I get the same questions over and over and over. The most frequent one is, “Don’t you ever run out of things to write about?”
Well, no — because here I am again. I usually say that as long as there are people in the world I will have something to write about because people do the most outrageous things. Sometimes columns just write themselves.
The second most frequent question, other than, “Where is your lovely wife, Lisa?” is “When do you write?”
Normally I write early in the morning, when the world is still not quite awake. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am starting to write this particular column at 10:38 a.m. on a Thursday.
Thursday mornings used to be special for me when I was a child because that’s when my daddy bought groceries every week. Yes, my daddy did the grocery shopping in our house. He worked second shift in the mill — from 3 to 11 — and my mama worked the 7-3 shift and cooked huge suppers every night, so it just made logistical sense that Daddy would go to the grocery store. In the summer and in the years before I started school I would go and “help” him. I loved those trips to the store.
We shopped at Big Apple most of the time, but would usually go by Colonial, too, if they had good “specials” that week. I go to our local Publix almost every day. There was none of that running to the store day by day for Homer Huckaby. Gasoline cost a quarter a gallon, for goodness sakes, and time was even more valuable. He bought a week’s worth of groceries at a time and you’d better believe that they lasted us a week.
My daddy had a system for everything, and grocery shopping was no exception. First he sat down and scoured the sales ads so he would know what he should expect to pay for what items. He never made a list, but he took inventory of the pantry and the refrigerator before leaving for the store and he knew in his mind exactly what we needed. And that’s what we bought. There was no spontaneity involved and he did not succumb to the allure of well-placed displays or two-for-one bargains on items we did not need.
When we got to the store we would traverse the center aisles of the store first, picking up any canned goods or other staples we might need. Daddy believed in brand loyalty and instead of buying what was on sale on canned goods he would wait until the brand he liked was on sale and stock up. We drank Maxwell House coffee and spread Blue Plate mayonnaise on our tomato sandwiches and washed our clothes in Tide detergent, and that’s just the way it was.
We didn’t buy many canned vegetables and such. Mama put up vegetables all summer and we used those. We did buy a few cans of cream of tomato soup, each week, however. Cream of tomato soup went well with grilled cheese sandwiches on Sunday nights. One thing that he did buy according to price was peanut butter, primarily because he didn’t eat it. I always wanted Peter Pan, because he was one of my heroes, but if Skippy or Jif were on sale, I would be eating Skippy or Jif.
After we perused the center aisles we would get the bread and Daddy always reached toward the back of the display and felt to make sure the loaves were fresh. He would get two loaves a week. We bought Merita bread because the Lone Ranger advertised it and I loved the Lone Ranger. I am guessing there wasn’t any difference in the price of bread because it wouldn’t have mattered who advertised a loaf of bread if our grocery dollars could have been stretched just a little.
Our next stop was the produce stand. Daddy would examine the produce like a cattle baron would examine a prize steer and he would always remind the produce man — they had produce men in those days — not to weigh his thumb with the bananas, or the pole beans or whatever it was he was weighing.
Then we would buy “cold foods,” which usually amounted to Blue Bonnet margarine because they brought milk and cream right to the door back in the day. Our last stop was the meat counter and this is where we spent the most time. The butcher was a family friend and a lot of visiting went with picking out the best cuts of meat. So did a lot of grumbling about how much meat cost.
Finally it would be time to go through the checkout line. I loved to help unload the buggy — yes, buggy. They did not have “shopping carts” at the local Big Apple. I always marveled at the way the belt would carry the food forward, and at how fast the checkout lady’s fingers flew over the pre-bar-code-era cash register. And, no, we never bought candy or Cokes or any other nonsensical items. They weren’t on the budget or the diet.
The bag boy would load up the groceries, take them out to the car and load them into the “boot.” No tips were ever involved of which I am aware. And that was our Thursday morning.
Now it is 11:07 and I have made myself hungry, so excuse me while I run to the store for a rotisserie chicken and a gallon of ice cream. I got some of my daddy’s good qualities, but not the sensible shopper gene.