Bag lady

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Wilhelmsplatz, a small city of about 12,000 people, has two Targets and a Walmart. Does that seem a bit excessive to anyone else?

I would rather die than go to Walmart. (I am using hyperbole, but not by much.) Of course I have all sorts of political and social objections to the store, which is the excuse I use in polite company. In impolite company, I still use the political and social excuses, but I tack on to that Excuse #3: I avoid Walmart because it attracts undesirable people.

“Undesirable people”: at best, this assessment makes me sound like a snob; at worst, it suggests that I’m a card carrying member of the National Socialist party.

Just to be clear, I am neither A) a Nazi nor B) a snob, or at least not too much of one. As it turns out, I’m actually quite comfortable amongst undesirable people, if “undesirable people” means “poor folks.” Given the choice between poor people or rich people, I’ll take the poor people any day.

Nonetheless, in Walmart one is likely to find harried people, people with small children, people with small noisy children, loud people, sullen people, unhappy people, etc. etc., all of whom are trying to get their hands on mass-produced* cheap shit.

*“Mass-produced by wage slaves,” to be exactingly precise.

So instead I go to Target to get my hands on mass-produced cheap shit. I’ve found that the clientele are slightly less noisy, sullen, unhappy, etc. etc. The atmosphere is still depressing, but not as depressing. As for my political and social objections, they still apply, but not quite as much. Anything’s better than Walmart.

I really ought to be going to a small, independent Mom-n-Pop store, but those are not exactly abundant in Wilhelmsplatz, and to my knowledge none of them sell Lean Cuisine frozen entrees, my lunch of choice.

Lean Cuisine frozen entrees, along with their compatriots Healthy Choice frozen entrees and SmartOnes frozen entrees, constitute the variety in my diet, which is appallingly predictable*. Save for the infrequent splurge on dinner out, I eat the same damn thing every day: yogurt for breakfast, microwave thingy for lunch, salad for dinner, cottage cheese and fruit for a snack, Fiber One to munch on for another snack. The various microwave meals give me the illusion of variety.

*Appallingly predictable, but I bet you anything my bowel movements are more regular than yours.

Recently, however, Change Has Happened. Most of my diet I’m perfectly content with, but I’ve had it up to here with salads. More compellingly, I’ve noticed that my salads tend to go bad. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the salads have taken to sprouting. I don’t really fancy eating mold.

Salads comprise ingredients that are healthy, spinach and beans and carrots and tomatoes and so forth. All things being the same, I should like to continue consuming these sorts of ingredients on a regular basis, just without the mold.

So I sat down to think about how one might eat healthy things, if salads proved to be impractical. Now I am a pretty bright cookie, but I could come up with absolutely no solutions, save one:

I would have to start cooking.

For a variety of reasons, I do not cook—chief among them being that I do not know how. In theory, someone who is a self-admitted Pretty Bright Cookie should be able to figure it out. This cookie, unfortunately, though bright, is not patient, nor creative, nor curious, leastaways not if she’s in a kitchen.

Still though. Mold. Ugh.

Anyway, the other day I went to Food Loin and grabbed the same things I always get for my salads. Additionally, I purchased rice and broth.

Then I went home and hunted for the slow cooker. Finally found it in the cabinet above the fridge. No idea how I got it up there in the first place. Getting it down involved acrobatics atop the kitchen counter.

Then I put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, turned it on, and waited eight hours.

The resulting stew was… pretty gross, really. Also, I ruined that poor little slow cooker. The gross stew clung to the sides like a leech to a seventeenth-century medical patient.

(This is why I do not write noir novels. My similes are atrocious.)

So there I was back at Target again today, purchasing a new slow cooker. My uncharacteristically optimistic hope is that I will eventually get the hang of this cooking business, at least far enough to be able to make stew that doesn’t taste yucky.

This, however, leads me to a severe criticism of Target. The checkout folks there just don’t grasp the concept of reusable bags. I was armed with two paper bags (salvaged from somebody’s book donation at the library last week) and my cloth grocery bag.

“Don’t worry, I brought my own bags, I’ll fill them myself,” I said cheerfully. The poor checkout girl was puzzled, but she humored me…

…through one bag. After that was filled, she started trying to put my groceries in plastic.

I’ve trained my baggers at Food Loin to deal with my eccentricity. My checkout clerks at Farm Fresh actually give me a five cent discount for bringing my own bags. But the Target folks just don’t seem to get it.

