The salad I craved Sunday called for romaine lettuce, but there was none of it in the fridge. So, I walked the few blocks to the HyVee supermarket to buy the romaine and a few other goodies I wanted for the next few days.
I placed the few items into one of the store’s hand-held shopping baskets. Then I queued up at one of the “Express” check out lanes. Because Sunday is a peak shopping time, I try to avoid the supermarket on early Sunday afternoons. However, I craved the romaine lettuce, so there I was.
HyVee has a near monopoly in Norfolk, Nebraska. There’s a store located at the western part of town, and the store near my house in the eastern part of town. At one time or another each of the stores can expect half of the 20,000-plus Norfolkans to patronize it. I say HyVee has a near monopoly because it’s not the only food game in Norfolk. It’s next biggest competitor is the Super WalMart, there’s one independent grocer, and then there’s the grocery department at Target. I’m not taking into account the scattered convenience store/gasoline stations in various neighborhoods either.
While standing in line to pay for my items, I visually scanned the store and contemplated the hundreds of people shopping for food. If you want to see a cross-section of your town’s population, go to a busy supermarket on a weekend or a day leading up to a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Nearly every age group was represented at the store, with young families predominating. Mixed in were people from every economic demographic and plenty of various ethnic backgrounds. Here in Norfolk, the majority are people with European roots, next were Hispanics and then a few African-Americans. This Sunday’s shoppers included some Native Americans and a few of East Asian ancestry.
Meal times are necessary and are usually communal times for families. Dinner can be a time for each family member to reflect upon the day’s events and share conversation among each other. A good dinner can bring closure to a frustrating, busy day. Many families savor the comforting, peaceful time of a family dinner.
Not everyone has a family or a circle of friends either by choice or by fate. I wonder how many of them wolf down dinner in front of televisions or computer screens–barely tasting the food. Do many of them set the table with plate, flatware, and a tumbler; then mindfully consume their sustenance without the distractions of programs or music? Food is best when savored with a grateful attitude. It doesn’t matter if the dinner is simple home-style or gourmet. The best food seasoning is thankfulness.
The store was especially busy on Sunday. I noticed a twinge of guilt for simply being there. I felt the urge to apologize to the check-out clerk, but soon nixed the idea. I recalled working at a supermarket during my college years. Sometimes customers apologized for shopping during our peak times. Those apologies only caused awkwardness. Nowadays, if the check-out clerks look frazzled or tired, I simply thank them for their efforts. I even thank them when they’re not tired.
I mentally thank the supermarket employees, plus the truck drivers, warehouse workers, the farmers, along with the domestic and migrant laborers who cultivate and harvest our food.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes celebrity chef and travel documentarian, the late Anthony Bourdain. “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”