The Cantaloupe & I--Adventures of a Monastic Shopper Part 2....by Sr. Anna-Camille
It’s time to talk about the cantaloupe incident. In my defense, I am a reasonably experienced cantaloupe buyer and had never experienced a cantaloupe malfunction.
But that Wednesday was the day. I approached the melon table at Safeway innocently enough, having no idea what awaited me. I selected a small watermelon with no difficulty. Then I began looking for a good cantaloupe. As I always do, I gave it a good sniff, smelled good, and then I gently, let me repeat; gently, pushed the bottom of the cantaloupe with my thumb. My thumb was violently swallowed up, disappearing into the cantaloupe. Cantaloupe juice (I didn’t know cantaloupes had this much juice!) sprayed everywhere. There were 2 other shoppers next to me. They too were hit by flying bits of cantaloupe. The rind on that melon had broken like an eggshell. I pulled my thumb out of the cantaloupe, apologized to my fellow shoppers, trying not to see the looks on their faces and very glad I wasn’t wearing my St. Placid t-shirt. There were no paper towels or hand wipes nearby. I went over to the produce section where the vegetables are sprayed and waited for the spray to come on. That took care of it. It was several weeks before I had the courage to approach a cantaloupe again.
These past months of 3 times a week shopping have taught me more about cuts of meat, pasta sauce in toothpaste tubes, and tofu cutlets than I ever would have thought to learn. And through it all Nico has been my coach and patient teacher. No matter what I bring home, no matter how far it deviates from what he actually wanted (I can tell you about the marshmallow fluff another time), he always says, “I can use that.” And the miracle is that he can, he does, and it’s wonderful.
He asked for two pork shoulders a couple of weeks ago. I brought home 2 packages. It had seemed like a lot of meat, but we were scheduled for a full retreat house for four days, so I figured that was why. When he saw the meat, he got the look, and I said, “I got two like you asked for. It seems like a lot.” “Yes,” he said.
“Each package has two shoulders in it, so this is actually four. But I can use it.” It turned out our retreat group had to cancel. Thirty-seven pounds of pork shoulder, but Nico has been up to the challenge. He has been using pork in every way possible from pork lumpia to Cuban sandwiches. And we love it.
I have learned to love my trips to the grocery store. I feel a sense of community that often catches me by surprise. I spilled a container of blueberries in the self-checkout area. Actually, they shot up in the air first and I suppose it would be more accurate to say it rained blueberries. But everyone else in self-checkout pitched in and helped me gather them up, the kids especially.
The Chef’s Store is a meeting place of different cultures and cuisines. Families shopping for their restaurant, church ladies buying for their church kitchen, chefs racing through the line with one item--the one I always assume is the one essential ingredient for their next great dish. At Safeway, there are the mothers (and dads too) shopping with the kids in tow--this time of year, trying to hurry past the Halloween candy display. Older folks like me, shopping carefully and considering each item. And always, my favorite, the husband or boyfriend, cell phone pressed tight against their ear, trying to get it right. “But they don’t have any red ones, just blue.” “Did you want them with sprinkles or not?” “So how much green should there be?”
We are together, doing that most ordinary of tasks, shopping for our daily bread, but I believe our shopping carts are like snowflakes, there have never been two that were filled with exactly the same things. I am connected to everyone in that store trying to feed themselves, their families, their community and trying to do it wisely, economically, and creatively.
In my monastic grocery shopping I have found, in a way that grabbing a bag of salad and running never could, a profound awareness of the variety and beauty of God’s gifts to us. Looking at a Jack fruit the size of a possum, or delicate Asian melons, and the glorious colors, shapes, and sizes of peppers, I see God manifest. I have loved keeping track of the ebb and flow of summer by watching the different fruits come in and then out of season. I am deeply grateful to everyone who keeps the shelves and freezers stocked and who answers my questions about where to find the unfamiliar vegetable or special cheese. Finally, I have come to understand and see the grace in the “blessings of the daily.”