Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Food, glorious food!

I'm trying hard not to craft any kind of list about the things that suck about moving. You know - think positive and all that. But one thing keeps coming to mind (or stomach) over and over. Grocery stores.

Ok, so I lived in one (small) town for two years. Fortunately this small town was in the same state that I had been living in for 10 years, so the grocery store chains were the same. I got very comfortable with my neighborhood grocery stores. Grocery stores are good when you can walk in and know exactly where to find the items you need. It's never anything so conscious as "Rice is in aisle 2," but as you walk through, you know just where the items you always buy are.

Now, I have moved 1,000 miles away, and none of my grocery stores exist here. How did this happen? Day 1, I went to Wal-mart. It's a super Wal-mart, so there's a good selection of food. But it was a Saturday night at about 7:00, so I can never go back there. It was an upsetting experience.

Week 1, I got the recommendation of going to Aldi. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a German store, and forcefully reminded me of the tiny stores that I would shop in when I lived in Europe. Let me expand that short definition: 1. You can't trust the produce. There is very little of it and it quickly rots. 2. There is no selection. Conducting my first major grocery shopping venture, I was simply interested in staples. Like rice. They only had one option - white minute rice. That's not ok! I need a grocery story with at least half an aisle of rice!

Week 2, I found a Shop'n'Save very close to my apartment. Deja vu of the Aldi experience. But I can't remember if I found any rice at all.

Week 2 continued. Later that same week, in a desperate attempt to find some kind of real food (because now I am only eating peanut butter and yogurt), I tried the Price Chopper. For the full effect - imagine pulling into the parking lot of a very large strip mall, where fully 1/2 of the strip mall is dedicated to one store, the heavens open, a shining light falls on the roof and illuminated red sign, angels sing praises. For surely, a store of this size will have real food, real variety, and even (I dared to hope) gluten-free options. Foolish youth. For no such paradise exists at the Price Chopper. Real food, real selection, I even purchased some brown rice, and for a fun treat - polenta and pesto. But my hopes were dashed as I wandered up and down every single aisle searching for some gluten-free bread, cereal, anything!

Week 3. My students continue to ask me if I have settled in. I shared with them the short version of my grocery store woes. They looked puzzled and perplexed. Then said there are two grocery stores nearby that I have not yet attempted: Hy-vee and Thriftway. I equated the sound of "Thriftway" with Aldi and Shop'n'Save, and decided that (since I was running out of yogurt) I would attempt the Hy-vee.

Clearly I don't learn very quickly, because I walked in a saw an entire section of the store devoted to Organic/Health Food, and was immediately hopeful. Surely with 5 aisles of organic food, they have included gluten-free options. No. I wandered up and down the shelves, no gluten-free cereal, no gluten-free pasta. But then, I turned the last corner, and a small shelf dedicated entirely to gluten-free food.

But I still can't find the salad dressing.

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