Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Supermarket Therapy

I am starting to love going to the supermarket.

When I was a kid, grocery shopping meant going to Unimart and helping my mom--she (or my brother) pushed one cart, I pushed another, until both were brimming with our provisions for the next couple of weeks. There were negotiations over which junk food to stock up on (my brother preferred the barbecue variety; I, the cheese), and requests for treats like Chips Ahoy (I miss the striped ones). My mom had a system down pat, so if I were to meander onto other aisles, I simply had to estimate how long it had been and figure out which section she would be in by then.

Later on, grocery-shopping duties were passed onto the household help, who would run to nearby stores when the need would arise. Until now, it is rare for my mother to go on a one-time-big-time shopping trip. (I just realized that I miss it so.) And until recently, my own trips to the supermarket were more out of necessity, but I'm beginning to see it as a therapeutic activity, at once soothing and stimulating.

Last week, early one morning after working out, I headed to a supermarket, which was already open at 9:00 am. The staff was still in a very good mood, not having had to face irate customers yet. They cheerily greeted me good morning. I loved the near-solitude offered by shopping at this time, before the mad mall hours ushered in more people. Outside, it was raining; if I didn't have to head to work, I would've loved to shop for more stuff, head home, and bake something to stave off the damp chill brought about by the storm. I would enjoy my warm cookies or brownies or cake in front of the TV. What a perfect day that would be!

Today, I popped into the supermarket to stock up on sandwich fillings. I had already bought a pack of whole-wheat ciabatta bread, waiting to be stuffed and grilled. I loaded my basket with eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes--these I plan to brush with olive oil before roasting, and spread with some pesto-mayo. As I walked past the other veggies, something special caught my eye--portabello mushrooms! Huge portabello mushrooms! At a local supermarket!

A chef-friend told me before that I could try my luck at looking for these shrooms at Santi's (no such luck) or Salcedo Market (no time--I was in a hurry, and it was a weekday). So seeing these beauties sitting inconspicuously on the chiller was a very pleasant surprise. And beside it: baby portabello mushrooms, fresh white button mushrooms, Swiss brown mushrooms...oh, be still my heart! Images of stuffed mushrooms danced in my head. (I thought of the cream cheese, the tomatoes, the herbs...) Goodbye, canned mushrooms!

Alas, I consulted the calendar in my memory and saw no foreseeable time for me to make and enjoy stuffed mushrooms at home. My sched in the coming weeks is just impossible. Nearly took a page from Terence Howard there ("Next time, baby!"). As I made my way to the cheese section, my mouth watered at the sight of Brie. And then I saw the Swiss cheese and imagined it mixed with the brown mushrooms, pressed between two pieces of crusty bread. Oh my.

I wandered by the freezer section, with every intention of getting some cold cuts when I was greeted by the sight of some pretty smoked salmon. Eureka! I need to get more fish in my diet anyway. So I grabbed a pack, and picked up some Australian cream cheese to go with it. I was enjoying myself a little too much. So much for my budget.

It was then that I realized that supermarkets have become another happy place for me (next to the beach, the spa, and Pancake House). I look at items lying innocently on shelves and imagine the different ways I could enjoy them--by themselves, between bread slices, sprinkled on top of something else, baked, fried, roasted. Aisles and aisles, shelf upon shelf of food, waiting to be sampled, mixed together, experimented with. The supermarket: It may not look all that sexy, but in that place of stark fluorescent lights lies discovery, adventure, and possibility. And that is always exciting.

Photo from here.

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