Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hidden Hazard of Cerebral Cooking

After ten years of living together and grocery shopping together, it wasn't until this weekend that I realized that Cody and I have drastically different grocery shopping styles. His style is very fast and to the point, which is the way we usually grocery shop. We have a list, we have a handheld basket (because Cody gets road rage the moment he places his hands on the handlebar of a shopping cart, though he protests each time that he won't), and we zip through the store grabbing what we need, jockey for the shortest line, and exit the store as quickly as we can (which usually involves Cody helping out the bagger by bagging our own groceries).

I admit that this method is very effective, and since when we grocery shop, we usually hit two or three stores back to back, it's the smartest way to go. That way, nothing in the car melts or wilts or spoils. Also, these trips are part of our weekly errands, which means that we're on a mission from the moment we get in the car and start plotting our route. Usually by the second or third stop, one of us is hungry, thirsty, or has to pee, and we just want to get the shopping done with.

I've often assumed that our general strategy to grocery shopping (bundling it all into one rush) was the reason that it was such an unpleasant chore. That, and the fact that we shop on the weekends with the crowds. Crowds are Cody's archnemesis. In his head, people plot to walk slowly in front of us, form groups to block aisle and doorways, stop erratically just as he's passing so that he bumps into them, and do all manner of nefarious maneuvers with their carts specifically designed to rile my usually sweet-tempered husband. (Or so I imagine this is his view of every grocery store, department store, and mall we've ever been in.)

I figured that if I were to remove the crowds, Cody wouldn't instantly tense the moment we stepped over the threshold of a grocery store, he wouldn't suddenly feel compelled to walk at twice his normal speed, and he would be able to slow down and enjoy the experience. So imagine my surprise when I suggest to Cody that we should start shopping during non-peak hours so we could take our time, and his response was, "Why would we want to do that? I like getting it done and over with."

Which is when I realized that our ideal method of grocery shopping looked nothing alike. I love to shop almost aisle by aisle and see what's interesting on the shelf, find new items, ponder deals, and plan for the mystical wonderment of future meals. Grocery shopping in my head is not unlike writing: there're tons of possibilities out there, new ideas on every shelf, and the end result—the meal—is often a surprising combination of ingredients not in the original plan.

It's this approach to shopping that tends to cause me to lose track of time while shopping (spending an hour in Trader Joes circling aisles, following the whimsy of my mental stomach) and to buy some rather expensive, abnormal items, many of which we eventually end up throwing away since I never get around to making anything with them. It is also, however, how we've stumbled across some great foods, foods that now get added to our grocery list to be picked up in our usual hasty fashion.

I can only theorize that my idyllic approach to grocery shopping stems from the fact that cooking a meal more involved and complicated than tacos or spaghetti is still a cerebral pursuit for me. I've never gotten to the physical steps beyond cruising Internet recipe sites and drooling over the pages of our cookbooks. For Cody, cooking is a very tangible chore that he's been performing for many, many years. He's not looking to make the process more complicated. He's looking to cut corners and spend the least amount of time on his feet in front of a stove top.

Until I'm ready to take over the cooking, the least I can do is continue to support these mad dashes through the grocery stores in my usual fashion: with lists pre-organized by aisle (thank you, Grandma, for that tip) and not deviating from our weekly meal plan.

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