Monday, August 20, 2007

Panic! at the Grocery Store

So yesterday I was pushing my cart through the grocery store, and just about worked myself into a panic attack. Seriously, if there was anyone else at my house who could have finished shopping for me, I would have just come home and gone to bed.

Let me tell you how it went:

I got a barbecue grill for my birthday (thanks, hon!), so I had planned on some inaugural steaks for dinner last night. Only I've never really bought steaks, except cubed steaks for chicken-frying, because they're expensive and not worth doing if you don't have a grill to cook them on. So I was staring at hunks of raw meat in the butcher block section, looking for something with a sign on the package that said "Great for the Grill! Impossible to Screw Up!" Finally, I asked an employee which ones were good on the grill. She made a few suggestions--a tri-tip roast, porterhouses, T-bones, New York Strips, etc., but what I really wanted was an answer. Something like, "Here, take these eye of round steaks. Marinate them in Worcestershire sauce and garlic pepper for two hours, then cook over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side."

Let me say that, when I am shopping and don't know what to get, the indecision is agonizing. The more I allow it to go on, the more powerless and insignificant I feel. Then I start fretting about what everything costs, and what percentage of my take-home pay that is, and then I start to feel guilty about every expenditure I've made for the last three months. So you can see where this is headed.

Desperate to make a decision, any decision, I glanced quickly at the price tags on the cuts she had shown me, and hastily (and, I hoped, authoritatively) put a smallish tri-tip roast into my cart. Almost immediately after I had done that, I changed my mind again, but I was determined not to let the grocery store lady know how crazy simple steak-buying was making me. I pushed the cart down a few more aisles, fretting the whole time about the prices of each item I picked up, knowing full well that five dollars here and four dollars there has a way of adding up very quickly, and there were all those groceries in my cart from before the steaks, before I had started obsessing over prices, that maybe I should try to put back.

Finally, I went to the meat counter, where there were only two kinds of steak to choose from, and ordered two giant ribeyes. No kidding, these were an inch and a half thick and weighed in at more than a pound each. They still cost as much as the tri-tip (which I couldn't go put back because, out of the corner of my eye, I could still see the lady who'd helped me restocking the meats), but they were steak, not roast, and I vaguely remembered hearing somewhere that ribeyes were pretty good for grilling. I started to worry some about how I was going to cook such thick steaks, and how I would probably mess up twelve dollars' worth of steak.

Then I started worrying about school, if I was going to be any good at it, or if people would like me, or if I was ever planning on going up and unpacking all of my stuff, and if I could get a bigger screen for my projector, and who I was going to ask for help with things like that since my new school doesn't have mentors like my old school did. And once that got going, well, forget it. I got the last few things I needed, and finally the meat section was empty so I slipped the tri-tip back onto the shelf. I got a doughnut for myself, which I later ate furtively in the car in the parking lot, because when I start to go crazy like this, I sometimes turn into a junk food junkie, which adds fuel to the fire of these neurotic mini-meltdowns.

My sanity was somewhat restored when I checked out and the bill only came to $112. Actually, I was mildly amazed, but still so far gone worrying about all sorts of other things. I still needed the doughnut in my car.

So anyway, I knew that the waves of panic and terror would go away as soon as I told somebody about them (thanks, therapy!), and as soon as I got home I told Tyson, and we laughed, and it was no big deal. So don't you guys worry or anything. It's funny now (and probably was at the time, I suppose!). I just thought that, given my recent absence from the blogosphere, I would give you enough honesty that maybe you would be happy with just random links and comics and things again.


Brannon said...

I have that same buyers guilt most of the time. Even the simplest things make me feel like a hedonist.

I also find I have an honest desire to slap on their ears, from behind, when I'm in the grocery store.

Tyson said...

I can't believe you...
You totally horked a doughnut behind my back! You know how I love doughnuts!

Brannon said...

slap "people" on their ears from . . .

Elaine said...

That's a funny story. Next time, email me or even call. I love to cook. Not that I know it all; there's a lot I don't know, but it never hurts to ask. And as far as the stock lady in the meat dept... next time take the item back, plunk it down right in front of her and something like, "I decided to have the meat cut to order... it's a special occasion."

I hate going to the grocery store. I am always amazed at how NOTHING can cost over $100.00 and I can't even feed my family for a week.

Tammy said...

It's the European butter and the pie crust flour, Elaine. That shit will get you every time.

And Erin -- great post.

Elaine said...

That's pastry flour, Tammy, not pie crust flour; European butter and pastry flour, just the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

We just sprinkle onion & garlic powder and celery salt and ground pepper on strip steaks and grill them. It's very '60's. Other people have their own spice blends and rubs. I like mine to have a chance of reviving but I know that most like theirs a little more medium.

Food and Wine has a grilling slide show up right now:

Nick called on Fri and I offered to email my meatball recipe but he reluctantly refused, reporting that it was not healthy enough. I cried for half an hour. Your consumption of a doughnut gives me hope.

- Kathy