Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Have a New Happy Place

I make no secret of the fact that I love grocery shopping. I do. I love it. Sometimes I prefer to go by myself so I can peruse the aisles as many times as I want without being rushed. I've even been known to go grocery shopping for people who hate it. While it makes them tense and anxious, it calms me and sometimes energizes me.

However, not every grocery store is created equal. In May of 2009 I flew into London to stay with my parents who were teaching there at the time. They were on a train returning back to London from somewhere, so I dropped my luggage off in their flat (oh man, I really want to go back) and headed outside towards Kensington. Where did I go first? Whole Foods. It's not like I'd never been to Whole Foods before it's just that the store in Kensington is the most celestial of all the Whole Foods kingdoms in the land. They have a station where you can mix your own granola, they have a café and bistro upstairs where you can get crepes, paninis, soups, anything. The layout, design and merchandising appeals to me I suppose. But what impresses me most, is at the top of the stairs, just by the bistro is a glass door that says “art department” on it. Inside you can watch all the graphic designers at work. Any place of business that highlights the importance of art in their success wins me over. So I bought a scone for me, some flowers for my mom (it was Mother's Day), and sat down in the lounge and enjoyed myself as I looked out at the double-decker buses and taxis passing by. I visited that Whole Foods often during my three week stay.

Salt Lake City is lucky enough to have a couple Whole Foods within a reasonable proximity. I go there on occasion. It’s nothing like the Kensington Whole Foods, and apparently nothing like the one in Park City (a friend told me they have an oatmeal bar for breakfast which I would definitely enjoy).

A couple years ago I visited the new Harmon’s down by IKEA. I heard all sorts of wonderful things about it: how big it was, the little café upstairs, the gelato bar…so I had to go see it for myself.

I walked in bright eyed and bushy tailed with my little cart (I like the little carts) and looked around like I had just stepped into Disneyland, not sure where I should go first. I walked over to the deli section where I saw a man giving away samples of cheese. He was light and jolly and friendly to everyone who walked by. It took me a minute before I thought, "Hey, I know that guy!" I was surprised because it was a man I would normally describe as a curmudgeon of sorts, but here, at Harmon’s he’s happy. And how could you be anything but happy, bringing people joy by introducing them to mouthwatering cheeses. I envied him a little.

I longed for a Harmon’s closer to my home in downtown SLC. If I’m ever driving in Holladay or Sandy, I always do some shopping at Harmon’s. I guess I prefer to support local businesses; I like that they sell local products (even though most grocery stores have that offering these days).

But I have a new happy place. Maybe it’s because the downtown Harmon’s isn’t here yet, and it’s true I have not yet been to the new Whole Foods at Trolley, but my loyalties have divided.

On Tuesday I shopped at the new Sunflower Market on 200 South and 700 East. It was advertised as having it's "grand" opening on Wednesday, but I did a slow drive by a week earlier and on the doors I saw a sign that read “sneak preview” on Tuesday. So after work, I snuck in.

Now, I shop at Sunflower Market often, but I normally drive to Murray to do it. So, the fact that SM is now 5 minutes from my home is point number one. They get another point for having the “half carts” as I like to call them. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an entire family to shop for, but I love not having to push a giant cart around a grocery store. It’s a perfect size for Laura and there’s a nice little slot for my purse.

Sunflower Market is a chain in the western states, but they sell local produce and other products. My favorite thing about this place is their emphasis on produce. It’s mostly all about the produce. They sell high quality fruits and vegetables for much less than you would find at Smith’s, Harmon’s and (especially) Whole Foods. You can get a head of green leaf lettuce for 99 cents. Smith’s price? $2.49.

Also if you hit the sales right you can get raw almonds for $3.99 lb, dark chocolate covered almonds for $4.99 lb, organic steel cut oats for 89 cents a lb, and all sorts of other great bulk items. I also stocked up on strawberries for 88 cents a lb. which was awesome. They have a new sale each Wednesday that you can have emailed to you weekly. The flyer also lists all the fruits and vegetables which are currently in season.

Maybe it’s because food makes me so happy – especially good quality and nutritious food, but I’ll probably be going to the giant Smith’s a lot less and the little Sunflower Market a lot more. Tonight I need to pick up some fennel, an onion and a red pepper so I can make this:

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Early Bird Special at Canyon Creek

Up until Saturday afternoon, I hadn’t visited Grandma since Christmas Eve. My days off fill up pretty fast sometimes, but this past weekend I was free. Last time I saw Grandma I brought her soup. She was at lunch when I came by so I brought it to her table in the dining hall. She accidentally spilled it all over and felt SO bad. I told her I’d bring her soup again, and so the other day I made some mushroom and barley soup, hopped in my car and drove myself to Canyon Creek.