But I suppose the woman who can’t grasp the basics of cooking is in no position to cast aspersions upon the intellectual capacity of others. If and when I figure out how to make stew, however, my wrath shall be terrible.


8 responses »

  1. Surprised about the bags – the Targets here and in NC sell the cloth shopping bags so they know the drill. Bi-Lo and Piggly Wiggly do too, and give a discount.For stoo:1 container chicken broth1 onion, cut smallish2 carrots, or handful of baby carrots2 potatoes, slicedsalt and pepper to taste.Insert in crockpot, set on high for 2 hours. Actually better if you cut up some chicken breast to put in it, but I’m guessing handling chicken meat raw is beyond the pale. You can also try canned chicken, but watch out for the salt content.

  2. the lesbrarian

    Our Targets sell the reusable bags, too. Probably they sell them to you by putting them in a plastic bag… Y’know, I could deal if they offered paper as an option. Shouldn’t that be reasonable? Plastic’s outlawed in California, and yet it’s the only choice here.I’ll try the stoo, maybe. The potatoes don’t particularly appeal…

  3. Ha! The idea of Target selling their bags and putting them inside bags is priceless.God, Walmart. I am so with you. Even if I didn’t have political objections Walmart’s just too much work for words. In addition to being depressing, it’s huge–and way too filled with noisy children.Okay, if you’re starting to cook, you MUST check out the new cookbook/food memoir "Eat Me," by Kenny Shopsin. It’s hilarious and has some good basic recipes, most of which can be made fast. Shopsin doesn’t hold with any fancy ingredients bullshit. Good luck!

  4. the potatoes are more for the starch that leaches out when cooking, that adds some body to the stoo.Honestly, I make this with beef and add in any veggies I have. But I don’t eat a lot of cow any more, so I thought chicken would be an suitable sub. Chicken is after all, a vegetable that squawks. Stoo was made of moo, is how I got the name. When I was temporarily indigent anything I could find went in there, such as squirrel or rabbit. Even if my hunting prowess choked, I could always find queen anne’s lace (like a carrot) wild onions and kuzdu, which will make a tasty meal.As a bachelor (with a domicile), learning 1-pot cooking was immediately necessary to survival. Now I make rues and glazes and do some fancier stuff, but the basics are the same. Habanero and brown sugar-glazed pork chops on a bed of wilted spinach sounds fancy but it’s really not.In the summer, I eat a lot of steamed or pan-fried veggies, with or without teriyaki, on rice. Having a cheap automatic rice cooker makes things a lot easier – and there’s tons of stuff that are based on rice. Stuffed peppers, meat (or meatless) balls, stir fry, fried rice, etc and so on.Walmart is of the devil, which coming from a Buddhist is saying something. I feel less safe in our local wallyworld than I did in Bosnia.

  5. the lesbrarian

    Citizen Reader: I am not reading another book you recommend to me till you at least try the first chapter of A Prayer for Owen Meany. Sorry to issue an ultimatum, but I believe it’s time for drastic measures. You don’t have to read beyond the first chapter, or even like the first chapter, but that is my condition and I mam sticking to it. (You also PROMISED me last year that you’d try The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, but I’ll overlook that for now.)

  6. the lesbrarian

    ianaly: Stop with the cooking stories or you’ll scare me. I can only process tiny bits of information at one time. Let’s see if I can manage to cook a stew without ruining the cooker, and then we’ll investigate more sophisticated topics such as "ingredients" or "length of cooking time."I’d so rather go to Bosnia than Walmart. Query, though: Would one want to visit a Walmart in Bosnia? Discuss.

  7. I doubt there is a walmart in Bosnia, nor the economy to support it. The beach areas are doing well now, so I read, but the country as a whole was devastated by the Balkan war. In Sarajevo in ’95 I was fully expecting to be shot at by three separate groups of people, all with relatively heavy weaponry. In walmart I don’t know who will crack or decide to have a turf war, catching me in the crossfire. Having said that, there’s nowhere in Europe I would not rather shop, than the best Walmart in America. Perhaps simply because of the people, perhaps the mores are such that commercialism is less perceptible.

  8. Not that I have any doubts that you will soon become a gourmet chef, but my husband reports that Farm Fresh now has all Lean Cuisines on sale at 2 for $5.


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