Tag Archives: Kroger

A Sumo and a Sparrow Meet In a Grocery Store

Kroger is turning into my meditative place, like an ashram with a deli. I seem to have a lot of epiphanies there–about peaches and crushes, parking lot rage, or canoodling in the pasta aisle. This week, I cried a little in the produce section after I made three loops and realized that the Sumo mandarins are gone again. Maybe FOREVER.

About a month ago, in the grayest gray of February that ever dared to gray, I got annoyed during a traffic jam in the produce section. You know when people just leave a cart in the middle of the aisle instead of parallel parking it? Grrrr. As I waited in my cloud of righteous indignation, an Asian grandmotherish woman waited for the produce manager to peel an orange and give her a sample.

“See how easy they peel? They don’t look like much but they have a great flavor. Real sweet.” He held a half of the orange in one gloved hand and offered her a wedge. As soon as she put it in her mouth, she began to smile and nod. Her husband got a plastic bag from the roller and started pawing through the bin of oranges. And still, I waited for them to move.

sumoBecause I was forced to wait, the aroma had time to get to my sniffy little piqued nose. Dang–that DID smell good. And it sure didn’t smell one bit like February. I grabbed four of the knobbly oranges with the weird sumoesque topknot thingy aroung the stem.

The next morning, I plopped down like a dirty snowman on the couch at the beginning of another gray day. As I peeled the Sumo, Carlos climbed up beside me and we shared bite after bite. I swear that orange kept me from crying that day.

At night, the oranges stopped me from snacking on sweet stuff. In the morning, they started my day off right. For a glorious week, I ate them morning, noon, and night.

The next week when I returned to Kroger, they were gone. I asked the produce manager if they had any in the back. I NEVER do that. He returned with the news that the Sumos were gone and they probably weren’t getting any more. They had been too hard to sell. Too many people looked at the ugly outside and passed them up for a dependable old navel.

I cried, y’all. I stood right there in front of the lunchbox sized apples and sank into a citrusy funk. My inner monologue was pretty much, “Oh, RIGHT. I forgot that I can’t have ANYTHING nice.” Yadda yadda February yadda.

I moved on to Cuties, but it wasn’t the same.

Then the next week, like magic, the Sumos were back. I spent scads of dollars on two bags and hid them in the car and in my office so the kids wouldn’t gobble them up. I know, that’s pathetic, but you do what you gotta do to make it through February. I stretched the Sumos until the calendar rolled over to March.

Maybe this weird new hybrid fruit was catching on! This week, I had my hopes up that Athens had seen the true path and the demand for Sumos would carry us until springtime.

Nope. They were gone. Again. I made three trips around the piles of grapefruit, tangelos, mandarins, lemons, ugli fruit…nope.


Before I could get to feeling too robbed, I heard an outside sound there inside the Kroger. Chirping. Up in the steel rafters, right above the produce section, a tiny sparrow flitted overhead.

I’m sure someone (probably the produce manager) thinks of that bird as a nuisance. I don’t. Sure, it’s gonna poop on something eventually, but there’s a narrow chance of getting pooped on just about anywhere you go.

That little bird cheered me up. It really doesn’t give a damn about whether there are Sumos this week or not. It makes a meal of whatever is left over or dropped. Imagine the plentitude it has foundinside that store! No cats, no hunger, no wind, no rain. Always warm and dry. We could look at it and think, “Poor thing is trapped in here, away from its natural home.” Or we could look at it and think, “Dude…Jackpot!”

It reminded me of that little bird in Bermuda that I wrote about in A Life Made of Crumbs. Gimpy, we called him, due to his little twisted leg. Every afternoon at four p.m., he hop-wobbled around the terrace at tea time, making a feast from the crumbs we dropped from our scones and cucumber sandwiches.

Well, this story has gone on so long, it’s the middle of March. So I guess I made it out of February, Sumos or not. Jackpot!




Let’s Go Krug-ering

I blame Jay-Z and my childhood friend Mollie Battenhouse for this story…

This afternoon, I stood in a daze before the fancy champagne case at Kroger.  The wine guy walked past me and asked, “Are you finding what you’re looking for?”  I, pushing a cart filled with sugar cookie mix, green sprinkles, macaroni, ground beef and–gasp–watermelon flavored toothpaste, felt like a total fraud.

“Oh,” I giggled, “I’m just daydreaming.”  He must have been bored because he came over to stand beside me even though I couldn’t have been putting out the “I’m looking for a $300 bottle of champagne” vibe.  He nodded toward the carefully locked case and asked, “Which one are you thinking about?”

