Grocery shopping is a chore for me, especially when it’s cold and dark outside. But on Monday night, we were expecting freezing rain and there was nothing in the fridge. So I grumbled a bit, bundled up and headed out to my local discount grocer, Fresh Co. This a no frills store with a limited selection of goods. It’s an industrial looking shop with harsh overhead lighting and no ambience.
Fresh Co. is located between 2 very different neighbourhoods. To the south, there are mainly single family homes worth a minimum of $800K. To the north, there are several clusters of low rent high rise apartments, many of which are subsidized by the government. Therefore, at any given time, you bump into new immigrants as well as well-dressed moms and dads rushing to grab dinner.
Anyway, I digress.
It was busy, others had heard about the freezing rain. So all the cashiers were busy with long lines. And people are buying full buggies worth of groceries. Odd for a Monday night, but maybe the threat of freezing rain makes you want to stock up. Anyway, the man in front of me was in his 30s, longish hair, scruffy beard and wearing earbuds. Someone quite average. Except that his grocery cart was filled with vegetables and fruit! Maybe I judge, but I was surprised to see a man buying eggplant, spinach, apples, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, peppers, along with one lonely pack of boneless chicken. The cashier, an older woman, was also clearly impressed and said:
Let me guess. Your wife is travelling and is about to return so you’re stocking the fridge before she comes back. She’s a vegetarian and you are not. So you’re having a final chicken dinner before she gets back.
He laughed and said that she was almost right except that she was not travelling and didn’t have a problem with him adding chicken to his meals. I could not help but eavesdrop and I told him that I had also been very impressed by his grocery selection; it was unexpected for a man. He said that he works at home so does a lot of cooking.
The man waiting behind me was an older, rather “grizzled” guy who looked like he smoked a couple of packs a day. He also piped up and told us that he was taking the night off cooking so was buying something already prepared. I proceeded to tell him that I was planning homemade mushroom soup and a lentil dish mixed with brown rice. He nodded approvingly.
Meanwhile, the cashier rang through my items and while I packed them in a bag, the young man started to describe his latest vegetarian pizza recipe using a grated cauliflower and steel oats crust. I made a face; he assured me that it was just like a regular pizza crust only better. The older gentleman praised his creativity and proceeded to say that cooking was like painting, you never quite know what you are going to end up with. And then he revealed that he was a chef. We all laughed and I bid them goodnight.
I live in a big city of 2.8 million people. As city folk, our heads are often down looking at technology when in a crowd. Or we stare out at nothing, oblivious of the people around us. If we do see them, sometimes we judge them. We may or may not wish to engage because they look or dress a certain way. Yet, this 5 minute exchange with 3 strangers was enjoyable and surprisingly memorable. I left the store smiling and thinking about what I would have missed if I hadn’t gone to the grocery store that night. Proved yet again, why you shouldn’t judge a veggie by its skin..