When I walked into her room, she was laying down on the bed and told me to come join her. This picture is of her asking me questions such as "Who are you dating these days? What makes you happy?" and "Where's your father?" She asked if I wanted to join her downstairs for dinner. For some reason I said "sure!" like it was the best idea I've heard in a long time.

And it was.

On the way down we ran into other residents, and some nurses that work there. Everyone greeted Grandma with a “Hi sweetie!” “Hi Betty!” “Hi cute thing!” and that annoyed Grandma to no end. It was so weird. This little nurse said, “Hi sweet Betty” and then before Grandma could interject, the nurse beat her to the punch and said “Oh, stop that!” This scowl came across Grandma’s face like I’ve never seen.

“Grandma, what’s wrong?”
“They always say, ‘Hi Betty, How are you Betty? Good to see you Betty!”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Betty is such a common name.”
(Me laughing), “You don’t like your name?”
“I think Elizabeth is nicer, don’t you?”
“Is Elizabeth your full name?”
“No. Laura is a nice name. There’s a whole movie about a girl named Laura”

And then she started to sing the theme song to the 1944 murder mystery.

We sat down to dinner and realized I couldn’t order anything because I didn’t have a meal card, nor did I want to buy one (I wasn’t hungry). But they gave me a Dr. Pepper. Grandma briefed me on all the ladies that would be joining us at the table up in her room. She told me all about Maureen, Charlotte, Edith and Carol. Edith is in love with Shane, their physical therapist and she is 96, but she looks younger than Grandma (91). Charlotte is from Georgia, and Carol lives off scrambled eggs and Coke.

I sat at Maureen’s place because she was gone. Carol and Charlotte joined us eventually.

Grandma ordered the soup.
Charlotte ordered a hot dog.
Carol ordered scrambled eggs and a Coke.

Apparently Carol always orders a Coke at the table and then one to go so she can drink it up in her room and stay awake for Craig Ferguson. “If you ever have indigestion, drink a Coke,” Carol said as she fished the ice out of her cup with a fork and put it in an empty cup (much like another person I know). I told her I prefer Dr. Pepper. Carol agreed it was tastier. Grandma started to talk about how Dr. Pepper is better for you than Coke...that discussion went on for awhile.

Then we talked about Craig Ferguson. Carol formulated a detailed argument about why he was funny that eventually satisfied Grandma.

After about 10 minutes of conversation Grandma finally tasted her soup. She took two bites and then sent it back. Then she went on and on about the soup I brought her last time I came. “Did you know, Laura brought me some soup, and I spilled it all over the table.” The ladies seemed familiar with the story. So familiar in fact that they could tell it back in better detail than Grandma could. Then Grandma told Carol that I brought her some mushroom and barley soup. “Doesn’t that sound delicious?” she asked, to which Carol replied “No, it sounds awful. I don’t like barley and I don’t like mushrooms.”

We talked about Charlotte a little bit (she was sitting at the table, but she wasn’t so talkative). Apparently Charlotte and her husband moved to Hercules, Utah (didn’t know there was such a place) because her husband was going to work on the atomic bomb. “And then they had six nuclear kids” Carol said.

But most of the conversation was centered around the less than satisfactory food they serve at Canyon Creek. They complained about the chef and how he is cheap and doesn’t know how to cook. He always serves cake with a dollop of jam on top and no one at that table likes cake.

It wasn’t long before the waiter brought out dessert. Tonight it was little saucers with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream. Grandma, Carol and Charlotte, to my surprise, all picked up their forks to eat the ice cream. Charlotte, after saying virtually nothing for the past 45 minutes says, “Does anyone have a blow torch?” That's when Grandma started to laugh so hard tears streamed down her face. “You see, they scoop out the ice cream,” (ten seconds of laughter), “and then they put it back in the freezer” (laughing), “and then...and then he takes it out and gives it to us when it’s hard as a rock.” They all started chipping away at the ice cream with their forks and ate two or three little shavings at a time.

During dessert Grandma and Carol talked about healthy food, vs. unhealthy food. Grandma got a little impatient and looked at Carol to say, “Just because you married a doctor doesn’t mean you have all the answers.” Carol’s response is what earned her my favorite person of the week award:

“I’ve never used that as an excuse.”

Edith, who eventually joined us at the table didn’t touch her ice cream. She told the waiter she didn’t want it. The waiter took it away and my grandma said to him, “Well, are you just going to waste that?”

“No, we have a freezer we can put it in for tomorrow.”

I'm definitely doing this again.