Friday, May 28, 2010

The Chain Grocery OR the Farmers' Market and Long Time Ago

Last week, I got caught at the end of the day sans plan for dinner.  The boys mentioned that they had missed out on the cinnamon rolls at school-breakfast (I know, I should be all, up and rearin' to go in the morning, but I'm not.  Also.  School breakfast is under a buck.  Probably as sugary and trans-fatty as they get, but there it is.  It is a bit bizarre that I do not buy processed food for my family, but I don't make bag lunches or breakfast everyday.  What can I say?)  I wanted to make up for the loss, so I immediately agreed to breakfast dinner featuring Cook's Illustrated, Quick Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Icing.  The first snag: no butter.  Second: no brown sugar.  No problem, I live point-nuthin' from the grocery store.  Zip-zip, I was in, got a few things.  To be exact: brown sugar, butter, 1 pint of buttermilk, 1 pint of strawberries, one box of veggie sausages.  $13.87.

This really bugs me.  $13.87 for hardly anything.  As I am handing over the cash, I remember my grandparents.  In 1948, when my grandparents married, there were no jobs.  Their rent was $50.00 a month, her beautiful green Oldsmobile was $50 a month, and if you spent $50 dollars on food at the store, you could eat for a month(they did not because that was way more money than they had).  He was lucky enough to get a job as a Oil Rig Engineer Trainee working for Haliburton outside of Shreveport, Louisiana.  Trainees dug ditches.  They were paid 85¢ an hour.  He had to work at least 80 hours before they would give him his pay.  Remember I said lucky to get a job?  At the end of 12 months, there was a balloon payment due on her car.  They had to sell it.

Eventually, a position opened back in their home town and he took it.  They moved back and bought a tiny duplex.  The payment like to have killed them.  Their mortgage was $85 a month.  They were able to rent out the other side and that helped.  His new job paid $185 a month.  It was the most money he'd ever made in his life.

On the weekends, they would go to the football game at the high school, the highlight of the week.  One of the men that worked with Granddaddy was a poor, black man.  Granddaddy was fond of Clarence and he knew that he would enjoy the football games, but he couldn't afford the ticket.  Even if Clarence could have afforded the ticket, he wouldn't have been allowed to sit in the stands because of the segregation laws in place at the time.  So together with Gram they devised a plan to help him see the games, without having to buy a ticket.

With the help of Pearlie, their maid, they cooked up 200 hotdogs and made some fragrant and delicious chili.  Then they would go down to the game and sit where the breeze would pick up the scent of the chili and carry its perfume all over the stands.  Hotdogs with chili sold for a quarter a piece.  They sold out before the game started.  The next week, they made up 1000 dogs and an even bigger pot of Pearlie's delicious chili.  Again they sat where the breeze would catch the scent of the chili and again, they were a wild success.  This time they sold out before halftime.  The next week, they made up 2000 hotdogs and as much of Pearlie's scrumptious, heavenly chili as they could carry.  Again they sat in their favorite breezy spot.  By now, Gram, Grandaddy, and Clarence were the hit of the game.  Gram was so tickled that she lost interest in the game and was just floored by all the quarters that their ploy had garnered them.  When they ran out of dogs after Halftime, they sold chili on buns for a quarter.  This is one of my favorite stories that Granddaddy tells.

It is for this reason that spending $15, $20, $40 on a home cooked meal makes me crazy.  I for all my failings in organization, am the queen of <$5 dinners.  Increasingly, this is becoming next to impossible to do while shopping at the local Grocery Store.  I hate cutting coupons, I don't get the paper, I won't be playing the Grocery Game anytime soon.  So as a picture is worth a thousand words, I wanted to share with you my weeks worth of veggies from the Farmer's Market (which cost $23.56, but when combined with beans, tortillas, and grains from our pantry this will last us all week).
Clockwise from the left: fava beans, cactus paddles,
 okra, ginger, spaghetti squash, napa cabbage, cantaloupe,
cute  little brown mushrooms, summer squash, roma tomatoes,
cucmbers, organic carrots, tomatillos, and
cream peas.


Anonymous said...

I love reading stories like this. Thanks for sharing it. I've been thinking along the same lines lately and, like you, it pains me to spend so much on so little. I hope that our gardens are bountiful so that we can cut back our grocery bill on produce. I heard that we have an organic farmer's market in a little country town about half an hour from us. I don't know how far it would be from you, but if it's a gem, I'll let you know.

Patty said...

I love our farmers' markets as well, but I always find we are spending more on produce there, than at someplace like ALDI or an ethnic produce mart (which abound in Chicago). I wonder if the farmers' market prices are comparable to the regular chain grocery stores here.

Anyway, the taste of the fruit and tomatoes is usually worth it.

Thanks for the story!