What is this doing in my shopping cart? Or how I learn not to judge others.


I admit it. I look in other people’s shopping carts during checkout. I find it fascinating. Sometimes I even think things like: “Geez, all that packaged food…. I wish people knew the pleasures of the table and how much better it is for their health if they’d only cook fresh food.”

Or, here’s another one:  “Peaches in March… I wish I could tell that person to stick to the citrus for now until the really good local peaches come into season. How sad that people are so out of touch with their food that they’ll settle for crappy out of season peaches from god knows where.

Not an attractive trait, I know. And karma is probably why I found myself scurrying quickly, yet casually, away from the produce section in the Berkeley Bowl one day, whisking my incriminating cart into the black hole of the bulk section and distancing myself from it as quickly as possible. You see, my cart was filled with the items pictured above. The reason for the cloak and dagger was that I’d glimpsed a fellow chef. And not just any chef. It would have to be one of the original locavores (I’m not kidding people. It did start here) and I couldn’t face being caught with a pineapple in my basket.

So why did I have all this stuff in my cart? I was teaching a tamale class the next day and we needed peppers and tomatillos for the salsa, pineapple for the sweet tamales, and tomatoes for the red rice. Ok, the rotisserie chicken amounts to bad judgment. Normally I’ll just poach a whole chicken for Mexican food, but this one time I felt too overwhelmed with other duties.  So what’s the lesson here? There are two, actually.

1.    Don’t judge. You never know why people buy the things they buy and it’s none of your damn business. Those March peaches may have been for a terminally ill person who just had to have them one last time.

2.    Seven people were going to spend a whole afternoon cooking and eating tamales together. Getting people together to cook something, anything, trumps being rigid about seasonality.

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