Five Tips to Help You Through the Social Nightmare That is the Food Coop

Today is Monday which means that it’s the day to pick up food from the co-op we’ve joined. The thing about the coop is that you see the same people every week. It’s like everyone knows each other. They joke around, and chat, and when they ask how you’re doing they seem to really want an honest answer. What’s up with that?

If I want to buy cheese, I have to ask someone to weigh it out for me. That means I have to know how much I want. Who knows something like that? I’m not sure what a pound of cheese looks like. I never paid attention when buying cheese before. Can you see how stressful this is? As a result I never buy cheese.

Sometimes I want the anonymous shopping experience of Publix where I can buy cheese without having to talk to anyone, avoid making eye contact with other human beings, and only have to give one word answers to any questions the cashier might ask me.

I’ve been going to the same food coop for a number of years now. Even though it still stresses me out, I’ve learned how to get through the experience. Here are some tips to help you deal with your own coop social nightmare.


1. Bring your own bags for produce. Everyone will like you more if you have your own bags. They should be reusable and preferably not plastic. If they’re not plastic everyone will love you. We all want to be loved.

2. When someone sidles up to you while you’re picking out cucumbers to tell you about how changing their diet to paleo or raw vegan or whatever the heck they’re doing completely cured them of psoriasis or chronic fatigue syndrome, or Hashimoto’s disease, or depression, or constipation, or shyness, simply nod, smile, and pretend to listen.

3. When you accidentally spill red lentils all over the floor, laugh it off, and help clean it up. Fight the urge to run from the building sobbing. No one likes a running sobber.

4. When someone starts telling you about her amazing home birth experience as you get a container of Amish butter from the fridge pretend to listen. When she’s through detailing how she froze and ate the placenta, smile and say, “That’s interesting. I’ve always wondered about that.” If you are brave you may ask her what it tasted like. Avoid gagging or passing out. Don’t tell her that you are barren. That only leads to pity and pity sucks.

5. When you check out help bag, but don’t help too much. They have a system and your clumsy hands are probably messing it up. It’s important to look helpful while not interfering. This is accomplished by talking about bagging rather than actually doing anything.

6. Say goodbye when you leave. Not everyone understands the need to disappear unnoticed through the door. If you don’t want to get kicked out of the coop for good always say goodbye. It doesn’t matter if everyone in the place ignores you. Just say goodbye and leave as quickly as possible. Wait until you get home to have your nervous breakdown in the car.

Broccoli Nonsense – A Recipe

I’ve heard some people claim that cooking is difficult. I don’t know what they’re talking about, because in my house cooking is a breeze. All you have to do is throw a bunch of stuff in a pan, give it a name, and serve it with a smile. The throw-stuff-in-a-pan part I learned from watching The Food Channel. They try to make it look more complicated than it is, trust me. The give-it-a-name part I learned from my mother who would do things like throw a bunch of blue cheese dressing in the wilted leftover salad she originally served two days ago and call it Blue Cheese Chop.
The other day I invented a brand new dish that I’m loving called Broccoli Nonsense. Since I know you’re dying to know my cooking secrets, I’ve decided to share the recipe with you.

First find some forgotten broccoli in the vegetable drawer that has seen better days. Wash it, and cut it up. Now use a dull knife to attempt to cut up two plum tomatoes and end up squashing them on the cutting board instead. Put a skillet on the stove and turn the burner on high. Cut up an onion in large uneven chunks. Put some butter in your hot pan and panic as the butter immediately starts to burn. Take the pan off the burner, turn down the heat to medium, and put your onion chunks in the pan. Let the onion chunks cook as you stare at the spice rack wondering what kind of spices you should use. I went with black pepper, dried basil, and dried parsley, but you should use whatever suits your fancy. I’d suggest staying away from cinnamon though. Trust me, cinnamon and broccoli are a bad combination.

Realize your onions are burning and find a spoon to use to stir them up a bit. Once your onions are soft add broccoli to the pan. While your broccoli cooks mince two cloves of garlic. Add garlic and tomatoes to the pan along with spices. How much spice should you add? That’s a good question. I just guestimate. Isn’t cooking about creativity? Well use yours for goodness sakes. Do I really have to tell you everything? Let’s just say I added more parsley than basil or pepper, and less pepper than basil. Got that?

Let it cook until the broccoli starts to soften and then taste it. Scowl and look around the room confused because it needs something and that definitely isn’t your fault. Realize that if you want it to be right you’ll have to fix it because after all aren’t you the one who has to fix everything in this house?

