Column: Spicing up the grocery experience
I've never been a big fan of grocery stores. I go there because that's where the food is, and because I don't much care to hunt my own game, and because without them I would quickly run out of ice cream sandwiches, but it's never an experience I actually look forward to.
There is something vaguely depressing about wandering through aisle after aisle of packaged foods, lit by fluorescent lights and blocked in my progress from time to time by someone with a full cart who is trying to pick the perfect flavor of spaghetti sauce.
It's a bit like I imagine purgatory must be, although everybody knows in purgatory they only have one spaghetti sauce and it tastes like candy corns.
A bit of advice: skip Italian night at the purgatory cafeteria.
Every once in a while, something interesting happens to spice up the grocery-shopping experience, though. This weekend, I had two such experiences.
The first was on Friday. I had gone to the store mostly to cash a check, but I also wanted to pick something up for dinner. I was just exiting the produce section when I was intercepted by the most aggressive sample person I've ever met.
Actually, they were sample people. A Somali family -- or part of one, I guess. I learned later the mother had 14 children, so unless some of the younger ones had wandered over to frozen foods, they were not all present.
They were selling authentic East African sauces, which they had made from this woman's recipes for the past five years. They used mostly local ingredients. The woman, who's name is Sadia, was encouraged to go into business when she brought some of the sauces to a pot luck at a nursing home where she worked on the cleaning staff.
The only thing people encourage me to do when I make something for a pot luck is bring a bag of chips next time.
The family was nice, and the sauce was tasty -- Minnesota hot, they promised me -- so I bought some. Then I bought some chicken nuggets for dinner, because that is what they served their sample on. I am nothing if not easily swayed.
The sauce remained good at dinner, though I'm not sure my microwaved nuggets really did it justice.
My other grocery experience was somewhat different. It was Sunday night, and storms were whipping through the Twin Cities. As I picked up cereal and orange juice for breakfast Monday morning, someone came on the intercom to announce that 70 mile-per-hour winds were expected, and that we the customers and employees of this particular supermarket chain might want to move our cars farther away from the other cars. That kind of wind, the mysterious man behind the microphone said, had the potential to turn the parking lot into a giant, unmanned game of bumper cars.
You hear a lot of announcements in the grocery store. You hear calls for cleanup, or price checks, or coded messages that mean someone has his pants down in the bread aisle again. But rarely do you get a notice that your car is in danger of blowing away.
I don't expect these experiences have done much to alter my overall opinion toward grocery shopping. Outside of a food fight, there's only so much you can do to spice up the process of buying, well, spice. But at least it made things a bit more interesting.
And so far as I know everybody kept their pants on.