Confession. I have a weird happy place. During the week, as I travel, I may hop into this place multiple times. Sometimes daily. This magical land is known as The Grocery Store. What’s that, you say? You don’t find the grocery store to be a land of wonderment as I do? Think about it…. Aisles and aisles of produce and frozen meats…. You can get pistachios in bulk and then borrow their facilities before your next (ahem, my next) appointment. Not in the buying mood? That’s perfectly fine! Do a little “window shopping” and then march out with a frustrated look on your face, as if you’re the one inconvenienced that you left without purchasing anything. Your options are endless!
How did such an obsession begin? It started long loooong time ago, in a galaxy far away. A galaxy called New York City. Yours truly was living there, broke, and pursuing a career in modeling. You may or may not be familiar with the cost of living in the Big Apple so let me enlighten you- you can’t afford it. Especially if you work anything relating to the restaurant business…. which is pretty much the majority of the population. I very quickly realized that the profit I was seeing from my two jobs (a hostess in Queens and on the Upper West Side) was barely enough to afford toilet paper, much less my rent. Couple that with the fact that I was going to model calls throughout the city, thus meaning my calorie intake was a less than ideal. Think: Diet Mountain Dew (Still a favorite), chicken breasts (boneless skinless) and Franzia (mixed with Diet Mountain Dew at night so I didn’t mow through the box…. saving $$ guys, saving $$.) On the occasion that I got desperate for actual food I would pretend I was sneaky and eat bits of my roommate’s cheesy popcorn. Looking back now, as a functioning adult, I realize that there was no actual sneakiness. It must have been blatantly obvious that Scott’s drunken, starving roommate had tried to eat bits of popcorn and then shift the contents of the bag so everything looked “normal.” Shout out to Scott (and Kelly- our other roommate/ now wife of Scott) you guys did your humanitarian duty by letting this slide. I am forever indebted.
After a long day/night of work and blue steel, I found myself doing one of two things: going home (usually around 2 or 3am), chugging a glass of franzia/dew, and then going to sleep next to all the rats in my room (true story, but I’ll save that for another time) OR getting back to Queens, finding a close deli/grocery/convenience store, and browsing it’s aisles to see if they had a sale on Wheat Thins or celery. It was sheer bliss. Also kind of depressing. I specifically remember one evening around 9pm when my mother called, and the conversation went something like this:
Mom: “Hey sweetheart, guess what?!”
Me: “Hey Mom, Sorry service is kind of bad- I’m in a deli. What’s going on?”
Mom: “Oh sweetie, just letting you know your father and I are so excited- we just booked our tickets to the US Open! I think we’ll stay at the Ritz, it was so lovely last time! We just wanted to give you a heads up though so you had the dates. Do you think your bosses will let you take off the whole time we are there or will you only get a few days?”
Me Again: Pause.
Mom: “Yes Dear?”
Me: “Mom, I have literally been walking up and down the aisles of the deli for the last 15 minutes. Would you like to know why?”
Mom: “Yes Sweetie! Of course!”
Me: “I have been trying to justify whether or not I can afford to buy the $3.99 box of Wheat Thins on aisle 3. I don’t think I can afford to take off work, much less buy tickets to the Open.”
My love of all things grocery followed me through my stint in NYC back to the Midwest. Now that I had a job that actually paid me for my labor (thanks Dad), I found my grocery options to be limitless. I could now go into the cheese and specialty section without shame! Did I feel like chorizo? Maybe an olive stuffed with garlic? SaLmOn?????? I felt like my eyes were opened to a new way of living. I would leave my new job, still demanding but with an actual paycheck and find myself looking forward to walking through those sliding doors, purchasing a pineapple, maybe some soymilk……just ecstasy in my mind.
I have been at my current job for two years now and because of it’s nomadic nature, I am able to experience grocery stores of all shapes and sizes all throughout my state. I never know when I will stumble upon a Mom and Pop store tucked away in a town square, and let me just say- those are the best. They always have some sort of obscure canned fish from Italy or sauce from Thailand that you’ve never heard of (because it’s actually from Thailand, duh.)
So here’s to you, grocery stores. May you always be abundantly stocked. I’ll be seeing you soon!