I started to love grocery shopping at a young age. Too young an age, perhaps, but I was always doing that—wearing shoulder-padded blazers in the fifth grade, lining up an after-school job at a law firm at the tender age of 15, offering to balance my mom’s checkbook and requesting my own savings account well before I could drive. (If you think I sound like the female version of young Alex P. Keaton, you’re not the first to do so. For the record, though, I opted for backpacks over briefcases and, even back then, I surely was not a Reaganite.)
But back to my premature love affair with grocery shopping. I think it most likely began with the candy display stationed in the check-out aisles of most stores. If running errands with my mother involved a pack of gum or a bag of Skittles, I was so in. (Similarly, I could not resist the siren song of the drive-through teller tubes at the bank; again, so in.) That can’t be the only explanation, though, because as I grew up, the allure of sugar-free gum waned and, even still, I loved those grocery store trips. Maybe it was because I faded in and out of picky-eating stages and my physical presence in the store ensured that I would have some measure of control over what did (or didn’t) go into the cart. Or, perhaps it was the lists. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an unhealthy love for lists—for making them and, especially, for methodically working my through them, crossing out items one-by-one, with a swift swipe of the pen. And grocery lists are a particularly wonderful type of list—organized to track the organization of the store (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this), items checked off as quickly as I can pull them from the shelves.
Perhaps more powerfully, though, it was the company. Grocery shopping seemed to be an unpopular task in our busy family—it was not the sort of thing we’d do en masse. Instead, either my mom or my stepdad would dash to the store in the early morning weekend hours or in a flash after work. If I volunteered to join, I had myself a date—just the two of us, driving through the streets of our suburb; working our way through the store, shivering in the dairy aisle and avoiding the spray of the sprinklers in the produce section; loading up the trunk with bags. When the trip was with my mom, we’d gossip and stop by the coffee shop at the front of the store and peruse the magazines and steer clear of the ice cream aisle. With Ren, we’d chat up the butcher, veer wildly from the list my mom had given us, discuss the (often sports) news of the day, and spend a great deal of time in the ice cream aisle.
I especially loved the pre-Thanksgiving and -Christmas shopping trips, where the list was pages long (imagine the checking off to be done!) and required a stop at the regular grocery store, but also special detours to a favorite bakery and to a Scandanavian shop where the line would snake out the door and down the block. There was a beat-the-crowds, battle-the-traffic sense of purpose to those trips and an almost tangible sense of excitement over the feasts that would be conjured from the items we were buying.
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons brown sugar