Monday, December 15, 2008

One for the Road

I think winter makes me hungry. The food themes keep on coming.

A quick story.

Tonight I had a few errands to run after work. There's snow on the streets in Chicago, and the streets are slick, meaning no one knows how to drive, and I'm getting a little frustrated. They should make people learn to drive in the winter, make us take our drivers tests in weather, seriously. Then set us loose.

This is the last errand, a trip to a modest grocery store. There must be hundreds of them in the city, but I go to this one because there's usually parking in front. And they keep late hours.

The shopkeeper is a quiet guy, an average sort of guy, deep middle-age, thin blondish hair that will never go gray. He's never said two words to me except maybe, Aisle Three to the left.

Not that he has to talk or smile, for sure not. People need the benefit of the doubt. Nobody has to be smiley any time of day. Nowhere is it written. And there's plenty to feel grumpy about, actually, no matter who you are. We all have stress. Remarkable levels of stress.

So he's generally not very communicative, not with me, and I am used to it, have come to expect it and even hope for some sort of dismal exchange. It's nice to be able to predict a few things along the road. I imagine my counter guy has to say, Aisle Three on your left too many times in a day.

As I pull up my cart he's counting up the coupons, organizing his drawer a little. He finishes what he's doing and without looking up, starts to ring up my items.

At some point I see him toss something into a white plastic bag and hear him mutter something under his breath. Peanut butter. I hear it clear as day.

I bought this off brand kind of peanut butter, all he's got on the shelf. I ask, "Is it any good, this peanut butter?"

He concentrates on bagging but raises his eyebrows. "I don't know."

So I ask, "So what did you say before you said peanut butter, anyway? I heard you say peanut butter, but didn't catch what you said before peanut butter."

He looks up at me for the first time in his life and says, "Grape jelly. I said, Grape jelly and peanut butter are my favorite. And that's what you have here. Grape jelly and peanut butter. Mmmmm Mmmmmm. I love grape jelly with peanut butter. It's my favorite thing on earth."

And he smiles.

"Mine too!" I lie. The truth is that I prefer orange marmalade to grape jelly, but grape takes a second, if a distant second. But you need grape jelly in the house in case you're in the mood sometime, and we've been out of it for too long. So I bought it, a big jar of Smucker's grape jelly.

He's obviously not impressed with the marshmallow fluff in my cart, hasn't commented on that. But it's good, too, if you haven't tried it, with peanut butter, if a little decadent nutrition-wise.

He's clearly happy now. "Yup! Grape jelly is the only way to eat a peanut butter sandwich!"

Excited, he engages me in this discussion and I couldn't be more pleased. Truthfully, there aren't very many people who care all that much here. He continues to say, "Did you ever try that Smuckers jelly-peanut butter combination? It comes in one jar, a mixture; peanut butter and jelly."

"No," I admit, thinking this is not for me, the peanut butter/jelly combo in a jar, that it's probaby too sweet. "But if you say it's good, I'll try it." And I'm thinking, well, maybe one day. He is convincing.

"It's amazing," he assures me, nodding furiously.

"Great, thanks for the tip."

"Any time," he says, friendly as can be, all smiles as I walk out the door.

The social lesson here, obviously, is that there's a way in to everyone. Right?



blognut said...

Delicious! Grape jelly and peanut butter is the best, especially if you can convince someone else to make it for you. And of course, the marshmallow fluff is a perfect snack folded into peanut butter on one slice of bread. We call that a fluffernutter and they must be eaten folded over on one slice. I have no explanation for this.

Anyway, I'm glad you finally got to talk to your grocery guy!

therapydoc said...

Blognut, you're right about folding. It is controversial, of course, but I think you're correct.

rosysunset said...

In high school, we took the fluffernutter one step beyond and made it the fluffFROnutter (made it with frozen yogurt rather than bread). Really, coop high school kids up with a frozen yogurt machine and it's amazing what "meals" you can create.

Oh, and the Smuckers grape/pb in one jar IS gross. I bought it once when I flew out to Cali for a job interview as a senior in college and vowed not to spend any "unnecessary" money. So I bought that one jar of grape/pb mix and a pack of tortillas and ate PJ and Jelly tortillas in a rental car for about six meals straight. I tell you, you can't get more gross than that!!!!!!

therapydoc said...

Rosy you were desperate. Those were desperate times. Now, I'm sure, you can afford a nice rye bread and some marmalade. Wait, what am I saying? These are desperate times, too. Make that white bread.

Harriet said...

Yeah, there is something grosser. The frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that come in a box and you put them in the toaster oven. Ick! I mean, how long does it really take to make an authentic PB&J?

nashbabe said...