I pointed to the bright gold label on the Veuve-Clicquot.  “My sister and I drank several bottles of that in Chicago a few years back.  I didn’t know I was pregnant with my daughter.”  He laughed.  “When she was born, I bought that one–I pointed to the Billecart-Salmon rose with the subtle pink label–to celebrate the day we brought her home from the hospital.”   Next I waved to the elegant dark blue Pommery.  “I drank a bottle of that one year on New Year’s Eve, in Paris–all by myself.”  His eyebrows climbed higher and he laughed, “That sounds like a good night!”  It wasn’t, but that had nothing to do with the champagne.  I didn’t tell him how sad I had been that night, how I had cried at a table for one.  Instead, I asked–

krugomot“Do you carry Krug?”

He started with a little flutter, “A vintage?  I, uh, I can get that for you.”

It was my turn to flutter.  “Oh, I probably won’t do it, but having a bottle of champagne like that is on my bucket list.”  And thanks to Mollie and Jay-Z, I had woken up that Saturday dreaming about fine champagne.  Mollie is a wine expert in New York and her birthday was this week.  She mentioned on Facebook that she enjoyed Krug champagne with her birthday lunch.  Ahhhhhh.  And my friend, Saralyn has tickets to see Jay-Z coming up.  All that–plus the Nyquil and humidifier–cooked in my brain last night and morphed into a dream.

In the dream I was at a small venue Jay-Z concert, like a hotel ballroom.  I was wandering around before the show started when Jay-Z pulled up his gunmetal gray pickup truck right in front of me and parked it by the stage.  Pickup truck, you ask?  Well, OF COURSE–he had amps and stuff in the back.  I helped him tote a couple of cables and told him that I was looking forward to the show.  He said, “Hey, thanks for helping–drink Kansas City Royals v New York Yankeessome of this with me.”  He took out a giant bottle of Krug and poured me a plastic cup full to the rim.  Delightful! I remember looking down at the golden glow and watching the small bubbles dance.  I remember the cool feel of the cup in my hand, just the right temperature.  I took a sip and it was the best thing I had ever tasted.  I thanked Jay and made my way back to my seat.  I remember thinking in the dream how lucky I was to have something so rare, right there in my hand.  Just another Friday night in my head.

So….what WAS I doing looking for Krug in Kroger?

I really do want to plop down hard-earned money on a world class bottle of champagne one day.  It won’t become a habit, but it’s just something I’d like to experience.  Some people dream of blowing money on a Chanel bag or taking a cruise–I’d rather sit down in a pleasant spot with a pleasant friend and treat ourselves to a bottle of something magical.  Like a 1928 Krug.

In the year between Richard’s passing and when I started to date again, I discovered the mystery of fine wine.  My sister took me to dinner at Gramercy Tavern in New York about a month after Richard died.  The restaurant and the people in it were all so beautiful that I fought feelings of guilt when we were first seated.  It felt odd to be so carefree, on a lark.  I’ll never forget the first dish–pate de foie gras on toast points with a side of ramps soaked in vinegar, paired with a chilly Sauternes.  I didn’t even know what a ramp was then, and I thought Sauternes was supposed to be for dessert, but I dove in.  The combination proved sublime.  I almost cried at the table because I felt such sudden joy–that some chef decided to make this, that my sister had brought me here, that I was alive to enjoy it.  Goose liver and bread and tiny spring onions, vinegar and sugar twirled together on my palate to remind me just how much fun it is to experience the world through my senses.

Inspired by that meal, I spent a few Tuesday nights at the local wine shop for tastings.  Wine excited me because there was so much to know about it that I could never learn it all and it was a relief to me–at that late sad point in my life–to discover that there was something so new out there to explore.

alvear-pedro-ximenez-1927-e1367699508617I once invested in a half case of Pedro Ximenes Alvear Solera 1927 because I was so intrigued by the vintage.  This dessert wine is created by blending a little bit of each vintage–all the way back to 1927.  The blending gives the wine a richness and depth that you can’t get from just one year.  When the first grapes for that Solera were picked, my grandfather was 25 years old.  No one knew about World War II.

My grandfather died that spring, a year after Richard did.  He lived to be 103.  Richard made it to 38.  When I sipped that sweet wine in 2006, I was tasting the sunlight and the rain from all those years, all swirling together into this moment, this day.  The beauty of wine for me is that every bottle captures a moment and in that moment, a world.

I guess that’s what I was daydreaming about, there in the Kroger wine aisle.  I haven’t had much time or money to explore wine since the kids came along, but I still like the idea of it.  Those days will come again and one day, maybe Gay and I will take Vivi to France.  It’s all one life.  The macaroni days and the champagne days.