I turn into something of a hedonist the moment I enter a grocery store. I can even feel the change as I get closer and closer. The store I frequent most is the Whole Foods located in the basement of a fancy complex near my office. I always start out with a clear purpose, walking quickly while bracing against the wind, mentally telling myself that "I'm only picking up a couple things--some chicken breasts, a few vegetables, perhaps a bit of ham." I plan out sensible meals, well-budgeted meals that will keep me fed and happy for the duration of the week.
And then I step onto the escalator.
Something happens to me in those 40 seconds as I descend into the bustling store. All sense of reason and propriety seem to drift out of me, only to be replaced by some kind of epicurean insanity. Once in the store, I pull off my big fur hat and shove my gloves in my giant purse. These are deposited in the cart (never a basket) and off I go!
Darting through the aisles in no particular order. Sea scallops! Do I get 5 or 6? Enough for a meal...oh no...I need an entire pound. And I'll take a bag of mussels too... Thick slabs of cured bacon from the butcher. Fresh Italian sausage (spicy and sweet). A few veal shanks. Some tenderloin. And a bit of prosciutto while we're at it (imported; never domestic).
Blood oranges (get them while I can...) And Meyer lemons! As many as possible (they won't be around for long, after all...) Olive oil! I could just go with the perfectly decent Whole Foods brand, but why when there are so many other gorgeous (expensive) options. And why not grab a bottle of white truffle oil while I'm at it? And perhaps some walnut oil, too? The spices are next: a few vanilla beans, some saffron, smoked paprika, pink peppercorns, fleur de sel... You know! The basics...
I'm a sucker for preserved fish: smoked salmon fillets, peppered herring, cans of sardines, and a jar or two of imported tuna--ventresca cut, of course. Those buttery chunks straight from the belly of the tuna packed in rich olive oil. Mmmm... (Oh...never mind the mercury!).
On to the refrigerator case where I stock up on pates, freshly marinated artichokes, creamy logs of goat cheese, and--my favorite--half-sours. Oh yes...those glorious green quasi-cucumbers bobbing around in the briny water. God! They even *look* crisp!
On to the cheeses--a tiny wheel of brie, of course. Some English cheddar. A wedge of parmeggiano for grating. Maybe some pecorino or manchego (don't forget the quince paste and marcona almonds!).
And somehow I'm back in produce--I grab some red pepper, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Then the herbs: cilantro, some parsley, a few sprigs of rosemary, some fresh bay leaves, and my current favorite herb: lemon-thyme. Try it! It's citrus-scented thyme (and it's completely natural). Really---I think it's quite possibly the only reason why chicken even exists: mash into butter and stuff it under the skin of a well-washed roaster. Some kosher salt. A few generous cracks of pepper. You'll thank me...
By now I'm guessing you see the trend? I subsist off one gigantic antipasto platter! I lug these spoils home in those ugly but wonderfully convenient recycled bags with the long handle that fits perfectly over my arm. My shoulders usually feel like they're going to fall off by the time I get off my train, but nothing--NOTHING--beats that fantastic feeling after I put all the food away and realize that I have everything I need to make several incredible meals.
Um...everything but eggs. And milk. Butter. Trash bags... Damn! Where did I put the keys again?