People don't know how to drive in winter conditions in CHICAGO???? Say it ain't so.

blognut said...

Nash - It's SO! It's ridiculous, but it's SO! I forgot about that part of the story because I was so caught up in the excitement of peanut butter and jelly, or fluff, or whatever... but TD had it right. One should be required to take their driver's test in weather AND they should be required to test on Chicago's I-94 or I-294 so they learn multi-lane highways and merging. A whole separate blog post may be necessary on this! TD?

therapydoc said...

No, you write it and send it to me, and I'll bring it into some sublime psychological or social issue, like living.

Anonymous said...

You know I don't believe in genetics but I believe in geographical genetics and honestly you have to be American to enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. :-)
Very nice story though.

Mark said...

Yes there is a way into everyone. Because you were aware and listened you made this man's day. Great job! Hope you fulfilled your peanut butter jones.

Syd said...

It sounds as if you hit a really positive thing with him. And sometimes, it just takes some small thing that we have in common to light a spark.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Reminds me of the story, Somebody loves you, Mr. Hatch, by Eileen Spinelli. Maybe he had received a love letter the day before.

Isle Dance said...

Yes, yes and yes! There is a way in. And so true - that is the best way to learn how to drive. Love it. The lessons from such moments. :o)

Anonymous said...

Reese's brand peanut butter. The bomb. I am not a bot. :)

therapydoc said...

It does make sense, Reeses. ILANADAV, hold on a second. Didn't the Israeli's invent the chocolate sandwich?

Battle Weary said...

My bday is in January...I took my driving test the day after a huge snow storm in northern Nebraska. WAY northern the sand hills (10 points if you know where that is without looking it up!). Then 6 months later my family went to LA to visit the grandparents and my dad took me "for a drive"...he had me get on and off the 405 several times. I can drive anywhere, in any weather!

Cham said...

I once survived an entire summer away eating that gross goober stuff out of the jar (thats what the PB&J mix is called)... at it with a spoon in place of meals. I think it is good but when substituted for meals just turns some kind of nasty.

the psycho therapist said...

Oh my, yes, there is usually a way "in" and I, of course (laughing) go for it most of the time. What I don't do, however, is alter my internal "truth" when responding. That's just me. It's a longstanding way of being. (Please know my words are not meant to be critical or mean-spirited. I was just struck by our differences in such an interaction.)

You've given me food for further thought. Thank you for that.

therapydoc said...

Psycho, food for thought, groan! Unconscionable.

It's a boundary thing, btw, the way I respond, and it tends to help me to have loose ones, loose boundaries, not that it's wrong to not be loose, of course, there's no right or wrong here.

FD said...

For the carb-challanged, try PB on a banana (directly). I think my late father used to snack on that (he was from The South, of course).

Barbara said...

Relating to this post from so many sides. What your simple story evoked.

The last few years of my life have looked like the store clerk's, so I've been seeing from that inside out. Yet, I work with a therapy doc in Chicago. And I found that I can access some social ability again. A situation I thought was all but lost to me.

The truth is we who have lived in Chicago for any length of time were taught how to drive in all inevitable weather, get on an off expressways, merge, show caution and courtesy in less than ideal weather. But probably like so much else, folks have selective memory and an over abundance of me first attitudes mixing with their driving skills.

As far as which peanut butter, Smuckers Natural is the only commercial brand that's only ingredient is peanuts. Once you acquire a taste for PB without the sugar and various other additives, you can not only have the decadence but a little self righteousness on having added no chemicals via your food. Feeling free then to add as much sugar laden jelly on top...

therapydoc said...

And we haven't even started on peanuts.

Anonymous said...

Strawberry jam and peanut butter! Yum!

prin said...

ok, I just woke up...OMG! peanut butter and marshmallow fluff...i can not describe what my not-quite-awake stomach is doing right now. I hated peanut butter growing up and it wasn't until I turned 35 that I developed a taste for it. Now I love it. Skippy is the only way to go for me, even with all it's additives :) I find grape jam a much easier way to go. It spreads much easier and looks prettier...yes I'm anal that way :)
don't even get me started on the incompetence of the general public as drivers. Coming from Mississippi I can honestly say I did not learn how to drive until I was a courier in Atlanta, where driving is a life or death situation every minute of every day.

jeanie said...

Wow - we don't have snow and we don't do peanut paste with anything but honey.

I think it must be an American thing.

Vegemite and avocado, now there is a taste sensation - but I fear Kraft will never find the secret of getting the cracked pepper and lemon juice in quite the right proportions to bottle it.