When I was a newlywed living out in California, I would stop on my way home from work at the Safeway to pick up groceries for dinner. I would cut, clip, and shop for gourmet recipes involving roasted peppers and wild rice and pumpkin ravioli to cook for my new husband. Cooking for two was fun and it seemed we had all the time in the world to prepare a meal.
One of the checkout cashiers would play this little game of guessing what I was making for dinner, or what kind of night was ahead, based on the contents of my shopping cart.
One night was pretty easy: Romaine lettuce. Anchovy Paste. Parmesan Cheese.
“Ahh, I’ve guessed it!” He exclaimed. “You must be making Cesar Salad! The anchovy paste is the key ingredient for a good Cesar salad,” he said with a big smile. I guess in his line of work he played this game a lot to stave off boredom.
The contents of my shopping cart have changed over the years. The newlywed lifestyle ingredients were first replaced by boxes of diapers and jars of baby food, and these items have been replaced by the basic stuff of lunchbox meals and quick meals at home: Bread. Eggs. Milk. Peanut Butter. Turkey Slices.
This weekend, as I unloaded my last item onto the belt, a young single man got in line behind me. He had cropped sandy blond hair and wore a light brown hooded sweatshirt with apparent skulls embroidered into it. I couldn’t help notice that each time he reached into his cart, me and everyone around him got a glimpse of striped, bright pastel underwear that ballooned out on top of his low-cut jeans. Really. WHY do low-hanging jeans remain in fashion?
On the conveyor belt, right next to my boring cut up chicken and bag of Yukon gold potatoes, he placed one, single-serving Baked Alaska from the patisserie. Yes, my local supermarket, Wegmans, has a real French patisserie inside, along with a real wood-burning oven for artisan breads, a sushi kiosk and a Kosher deli.
But this blog post isn’t about Wegmans, and it’s not about the Helping Hands at Wegmans who will on rainy days escort you to your car with a huge golf umbrella and unload the grocery bags into your cart. This is about the groceries of the single man.
So, this dainty treat, with its broiled meringue topping, was carefully placed inside a clear plastic container. This dessert for one, maybe two, also included its own garnish: five raspberries and three thin slices of what looked like the perfectly ripened peach. A perfectly ripened peach — in October.
The single man continued to load other contents of his cart onto the checkout belt – a big bottle of Listerine Complete that whitened teeth while it freshened breath. Several boxes of frozen gourmet gnocchi, and a box of flatbread sausage pizza.
In my head, I silently wished single man good luck for whatever his evening entailed, and hope that whatever girl was on the receiving end of that Baked Alaska appreciated that a man would buy her a Baked Alaska, complete with a raspberry garnish, for dinner on a Sunday night.