Sunday, April 5, 2009

How I spent thirty nine dollars and fifteen cents today.

"I'm going to Cermak to get ingredients for The Recipe", I said.
"The Recipe?" my husband asked, voice rising, "I've been waiting for The Recipe for weeks!"

Sometimes when I'm at Cermak Produce, a local grocery store that caters to the Central and South American populations in our neighborhood, I'll see an ingredient that piques my interest and buy it, thinking I'll find a way to incorporate it into a meal somehow. Recently I picked up a can of hominy that had a drawing of a dark-haired woman in a Mexican hat, smiling and looking sideways at something out of frame that only she could see. "Adelita Pozole Blanco", the label read, and I was sold. I'd recently been fed hominy by friends who knew what it was and how to cook with it, so I felt confident. I went onto and typed in "hominy", and scrolled past all the difficult looking recipes until I found one called Southwestern Black Bean And Hominy Salad. It looked simple enough so I printed it, and left it on the desk by the computer for three weeks. I put The Recipe in my purse, and left the house.

The first order of things was Walgreen's, where I had an overdue prescription to pick up. M wanted ice cream, "real ice cream", as he put it, not the off-brand stuff I'd brought home from Cermak last week. He'd wanted chocolate ice cream and the only brand Cermak carries is called Joe & Ross, which is made in Cicero, and tastes slightly of paper pulp. When you scrape away a layer, the ice cream underneath is a lighter color than on top, and I'm not sure what this means. Our Walgreen's carries Ben & Jerry's, so I picked up a pint of Chubby Hubby for M, and a pint of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream for me.

Next I stopped by the photo supplies and frames aisle, where a middle-aged man clapped his hands and pulsed back and forth in time with the overhead music, an easy listening version of an early Ohio Players song. I wanted a cheap frame for a napkin that had been decorated with rude drawings a few summers ago when Holly and Jeremy came over for dinner. On it were depicted the full range of outline drawings that might be found in the spiral-bound notebook of a seventh grade boy: a W, depicting someone's rear end, expelling flatus represented by four straight lines leading to a small cloud; two concave lines representing a woman's torso, with one breast that looked like an eyeball, and the other obscured by a Kermit the frog-like hand; the profile of a goateed man with an X for an eye, drinking from a beer bong that was held magically in the air by no one, a bottle with an X on the label pouring liquid into the top of the funnel; and finally, not one but two depictions of hands flashing the symbol for "the shocker", one clad in a leather spiked bracelet, the other with curved lines around the thumb and pinkie, indicating movement. The napkin had decorated our refrigerator for some time, and then in preparation for a visit from M's parents had been moved into a kitchen drawer. Holly and Jeremy are getting married this summer, and we've been accumulating gifts appropriate for the occasion. I found an 8" x 10" frame for $4.49, and placed the two pints of ice cream on top of it like a tray.

I made my way to the pharmacy, where I gave my name to the the mild mannered, balding pharmacist.

"Chubby Hubby," he said looking at my groceries, and then chuckled.
"Yeah, ha ha," I said.
"Is that your favorite flavor?"
"Uh, no, funnily enough it's my husband's favorite," I said. He scanned my prescription across the electronic eye of the register, then the two pints of ice cream, and the picture frame; my total was $17.08.

Next stop was Cermak. I walked through Walgreen's sliding doors and headed south, passing a darkened storefront with bags of grain in the window. "The Oriental Store" was printed on its green awning, and taped to the inside of the window were three pieces of paper that read:


At Cermak I got the remaining ingredients for The Recipe: an avocado, cilantro, yellow peppers, a jalapeño pepper, and a tub of green salsa marked with a bright orange sticker reading: "Hot", to distinguish it from its neighbor, guacamole, similarly labeled: "Mild." In addition, I picked up a bunch of bananas, and a mango with a sticker that read "Estrellita", simply because I thought it was a cute name. M and I took a Spanish class about a year ago, and I'm still in the phase of learning the language where the sounds of certain words delight me. When Cermak first opened, a cashier gave me my total in Spanish, and I was thrilled.

"She spoke Spanish to me!" I said to M, "do I look Hispanic today?"
"Well," he said, surveying me up and down, "you don't look un-Hispanic."

I brought my items to a checkout lane, and waited my turn. Above the belt were impulse items, and I was distracted by a chocolate bar named "Kranky" that had a picture of a happy K with a smiling face on it. The woman in front of me was buying Mexican hot dogs in shrink-wrapped packaging that read "Fud". Finally it was my turn, and my items totaled $12.07.

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