Open the refrigerator and retrieve the anchovy paste. Anchovy paste saves everything, doesn’t it? Attempt to squeeze a bit of anchovy paste into the pan with your broccoli. Notice that nothing comes out. Try to squeeze again only a bit harder. Notice that still nothing comes out. Squeeze again with all your might and watch in horror as the anchovy paste to flies out of the tube and splatters across the wall above the stove. Sigh and leave it there. There’s no time to clean that up while your preparing a culinary masterpiece. Your husband can clean it up when he does the dishes. Put what little anchovy paste is left in the tube in the pan and stir it well, but not too well. Part of the beauty of the dish is that someone will eventually take a bite and end up with a giant lump of anchovy paste.

Once the dish is finished cooking add a little salt and serve it up with a smile.

My Personal Chef

Some people love to cook. I’ve seen them on TV or have maybe even met a few in real life, even though I can’t think of anyone specific right now. I’m not one of those cooking people. While I love to watch cooking shows, I don’t necessarily want to prepare any of the dishes at home.

My problem is that I love to eat. Standing in a kitchen in front of a hot stove is just a means to an end as they say. If I’m going to eat I need to cook. We can’t afford to eat out every night. and if I let the men I live with do the cooking we’d be eating eggs for every meal. There is nothing wrong with eggs, but if you eat too many of them you might just turn into an animal that survives primarily on eggs. What would that animal be? A mongoose maybe, or a fox? As usual my confusion about animals has gotten the better of me because I’m not quite sure what a mongoose is. Is it similar to a hedgehog? Should I be too embarrassed to ask that question? Are there too many questions in this paragraph? … I should probably move on.

Just in case you are as misinformed as me, this is a mongoose.

Just in case you are as misinformed as me, this is a mongoose.

Though my husband and stepson would be fine eating the same meal everyday for the rest of their lives, I need a bit of variety. When it comes to food I’m lacking in the creativity department. I find myself rotating through a couple of recipes. That’s not because I can’t cook anything else. It has more to do with laziness. That’s why I think I need to have a personal chef.

I have sophisticated tastes so I couldn’t just hire any old person off the street to cook for my family. I need a world class chef who will make food so good that it will make me slap somebody. I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve been able to narrow the list down to Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson, and Jamie Oliver. It’s just a coincidence that all of these people are British. The United Kingdom isn’t necessarily the country one thinks of when they think of good food, but I wouldn’t hire someone like Rachel Ray or Paula Deen. No offense to their fans, but if I have to eat Southern fried anything, I’d rather not eat.

I’ve have to audition the chefs of course. The competition would be stiff, but I’m sure one of them would have what it takes to cook for the Bettisons.

Photo by a.ali.himu

I’m Astonished

beetsSometimes I wonder why they even bother making light colored clothing. Is it just me or do other people end up spilling spaghetti sauce all over themselves every time they wear a white shirt? I have several white shirts in my closet that rarely see the light of day because I don’t want to spill anything on them. The unfortunate thing is that I look good in white. You don’t know that though because it’s a color you’ll probably never see me wearing.

An outfit doesn’t have to be white for me to mess it up. Any article of clothing lighter than black is in danger when I’m wearing it. Yesterday, I wore an orange shirt with some pale khaki pants. The ensemble narrowly escaped a major staining incident during my lunch of spicy, bright orange, Vietnamese soup. Getting through lunch stain free must have made me a bit cocky because later that day I decided to make roasted beets for dinner–without an apron.

Needless to say that went badly. The very first cut of the very first beet resulted in a splattering of red beet juice on my right hip. Isn’t it just like beet juice to be attracted to the palest article of clothing you have on? I was annoyed, but I wasn’t done yet. I should’ve just changed my clothes, but I’m a Taurus which means I’m stubborn–and I have a taste for luxury, but that’s a different story all together.

A few minutes later, I dropped a couple beet cubes and caught them on my right leg before they hit the floor. After that all bets were off. Sometimes you are just destined to sacrifice a perfectly good pair of pants to the beet gods. By the time I was done cooking my pants looked like they should be hanging in The Tate Gallery. I considered framing them and selling them to a billionaire with money to burn, but in the end I decided to see if I could get the stain out.

The point of this whole post is that I used the Astonish Stain Remover Bar on my pants that night. The next morning when I threw them in the wash they came out completely clean. There was no evidence of the beet travesty that had occurred the night before. It was like a miracle–a miracle that no one seems to care about but me. If you don’t have one of these stain remover bars get one. It will change your life. I might even start wearing my white shirts for events other than closings.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Astonish Stain Removers and get nothing from mentioning them except the satisfaction of helping someone else avoid ruining a perfectly good article of clothing with an unfortunate stain.

Another Note: I was featured on Black Girl Nerds today. Check out the post here.

Photo by La Grande Farmers’ Market.

