Grocery shopping

The first time I went grocery shopping I was 21 years old.  I recall it distinctly because it was not something I had done before. Until then, apart from investigating Belgium chocoates at Holt Renfrew, I had escaped the peril of larder provision by having lived either at home, in a boarding school during prep school or in a men’s residence while persuing undergraduate studies. After that however things changed. When I got to law school in Halifax, Nova Scotia I lived on Seymour Street in Domus Legis while attending my first year of studies.  I shared a room with George Horan. There was a common kitchen located at the end of the hallway for use by us and the other two residents (who had individual rooms). Significantly there was no Great Hall nearby for meals.  Instead a grocery store on Spring Garden Road was close by the basement pub we frequented in the Lord Nelson Hotel.

The initiation of my domestic duties was not what I would call successful. For one thing I felt singularly conspicuous. People would see a man doing grocery shopping. It was not a custom I had hitherto ascribed to men.  Nor as a result was it in my opinion a man’s normal affair, and certainly not one especially suited to me. I do however recall the one victory  of having located an inexpressibly delicious and dense oatmeal brown bread blended with molasses. It was to become my favourite grocery item which I accelerated with butter, peanut butter and Cheese Whiz. It made the ideal composition after an outing to the Lord Nelson Hotel. And when in second year I lived on Spring Garden Road with a young lawyer named Bill Pierce I was even closer to the identical grocery store where I had begun my provisional exploration. And I may as well now disclose that in third  year when living with Daniel Laprès and Butch Macintosh in a house owned by the nuns next door, we were once again on Spring Garden Road immediately across from the park but only blocks from the grocery store.

Shamefully I never learned to enhance my grocery shopping experience.  I always bought the same items and I dismissed out-of-hand the culinary possibility of translating a recipe into something acceptable or appealing. So I never tried. It was only years later when touring a Caribbean island that I met a woman on the beach (and whom I had seen on the plane from Canada) who advised me of her own late night recipe to contradict her boyfriend’s typical shout for a pizza. The alternative was nothing more complicated than olive oil, pressed garlic, hot pepper flakes, oregano and shredded parmesan cheese atop spaghetti.

The recipe turned out to be such a success that I ended embellishing it with sliced small tomatoes, green pepper shards and other veggies, sometimes adding shrimp or prosciutto. My mother – whom I and her closest friends acknowledged was a superb cook – identified the simple recipe as extraordinary.

While this may sound as though I have overcome any impediment to grocery shopping, the ironic truth is that my current immobility (which is likely to remain so as long as I live) prohibits me from enjoying a particle of the grocery shopping experience.  And I gleefully admit the many attractions to grocery shopping. But until this mobility obstruction is overcome (which probably will never happen), the mere idea of careering down the aisles for sufficiently long time to peruse and examine what is available, is I find profoundly exhausting.  I have therefore entirely abandoned my claim to any such privilege. Instead I shall relinquish my entitlement by confessing the enormous compliment owed to those who prepare those meals so skilfully and deliciously. And you know who you are! So few of you acknowledge the skill that you have.  But we do!  So keep it up!

“And, yes Sir, I shall have the car brought ’round immediately!”