while writing this post, i realized that a lot of my thoughts about life here have a point of reference in childhood memories--an unexpected but fun discovery. i understood that situating myself in my new place would require a good deal of time observing the way things work here, comparing my observations with what i've lived and experienced already, and finding a way to make the two coalesce into a comfortable acceptance of a new reality. what i hadn't really considered was that my lived experience includes a whole lot more than the past five years in new york. how silly of me. i'm getting a good laugh at myself that, after only five years, i pretty much believed that new york was the center of everything. though i'm not yet comfortable with explicitly denying it, ha ha ha, my consciousness has finally managed to shake some sense back into the process of thought. i guess it's about time.
when i was small, i often dreaded going to the grocery store because i would inevitably forget to wear a jacket. normally, a little, warm article of clothing wouldn't seem necessary for a trip to stock up on cereal, laundry detergent and impulse-buy twinkies. but don't forget about the dairy, meat and frozen foods sections. bone-chilling cold never ceases to waft from their inner freezers; walking down those aisles was torture for me.
i still look askance occasionally at the icy glass doors showcasing pints of ben and jerry's, bluebell and haagen dazs, but now it is mostly to send silent messages of, "ha! just watch me walk past and not give into your siren beckonings!" i've come to accept cold-naturedness as a cross that i'll likely always bear, so it's been years since i've forgotten to don that jacket before heading to the store.
and remembering the jacket transformed my life. i'm serious. after getting my bearings as a new college student in the (what seemed to me huge) city of abilene, texas, i discovered the grocery store that would spark a love affair that lasts to this day: h.e.b.
i am in love with grocery stores. trolling the aisles of h.e.b. by myself or with friends quickly became one of my favorite things. seeing items like psychedelically swirly-colored bread or years-aged balsamic vinegar opened my eyes to the wonderful and often quirky world of marketed comestibles. even now, when patricio and i make trips to the most pedestrian of grocery stores, wal-mart, i notice my step acquiring more of a bounce by the time we reach the produce section; such concentrated abundance is, for me, a real visual treat. but the moments i love best are those like discovering that pomegranates are back in season or that the honey section has expanded to include those made not only from clover, but from alfalfa, sage and wildflower. i know i can't try everything, but i never tire of imagining what it would be like to sip on organic tea-based soda or stuff a ripe fig with a triple-cream cheese. grocery stores are like permanent adventures waiting to happen.
the adventure lies almost strictly inside the store, though. since i don't really cook, spending time there is more like hanging out in willy wonka's chocolate factory--a place where i can taste a few things and be amazed at what can happen when seemingly incompatible ingredients are put together--and magically work. someday i might begin to add more items to my cart other than exotic fruit, canned soup and ingredients for salads. i might roll past that meat section thinking, "steak au poivre" instead of "geez, it sure is chilly over here." i might think of the baking aisle as a starting point for creating my own repertoire of delicious things, but for now i simply like letting my eyes twinkle past the fragrant herbs as i bag a few apples and choose a hunk of manchego cheese.
lamentably, the grocery store located at the top of the hill doesn't have too much to offer by way of cheese or fresh produce. patricio and i both vetoed the idea of making quesadillas for dinner the other night because each one of the four or five brands of oaxaca cheese looked, to quote my husband, "pretty mysterious." nevertheless, our bodega gigante doesn't lack it's own set of quirky, endearing, culture-specific and, therefore, redeeming qualities. for example:
an entire isle of cooking oil!
an entire aisle of rice and beans!
dozens of brands of instant coffee! there is also a selection of flavored yogurts that makes my head spin. big containers, little containers, drink-friendly bottle containers. it is a dairy-lover's paradise.
but gigante, with its alpura yogurt, pantene shampoo and convenient location, still does not win my vote for "best grocery shopping" in san pedro. the blue ribbon goes, hands down, to the market. if gigante offers me paradise, the market is shangri-la. it is a covered city block of narrow, criss-crossing aisles and unending marvels: kilos of melon, pyramids of eggs, entire schools of fish (on ice), squeaking tortilla machines, steaming pots, vats of cold cream, vats of lard, healing herbs (or in my case, internal wild rumpus-causing herbs), curtains of clothing...i'll stop before i get too carried away. but i cannot leave out the mole. the young lady running the post not only sold me a half-kilo of the stuff, she let me try pinches of the i-forget-how-many different flavors she had to offer. i sing the praises of this mole: it is delicious, and all i have to do is add chicken broth to make it fit for a turkey leg.
all this is only a twenty minute walk away.
and another thing: i don't even need to wear a jacket.