There’s Something About an English Apple

There are a lot of things that America does well, but grow a delicious apple is not one of them. I am consistently disappointed by the quality of the apples here. They are all mushy and powdery inside. Even the ones that seem like they might be wonderful are mush in your mouth.

An English apple on the other hand is like heaven. It’s a frothy delight. When I bite into one I swear I hear angels singing. If you are wondering what could be so great about an apple, you’ve obviously never tasted an English apple. If you had you’d know exactly what I mean.

I often wonder what the English secret is to growing such delicious apples. Maybe it’s the thick layer of clouds covering the country. Maybe it’s the constant supply of cold rain. Maybe it’s the Wellington boots worn by the English farmers or the ability to complain about the weather no matter what it is. Or maybe apple trees thrive on dry, cynical humor. Whatever it is American farmers need to get up to speed.

For now I’m considering starting an English apple import company. My English apples will blow American taste buds away. That’s my big idea for the day.

Photo by A Guy Taking Pictures

The Great Olive Tasting Incident

I love olives. Whether black or green or brown or purplish, they all tastes delicious. That’s why I thought I was the perfect person to be in an olive tasting focus group. Getting paid to eat olives sounded like a no brainer to me and it would’ve been if not for my big mouth.

Sensing that I would be a problem the group supervisor tried to send me and my sister home after only tasting two of the three olives. Once the problem was rectified, we were able to taste the third controversial olive. A worker set the olive before me in a white Styrofoam bowl. I started by smelling the olive just as I had the other two olives I’d tasted. As soon as the smell entered my nostrils I knew something was amiss.

The olive that was supposed to be Swiss cheese favored smelled so sweet that I recoiled in horror. Was it in fact an olive or was it an olive shaped piece of Halloween candy? I pushed aside my natural instinct and tasted the olive anyway. I was getting paid twenty-five dollars to taste three olives. If I left the third olive untasted maybe I wouldn’t get my money.

I put the abomination in my mouth and my fears were confirmed. This was the dreaded caramel flavored olive from the olive list. This was the olive that I was so glad I wouldn’t be made to taste. This was the olive that would be stoned to death if we lived in Old Testament times. Even though we had been clearly instructed not to say anything during the tasting, and even though I am normally the quietest of quiet people, the words, “This is wrong,” erupted from my mouth.

Following my lead, my sister also expressed the wrongness that was the caramel olive and the supervisor came into the room and told us to just be quiet and fill out the forms. Then he pulled the workers into the hall and told them off for letting us speak. When the workers came back in I wanted to apologize, but I was instructed not to talk. Instead, I just wrote a scathing review for my caramel Swiss cheese olive.

General Observations After Being in an Olive Focus Group:

1. Those one-way mirrors aren’t very good. Every time anyone behind the mirror did anything with their phone I could clearly see them on the other side of the glass.

2. It shouldn’t take ten minutes to put an olive in a properly marked bowl and bring it into a room. The time between olives was so frustrating. Apparently, ten minutes wasn’t long enough for the olive people because they still got it all wrong.

3. The ten minutes between olives gave me plenty of time to make faces at the people behind the one-way mirror.

4. How much can you really write about an olive? I’m a writer and all, but come on, it’s an olive. If I were a lawyer maybe I would’ve done a better job at reviewing the olives. I noticed that my sister certainly did seem to have tons to write.

5. The best thing about the focus group, besides finishing first because I love feeling like I’m winning, was the envelope of cash I got at the end.

Photo by jurvetson

Name That Vegetable

I had a busy morning so here’s a fast post. It’s another episode of name that vegetable. I used to think I was well versed in veggies, but when I moved to the UK I saw a few that were new to me. This is one of them.

Buy the Worst Salad in the World at …

My husband ate the worst salad in the world in the Madrid airport. It most have been pretty bad, because it seems to have left more of an impression on him than the salad with a German cockroach in it that he ate in the Canary Islands. He brought the napkin from the Madrid airport restaurant home with him because he thought the name of it was so funny. The napkin sits on our dining table and every time we eat he picks it up and asks me if I’ve written a post about it yet.

My husband tends to have lots of ideas about posts for this blog. Usually if I stall long enough he forgets about them, but this napkin thing just won’t go away. So here’s the napkin.

He says that if he had noticed the name of the resturant before he bought the salad he would’ve gone somewhere else.

The reason I was reluctant to post this is because before I moved to the UK that would’ve meant anything to me. My husband says that I’m in the minority and that most people know what that means. So if anyone else out there is completely unaware of how the English pronounce certain words here’s an explanation. Ars which I think should have an e on the end so it is spelled arse is how the English pronounce the word ass. (I’m pretty sure that’s a run on sentence, but I so don’t care.)