Thursday, September 15, 2011


Every month, we make an excursion to Costco. There is initially great excitement at the prospect (we don't get out much), and everyone eagerly piles into the car. The kids look forward to the sample tasting. Mr Berman mentally eyes the electronics and prepares to make his case for an extra 50" flatscreen TV. I contemplate which new kitchen appliances I will buy and barely use.

What we always forget is that Saturday afternoon at Costco is hell. Thousands of tortured souls who could not resist temptation, forced to spend an eternity consumed with anguish and futile dreams of escape. We remember this as soon as turn into the parking lot. The conversation is always the same.

"Looks crowded."
"Should have come early, right when it opens."
"Or midweek, after work."

We drive around for 15 minutes, and if we are lucky, eventually find a space without fisticuffs. Parking space sabotage is common. People cut you with steely resolve, and would run over their own children in order to secure a spot. I have a strong moral compass when it comes to parking etiquette, and these outrages have me practically frothing at the mouth. By the time I stagger out of the car, I am exhausted by the strong language and hand signs I have been forced to distribute.

It only gets worse.

The place is impossibly crowded, which enforces a sedate shuffle. I am not sedate, nor do I shuffle. I prize energy, efficiency, speed. But these virtues count for nothing in Costco. So I shuffle around with the crowd, as energetically, efficiently, and speedily as I can, practically grinding my teeth to powder in the process.

Here is our shopping list:
Supersize cheddar
Supersize yogurt
Supersize pretzels
Supersize cheerios
Supersize houmous
Supersize rice
Supersize peas
It continues, in the same vein, for 3 pages.

In addition to food, we also review this month's special offer items. Of particular interest: supersize stretch pants, $11.99. Could come in handy. I place 3 pairs in the cart.

My favorite part is the discount wine store, which we visit after check out. At this point in the proceedings, I am invariably losing the will to live, and it is all I can do to prevent myself from ripping the cork out with my teeth and downing the nearest bottle.

So why do we put ourselves through this?

It's not to save money. Any savings on food are rendered neutral by the ready availability of electronics, kitchen appliances, and supersize stretch pants.

We do it, quite simply, to save time.

A few hours of Costco torture once a month gives us precious extra time with the boys each weekend. We can stroll through the greenmarket without worrying whether we have enough cat litter. Spend a little extra time in the library without dashing off to stock up on loo roll. We could even, god forbid, sit down en famille for a civilized breakfast, thanks to our supersize pack of frozen croissants.

Counterintuitive as it might seem, that precious commodity time is now available at your local Costco store.

See you in the dairy aisle.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Packed lunch

Yesterday was my son's first day at middle school.

Of course, I had forgotten to register for the "My Lunch Money" program online until the night before. I took care of it at 11:47pm, but discovered to my dismay that payments take 24 hours to appear in the school's system.

What the hell would I give him to eat on his first day? We are in the middle of an everlasting kitchen renovation during which we are subsisting on deliveries and take out, and the chances of me finding healthful sustenance amidst the dust and mess were slim.

I rustled around in the laundry hamper (where I am storing comestibles during the renovation), and retrieved a packet of Cheetos and a Capri Sun.

This would not do. While my son would be perfectly happy with this for lunch, his new school offers a very healthful menu with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I cannot send him into this environment with Cheetos. While I don't think Cheetos, if taken in moderation, would be bad for him, they sure as hell would be bad for me.

I would look like a Bad Parent.

I reviewed the label on the Capri Sun. I was encouraged by the fact that it contains 30% less sugar. Than what? Cotton candy? It didn't say. But it fooled me for a second, so it will fool the Judgers. I popped it into the lunch box.

I located the peanut butter under a pile of bills, alongside a suspicious-looking loaf of bread. I selected the two most promising slices, cut the worst of the mold off, and made a somewhat presentable sandwich.

What the hell could I do for fruit and veg? There was a forgotten green pepper in the fridge, but no amount of fancy knifework would ever make it edible. I grubbed about in the back of the vegetable drawer, and emerged triumphant with a remarkably well-preserved pear. I sliced it lovingly into an environmentally-friendly, non-BPA, reusable plastic container, being careful to leave the little 'organic' sticker on. Chew on that, Judgers!

While I was in the refrigerator, I noticed a lone yogurt, which was a little past its sell-by date. But not by much. I reminded myself that yogurt is meant to go off, sort of. I scratched off the sell-by date with my nail, added it to the lunch box, and zipped it all shut.

It was done. My reputation as a Not-All-That-Bad Parent was safe. My son's stomach, maybe less so. There is always Pepto Bismol.

I wonder if it counts as a vegetable?