Like millions of other Americans, grocery shopping is frequently a part of my weekly routine. I do it independently, and there’s a certain comfort in that. For example, knowing that I have enough money to grocery shop feels good, and a well-stocked refrigerator and cupboards mean that I can rest assured that I’ll have something to eat when I’m hungry or thirsty.
The experience of going to the market also evokes fond memories of tagging along with my Dad on food-shopping excursions when I was a kid. Memories of him and my sister accompany me down every aisle as I reflect on how my father approached this Saturday-morning chore.
First of all, I believe he had undiagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), because he had a system that had to be followed the same way every single time, and he never wavered from it:
He made his grocery list, and checked off each item as it was placed in the cart. That, in itself, wasn’t odd; but if Gloria and I spotted something that we wanted, and it was not on his list, he wouldn’t let us buy it. However, he’d write the items down for consideration for the next list.
Dad religiously cut coupons, and tended to choose the option that was less expensive over the one that tasted better, which undoubtedly came out of his growing up with six brothers in Buffalo, NY, during the Great Depression. In fact, for most of my childhood, we ate canned vegetables over fresh or even frozen ones. A lot of the time our meals consisted of what his mom or my moms’ mother made—food that was cheap and could go a long way. We always had leftovers.
In the store, he’d start down aisle 1 and proceed to aisles, 2, 3, 4, and onto to every aisle in order, until he’d hit the last one. There was no skipping ahead, even though there might not be anything on an aisle that was on his list.
Everything would have to be placed in the cart a certain way, and at the checkout counter, the items had to be bagged the way that Dad wanted them bagged, even if it meant him showing the clerk how to do it.
Fortunately Dad was charming, so his quirks were met by more smiles than grimaces. In some ways, I’m like my father, only I’ve never made a shopping list in my life. I keep it in my head, and yet rarely return home having forgotten anything. ...
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