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Aisles of Smiles

It takes a divine sort of woman to be a domestic goddess, and I’m not her.

I won’t iron. I don’t sew. I can’t cook. My heart’s just not in it.

There’s an army of dog-hair tumbleweeds living under my bed, where it shouldn’t be. And a scandalous lack of all-purpose flour in my pantry, where it really should be.

What’s more, the conundrum of whether gray clothing should be washed with darks or lights so stymies me that I wind up standing in the laundry room with my head in my hands.




But there’s one household chore that I not only relish, I look forward to. I love it so much that I can’t even believe I get to do it. (Until now, I’ve never confessed this because once my husband discovers I enjoy it, I can no longer count it among the Chores I’m Willing to Endure for the Good of Our Family, and I may have to take over one of his nasty jobs — like killing bugs, plunging toilets and hauling Hefties to the curb — to restore the balance of matrimonial sacrifice.)

The chore that I cherish is grocery shopping.

When I stride up to a supermarket with my grocery list in hand, my inner Donna Reed emerges — back lit, of course, with impeccable eyebrows. She liberates a gleaming silver cart from its tangled metal nest, takes the deep breath of someone who knows her life is about to change for the better, and sashays through those automatic glass doors … into paradise.

I should confess here that as a convergence of my two favorite pastimes — shopping and eating — supermarkets don’t have to be fancy to please me. They just have to be open.

Under the fluorescent lights of a cavernous grocery store, my disdain for our culture’s sickening consumerism crumbles like the coffee cake samples they are giving away at the bakery. My concern for our nation’s lazy eating habits melts away like the frost on a box of family-size frozen lasagna.

Like red carpets rolled out before us, market aisles are stocked with the sum of human effort to this very moment: Salad in a bag. Wine in a box. Bean dip in a can.

The choices are exhilarating, the options limitless. And surprises abound: A jar of something called Chow Chow Piccalilli in the ethnic foods aisle. A twofer sale on that cereal that stays crunchy in milk. And — what the?! — a startling spray of cold mist when you’re reaching for the lettuce.

I count on the market’s enthusiastic endcap displays to remind me what holiday is fast approaching. “Ms. Roshell, don’t forget your Matzohs!” they warn. And if not for the magazine covers at the check-out counter, how would I know “What to wear this spring” and “How to have better sex”?

Here’s a disturbing confession, too. I freaking love market music. I’m the weirdo who openly, and not always tunefully, sings along with the fiendishly hooky songs that hover in the stagnant pocket of air between the shelf tops and the ceiling. I’ve crooned with UB40 near Gelson’s dairy case, done the pony down Trader Joe’s dry goods aisle and harmonized to “Sloop John B” in Albertson’s produce department.

But I always stop short when I get to the kitchen section. With its dangling meat thermometers and twinkling foil pans, I’m reminded that shopping and cheffing are two entirely different skills — that no amount of papaya-squeezing and pork loin-perusing will make me a skilled homemaker, and that just because I’m surrounded by sacks of buckwheat, hearts of palm and Hamburger Helper doesn’t mean I will ever know what to do with those damned intriguing products.

Still, I like the promise that a grocery store offers, the promise that when I’m ready to embrace the household arts, it will be there waiting with its brewer’s yeast, butcher’s string and those fancy melons that more gifted women can carve into garden party centerpieces.

Perhaps that’s what I’m really looking for when I prance down the aisles. I’m hoping a bottle of domestic inspiration will leap off the shelves and change me forever into someone who feels as empowered in front of a stove as she does in front of a Vons.

And I would worship such a goddess with all my cart.

Published inColumns

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