On Mondays I go grocery shopping.
It is a chore I hate, especially when I have to do it alone, which for the most part I do. Today I stopped first in Harris Teeter, which was full of very thin, very serious looking moms. Harris Teeter is dark and the shelves are dauntingly tall. When you think you have come to the end of Harris Teeter, you walk into an unexpected, hidden aisle of more frozen food. The whole store smells like pizza, because there is a pizza station, which I found very odd. Pizzerias exist so you can buy an inexpensive lunch. Harris Teeter exists so you can buy an expensive, organic, imported lunch. I went to Harris Teeter because I thought such a place might have more gluten free options than Kroger. To a certain extent, it did: Kroger does not seem to carry gluten free flours like rice flour, flaxseed flour, buckwheat flour or almond meal, though to its credit it does carry gluten free baking mixes which, I have been told by my older sister, who cooks often and has friends with dietary restrictions similar to mine, can be used like flour. Clearly, I will have to look into this. (Kroger also has easy to find gluten-free brownie mix, which is all a girl can ask for in life.) Harris Teeter has all the specialty flours, and it has an actual selection of gluten free pastas, though, again, they are quite expensive. Sometime in the next two weeks I intend to go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to see if they carry good gluten-free options that are less prohibitively priced.
I wanted to make macaroni and cheese, because it’s something I can store and take to work for lunch, and it is something I will always want to eat — important, because I’m used to my appetite giving out. And while it’s been pretty consistent since I cut gluten out of my diet, I still want to proceed with caution/the assumption that at any moment I will not want to eat half the things I normally find tasty. So I bought some rice & buckwheat pasta, which tasted a lot like wholegrain pasta, and rice flour. Let me sing the praises of rice flour for a moment. Not only is it tasty — though it is the tastiest — it is also the most affordable non-wheat flour option available; or, at least, it is the most affordable option available in the grocery stores most accessible to me. (It is still pretty expensive though; a pound cost me eight bucks.) It can be substituted for all purpose flour, according to the Joy of Baking, and it seems like a bit goes far.
Once those purchases were made (and I cringed from the bill) I headed down to the Kroger to buy produce. If you have disposable income and feel really strongly about eating organically, then yes, I guess Harris Teeter is the store for you, but the produce there is out of my budget. HT charges $1.69 a pound for Roma tomatoes; they cost about $.70 less at Kroger.
Kroger is a limpid pool of yellow light, and is very big. I don’t like carts on principle, and everything I need to buy fits in a basket anyway, but I am a tiny lady and after you’ve put in some onions, some bananas and some peaches things start to get a little heavy and jumbly. I look hilarious trying to navigate the Kroger while stomping around with a basket full of produce that weighs as much as I do, and I imagine that I look a little wild and desperate while I scan the shelves for GLUTEN FREE labels. Today it was especially gruelling because EVERYONE has flocked back to Charlottesville — at least, the grad students and the upper classmen in greek organizations have, as evidenced by the sheer amount of pastels and khakis I have seen in the past two days — and is buying groceries. It’s going to be EVEN WORSE next week, when all the first years arrive on grounds and their parents take them college shopping. I need cannisters, possibly mason jars (for storing stuff, and yeah, yeah, I know) and oven mitts but the Bed Bath and Beyond is going to be a fresh hell next week. Anyway, I did not enjoy having to dodge through Kroger, which I do not believe should be as full as it was at 2:30 on a Monday afternoon.
Peaches are in season, which I aim to take advantage of at every turn, and it’s the end of the blackberry season. I love blackberries, so I decided that it was worth the money to buy a small thing of them. Good plan. I also picked up bananas, onions, spinach, asparagus, italian sausage, cheese, tomatoes, basil, eggs, yogurt and vanilla extract. It’s an unusually long grocery list for me — a trick I’m trying out to keep costs down is to restrict my list to fifteen items max. I still have some scallions and some rice noodles leftover from last week, which will surely make their way into something this week.
For dinner I made macaroni and cheese with the rice flour and gluten free pasta. The recipe I used is slightly adapted from Brooklyn Supper. Because I did not realize that rice flour is not directly proportional to all purpose flour when I was making the roux, I ended up adding more milk, margarine, and eventually some cream (I only have so much milk) to make the cheese a bit less doughy. Also, I made a crust for the mac and cheese by cutting in some margarine with oats and leftover jack cheese. Then I baked it. I know oats sound like a suspect choice but they were really, really good. They added the right amount of crunch, and are sort of nutty, which went well with the rice flour. On the side, I had a simple salad of baby spinach, a cut up tomato, and blackberries. It seems like an odd combination, but the blackberries aren’t exactly sweet: they are a little bit tart, and so they add an extra dimension to the classic tomato-and-spinach combo.
I ate with my roommate tonight, which was really nice. I enjoyed getting to know her, and I enjoyed having company. While I enjoy cooking alone, and I enjoy having the ability to decide what I am going to eat without having to worry about other people’s preferences, I do miss the ritual of eating together that my family had, and that my friends have when we’re at school. I miss the regular, expectedness of it. I miss the companionship. I miss what it feels like to look after other people a little bit — especially since the first week back in Virginia, my friends had to look after me a lot. Right now I am supposed to be working on a freelance assignment, and I have to wake up early tomorrow, and I miss them. I hope they let me cook for them. At least once.