Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Different Beet

Monday night at 5:30 pm I went to the grocery store.

It was such a rookie mistake.

Here I am, first real week in the new year, stay at home dog mom coach pro with the entire day to go grocery shopping and I save it until 5:30 pm. Yes that is how much I love the grocery store.

Usually the grocery store means Trader Joe’s. But I am on Trader Joe’s hiatus. I can’t take that store any more. Call me a cynic but everyone in there is just too damn happy to be working at the cash register and everything in the store is just too damn good for you. Plus I started to notice my cheap trips to the store started becoming more and more expensive because I wanted things like pomegranate seeds or Argentinian wine, halibut, Irish cheese.

I don’t need pomegranate seeds.


So it’s back to the basics, back to the generic everyday people grocery store. Empire of processed foods in highly attractive and colorful boxes. Where everything good for you costs ten dollars and everything bad for you is dirt cheap.

I couldn’t wait.

There I was rolling in to the store. And I notice I am one of three people in there. Is there something I should know? Is the store closed? No, no. But no sooner did I wheel my wagon over to the produce section did I understand. It was Monday. 5:30 pm. In the grocery store.

The store had been trashed.

Stripped and pillaged of all healthy foods. For the love of all things green there wasn’t a bag of spinach in that store. Nor orange peppers. Nor on the vine tomatoes. And bananas – saddest bunch of bananas I’ve ever seen.

But I needed them. And I settled for the ten for ten dollars mangoes. Some oranges. And guess squash isn’t a big hit because there’s plenty there. Wheeled my way through some cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, noodles, beans, and then stood and look at the butter for some time. Butter would be good. Butter tastes good. Butter is good on things like waffles and pancakes. Look at all this butter. Look at those little round tubs. I need some butter. Butter come here.

You don’t need butter.


I rolled the other way. This store is one big marketing trap. Everything, I swear EVERYTHING is making eyes at me. The crumb cake. The donuts. Even caught the coffee looking my way. Almost forgot what I really came there for oh, food, food I might call fit for me to eat. Do you have such food here?

This type of food was proving much harder to find than I thought. Not a big fan of the high fructose corn syrup and almost threw the box when I found out it was even hiding in Special K. Come on, freakin’ Special K. There is nothing sweet or tasty about those flakes, ‘k?. My usual Trader Joe’s cereal – sure it was on the shelf for a reasonable FIVE DOLLARS a box. And I’m not spending five dollars on cereal. Maybe on pomegranate seeds but cereal – no way.

It was at this point I started to feel bad. I felt like I was cheating on Trader Joe’s. I imagined it’s little aisles and section of plastic bagged nuts and dried fruit. The peppy cashiers in Hawaiian wear. The little bell they ring. I wanted to abandon this cart and head right over there.

But it’s rush hour and there’s no way I’m driving across town. Disgruntled. I grab a loaf of bread and head to the checkout line. Greeted by cashier. Fashionably young, probably in high school, probably hates being a cashier. He gets through most of the items easily but the bag of Medjool dates – completely threw him for a loop.

“What are these?”
he asks.

“Dates,” I say. You think they would have covered this in cashier school. How to identify the products that we sell in the store or something like that.

“Beets?” he asks.

Beets? Are you kidding me. How could you confuse a date with a beet. They look nothing alike. One is a large bulbous hardly edible purple root, one is a brown wrinkly fruit.

DATES,” I clarified. Dates, child, DATES. Have you not had dates? Not a date – clearly we know the answer to that – but the food item of dates.
But back to the beets. Wait a minute – is it possible – could it be – that this kid has never had beets?

“You’ve never had beets?” I asked – I was curious.

“No,” he quickly admitted with a snarky tone.

No beets? I’m dumbfounded, amazed. NO to the beets? This kid was half my age and surely he has been through dinner times with parents enough to have encountered the beet.

No beets,” he said again.

My mouth drops open. No. No, I think with an utter of surprise. Impossible. How did you get past your parents? What on earth were you fed? If not vegetables that only adults should be allowed to buy and eat – what did you eat? You lived on macaroni and cheese. And spaghettio’s. Didn’t you. You lucky bastard.

