Oddly enough, I am going to write about food today, even though with this cold I have I am not hungry at all. It probably is for the best because writing about yummy things usually makes me want to eat yummy things and I am of course always watching my girlish figure. Not really. It’s not all that girlish, and I’m not watching it because I avoid mirrors unless they are skinny mirrors, in which case you have to pull me away from them, embarrassed for me AND by me. But back to the subject at hand, and what I want to say about it, which is THIS:


Because I am Marianne, SOTO (Stater Of The Obvious), I can say this although you may already know this. I feel well within my SOTO rights to continue because even though you know it and I know it and you know it and I know it, it is a good thing to sometimes remind you that you know it, and that you should actually do something about it.

I am almost old enough to remember the pre-supermarket days; at least old enough to remember when supermarkets were just modestly super and there were still lots of specialty food shops around. Back inna day before microwaves and polysyllabic preservatives, people used to shop daily or at least several times a week for food, going here and there to get what they needed, fresh. It didn’t matter where you lived, rural or urban or suburban. In general, you had a Mama around, and Mama’s prime job was cookin’. Whether she hauled a little silver cart over a cracked sidewalk and onto a city bus or loaded groceries into a wood-paneled station wagon, she was getting the best stuff she could. It was expected.

But times changed and Mama went back to work and no one had the time or energy to shop all over town to try to get the best brisket anymore. Supermarkets went insane trying to please Mama so she could one-stop-shop, thereby springing the horror that is Super Wal-Mart upon the world. Everyone got used to food that was just a little bit worse, and then a whole lot worse, and now we are all fat and/or unhealthy and sick to death of eating the same garbage from the limitless supply of garbage in attractive packaging that we can cook in 4 minutes or under. I say this as someone who prefers 2 minutes and under.

So what am I suggesting? I am suggesting a somewhat modified plan. It isn’t realistic to spend all your time and money at little lovely boutique fooderies, especially when you might have a child hellbent for Cheetos, you are not all that patient nor wealthy, and like me, may not particularly enjoy cooking. But eating good, healthy, and interesting food is one of the great daily pleasures in life and is worth whatever effort you can put towards it.

STEP A: The Supermarket Plan

Memorize this: SHOP THE PERIMETER. If you have not already noticed this, the fresh foods in a supermarket are always placed around the edges of the store. Make a point of buying as much here as you can, and avoid the interior where evil high-fructose corn syrup and frozen White Castle sliders await you. Go to one of those websites where they tell you what to buy for a week’s worth of good meals (and give you the recipes as well) if you are stuck for ideas. Choose items with the least packaging possible. If you are still thinking, well what the hell can I do with all this bounty, I want my Trix, try one simple meal of baked brie or some assorted fresh cheeses and meats, very fresh (preferably warm) French bread and unsalted butter, and some crispy apples or grapes or berries. Top that off with a nice bottle of sulfite-free wine or some Perrier and you have a very fast meal that is delicious, simple, elegant, and makes you feel rather poetic. I get this one past the kids by calling it “picnic dinner,” which they think is cool. If you can shop a couple times a week rather than once, you will avoid my problem, which is throwing away dubious meat a few times a month because I am not able to get it cooked in time to prevent its frightening decay.

STEP B: Explore Your Local Options

Wherever you are, you have some cool specialty food stores or places to go to get really superb noms. Where I was growing up in the wilds of Wisconsin you would think there wasn’t much to be had, but you would be wrong: unpasteurized gallons of milk with the cream still on the top and eggs so fresh they sometimes were STILL WARM, straight from the farm down the road; delicious bratwurst and steaks from Feldschneider’s butchery (“butchery” sounds so harsh, doesn’t it); the freshest bestest cheese EVER from Bon Bree Cheese in Mapleton, cakes and pies and cookies and pretzels from the bakery. Everywhere I’ve lived it has been so worth the effort to stop into these little shops. In Chicago there used to be a Chinese bakery next to The Century shopping center by Clark and Diversey. Oh MAH GOD, for under a buck I would get these AMAZING curry chicken buns that were sort of sweet, with an almond cookie for dessert. The corned beef at the old Belden Deli was heavenly – you could almost live off the smell of it alone. Mmmmm. In Phoenix and Denver, great little Mexican panaderias with cinnamony churros or carnicerias with sublime carne asada. Here in Seattle and Seattle-ish, a fresh fish shop that could make even the most ardent fish-hater into a fan, a Brazilian coffeehouse/bakery with delicious and addictive Pao de Queijo, and Beecher’s Cheese, who warm my little cheesehead heart with their fresh cheese curds.

Ask around for recommendations, or just go in somewhere that always looked intriguing to you. Don’t be put off by going into a different ‘hood, or foods that you are not at all sure of what they might be. People are generally quite willing to help you figure it out. If you end up asking for pork chops and end up with pig testes in broth, well, it’ll make for a good story. Supporting your local small specialty food places is a nice thing to do, and I am sure you will end up finding something that you think is the BEST THING EVER, like Hairbender coffee at the OOGCP.

How I wish I could have a take-home container of the chicken matzo soup from the Belden Deli right now. It might really help my cold.


Marianne, SOTO.