has a few expensive, very fancy organic markets and one very functional Co-Op, but the couple had opted out from the Co-Op the day they had inquired and had been given a very serious run-down of the ‘rules and regulations’ of the community grocer. She enjoyed subway rides into the city anyway; she had only been in New York since July.
Rebecca had quit smoking in the spring. However, since Doug moved in she had been buying rolling tobacco. Doug smoked Parliaments, but was not addicted. Rebecca stopped and sat in the sun on a wooden bench in Union square and rolled a Bali shag quickly, loosing bits of tobacco to the wind.
There was a crowd in Whole Foods, but less busy than weekday afternoons, and a slower moving pace. She grabbed a rolling basket and went downstairs, starting at the cheeses because this is where she always lingered longest. She picked up different kinds, turning them in her hands, looking for the nuttiest, creamiest, and richest – but then checking the prices to compare. Normally she would buy a sharp, versatile cheddar for $4.00. But she picked up Brie, for $9.99, and put le bon homme in the basket. Whole milk and a dozen eggs for crêpes. Maple whole milk yogurt. Salted butter, imported – giving her a vision of langoustine with salty butter and fresh bread on summer days in France.
She stepped into the tea isle, and perused for a good five or ten minutes before choosing a Yogi blend, Organic Dong Qua women’s tonic is an effective and organic way to lessen fatigue, restore your energy and balance a woman’s hormones.
She always picked up pasta and sauce for the staple spaghetti bolognaise. It’s surprising she still liked pasta after having it so much growing up. Rebecca grabbed the other staple, garbanzo beans. Then she saw a can with a label saying ‘Eden Organic rice and beans.’ She loved rice and beans, and grabbed the can, half jokingly, she giggled and put it in her basket. She stopped and picked up some rice crackers with tamarind, imagining how nice and crunchy they would be alone. She was getting hungry.
The butchers were quick to help her. She hadn’t learned the direct, quick off the tongue New York style of ordering; she described softly what she wanted, a tenderloin for her Sunday roast, the best cut. No, the one below the filet mignon for $24.95 lbs.
Behind her the jams were aligned, labels perfectly lined, looking out at her. The Bonne Maman. The lovely shaped glass jars of confiture. She read one letter F of the three-letter word, and her mouth salivated as she put a jar of Fig jam in the basket without checking the price.
The vegetables were always organized and colorful, with colored men, all black, arranging, revamping the vegetable displays, smiling, and checking their watches. She always had the same battles, local or organic? In season, or exotic? She picked New Jersey tomatoes, beautiful fingerling potatoes – which remind her of her days in fine dining – a few apples for the Brie, a bright orange pepper, a bag of carrots, and a well endowed organic zucchini. She loved the spring greens in the big plastic box, hated the packaging – and always bought it. And one Costa Rican banana.
Upstairs, she squeezed her fingers around the bread to see when it was made. The baguettes were fresh baked at the perfect consistency. The chocolate was conveniently placed at the checkout lines. She sighed, as her hand moved with memory and habit to the dogoba chocolates, never below 76% dark. Rosebud or mint? Mint this time.
Her number was called and she passed checkouts 16-21, each with a pretty young, black female working the register. Rebecca’s boyfriend had recently pointed out the fact that “everyone” who worked Whole Foods was black, so far, he was spot on, except for the tall white guy with the poor complexion – but he was the floor manager.
$94.48. You saved -.20 cents on your bags. Credit or Debit? Debit. Cash Back? No.
When Rebecca got home Doug’s eyebrows raised, and he inspected her basket while she changed into comfy clothes. A banana peel was on top, she had eaten it with a few corners of the chocolate on the train-ride home. The crackers had also been opened, and one of the rows was missing. He picked up the can of rice and beans and made a face. ‘They’re not even black beans, its rice with garbanzo beans.’ He shook his head.