Am I the only one that was tortured as a child with food? Am I the only one that dreaded dinner time to sit down and find a loving and oversized spoonful of brussel sprouts, beets, three bean salad or – oh no, no it can’t be please don’t say it – RATATOUILLE on my plate with direct orders to finish my plate before I asking to be done.

You see it wasn’t dinner time at our house. It was character building time. It was you’ll eat the horseradish because it will put hair on your chest time.

But I don’t want hair on my chest.

YOU’LL EAT IT ANYWAY!

And there it sat. On your plate. You, the plate, the plate, you, looking back and forth at each other. Across the table your brother sits, the same fate, looking at the food and his plate and catching your eye but you dare not make eye contact lest he thinks you will cut a deal and eat the beets tonight if he would just take this ratatouille off the plate.

But that was never the case. And dinner times went on like this day after day after day. Until one day you were an adult and realized there are things in life you like and don’t like. And sometimes you have to do what you don’t like to get what you like. And sometimes you just do what you don’t like because that’s life. You can’t always eat cake and sometimes you have to suck it up, eat the ratatouille and get on with your day.

But this kid – behind the register – never had beets. Probably never had brussel sprouts. Probably never had to eat fish to spit out in napkin and throw it away to hide from your parents who have threatened to never serve you anything but beets again if you don’t eat all of your fish. No, this kid never had beets. Never seen a date. Probably never been on a date.

In the midst of my childhood torture by food flashback, the cashier finished ringing up my dates. And he stood there with a smile. I think he realized that he was the winner here. He might be 16 years old stuck behind a register but he had made it through life without eating beets. Or dates or probably anything that stared at you from a plate over and over again. And could avoid the moment at 32 when you realize you were force fed disgusting foods while the rest of the good world was eating butter and sugar covered macaroni and cheese.

Life is so unfair. And to avoid reminders of this I will return to Trader Joe’s. Because around there people seem to march to a different beat. Know what I mean? And somehow I have a feeling that everyone there has stared down a plate of beets. Has eaten a medjool date. Has hair on their chest. And understands where I’m coming from.

8 comments:

TrainingtoTri said...

Ahhh I love trader joes! And I feel the same way when I head to the "normal" grocery store. TJs is cheap! Comparatively speaking.

MMMMM dates and beets!

Bob Mitera said...

I was tortured too! (Must be an Italian thing.) Liver was my enemy. Who they hell eats that and why? Brussel sprouts - Give 'em to me by the pound. Broccoli - no problem. Beets - yep...like that too. In our family...eating is a professional sport.

Brenda O said...

He he he... I was like that 16 year old kid! I had never had beets. I lived on pizza, mac n cheese and cake for breakfast! Wait, I still have never had beets. There were beets in the juice my friend made me once, does that count?

Anonymous said...

your parents and my parents went to the same 'parenting school' cause i had plenty of beets, brussel sprouts, over fried zuchini and eggplant. i'd be sitting at the table till 9 o'clock, staring at my plate and my plate staring at me. i wasn't allowed to leave either until it was all gone. it was awful!!!! now all i eat is popcorn and apples. go figure.

meredith

triclancy said...

OK, I have to admit am a "Liz blog Junkie"...your writing is so good that, while I first stumbled on your blog do to the love of the tri, I know visit to see what your tiny little dog is up to and find out about your coffee and Trader Joe's obsession! Seriously, you should be a freelance writer as well as a pro-triathlete and coach! Thanks for adding some smiles to my cyber-stalking-triathlete life!! ~Clancy

Anonymous said...

My dad's favorite vegetable is the beet. Yuck. We grew all our own vegetable so we had everything, brussel sprouds, beet greens (yes we ate that part too), swiss chard, spinach, beens, peas, carrots, etc. I hated most cooked vegetables when I was young except spinach so I spent a lot of time at the table. :)
Katie T

BreeWee said...

Too funny! I have to agree with Clancy, maybe as another one of your side jobs you could be a writer for tri mag or something :)

Anonymous said...

Hey! We were doing what was best for you, remember. Look at where eating all the good stuff got you!
Mom