I'm a bit of a voyeur. At the grocery store that is. I love to look in other people's carts and see what they are buying. And I've decided something: People are nuts.
It might be safe to say that I'm at my most judgmental when I'm at the grocery store. I assume things about everyone, and feel intensely curious about what, say, makes that completely sane- looking woman buy 13 tubs of chicken liver? There were nuns at the grocery store today. I smiled kindly as I passed each of them (they were shopping separately--is that okay? Do they like different things? Do they each put labels on all their own food, like roommates?), but craned my neck to get a better view of what exactly they were buying. Cases of bottled water it turns out. Nuns can eat granola bars too.
Last week my favorite was a very sweet-looking Hispanic family who had filled three produce bags, to the top, with jalapeno peppers. Are they drying them? Is that a three years supply? Freezing? Making salsa? Go through that many in a week? I was still thinking about them when I pulled into the aisle with a man loading his cart with boxes of pudding and singing along with his iPod. His enthusiasm for pudding was only matched by his great relish of the song "Shout."
But each week, invariably, I end up in line behind the parent whose cart is filled top to bottom with four cases of soda, two kinds of ice cream, three bags of chips, 18 frozen dinners, six cans of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, a case of Top Ramen, a baker's dozen loaves of white bread and a case of frozen pizza. Tucked into the available space are fruit snacks, pop tarts, pizza rolls, Cocoa Puffs, mozzarella sticks, hot dogs and chocolate. On top of this tempting load there is always perched a single bunch of bananas and a gallon of milk. In short, the cart is filled with things that are snacks, not meals to be prepared.
The bill always comes to some extraordinary amount: high fructose corn syrup isn't cheap, I guess. I'm especially impressed when said parent is accompanied by fat, complaining kids who look like they have the energy output of a three-toed sloth.
I'm not skinny. I haven't been skinny since I was, well, never. I'm not talking about eating disorders here. I'm not talking about genetics. I'm not even talking about force feeding your kids broccoli until they either give up and eat it or choose starvation over anything green. I'm talking about common sense. And in some cases I think I'm talking about child abuse.
It seems that lately when I go to the grocery store and see teenagers with their parents, the children outweigh them, and sometimes by a lot. Even the trimmer ones have that awful roll of tummy fat hanging over the top of their "skinny" jeans. When did food and all things digital become the driving forces in a young person's life?
I have a friend who is in her early 50's. Hard times have recently caused two of her daughters and their husbands to move in with her. One has a child, the other has a baby due any day now. These women are in their early 20's. These girls "don't cook." And if anyone can explain to me just what in the heck that means, I would be grateful. I hear this all the time. "Oh, I don't cook." What do you mean you "don't cook?" You don't read? You don't own a stove? You are so inept you can't figure out how a pan works? Anyway, my friend asks her charming sons-in-law the other day, independently from one another, what they want to eat for dinner; she was going grocery shopping and wanted to make a list. The reply? Each said "Burger King."
I buy snacks for my kids. And I make treats for my kids. We are not above burgers and fries a couple of times a month. They are picky like other kids--there are many things they won't eat. Dinner time is sometimes a battle, but we try not to be too up tight. When I make something for dinner that I know they won't like, I make an easy alternative so that no one is hungry. I'm really not trying to get all self-righteous here.
It just seems that the job of food is to give us energy for the activities we do--growing, working, exercising, whatever. Food might also sometimes be a source of socializing or comfort, but this is really secondary to food's job: fuel. If the food you (routinely) eat makes you sluggish, tired, unhappy and unable to do your activities then it is a simple matter to change. The grocery store is full of healthy things to eat too. Lots of those healthy things are sweet or crunchy or snacky or even easy to prepare. If people don't want to change their shocking habits for themselves, they should at least be responsible enough to do it for their kids.
Be good at the store this week: I'll be watching . . . .
Oh, as long as I am ranting. I have to make a comment on Robert Pattinson. You can't go anywhere these days without his moody face staring out of a magazine or poster or special-edition-Twilight-movie-book or Robert Pattinson fan book that is all about his movies since he has been in like, what, two? Since when is hairy, stoned and wind-blown the new sexy? (Johnny Depp might be the only truly notable exception.) But mostly I want to know who told Mr. P that he could sing?