Wandering the aisles


The trip to the store started with a recipe.

It wasn’t a general shopping trip… not for milk and eggs and something for dinner with perhaps a snack for later… there were no veggies and juice and bread with lunches planned for the week… no one created a list over a few days, with a refrigerator to stock and shelves to fill.

Nope. A recipe. Specifics.

Wanted to make something specific, and needed specific items in order to do just that.

Funny thing grocery stores… they can be amazingly similar and yet so very different.

Quick… you’re standing at the entrance, getting a cart or basket… ready to go. If I gave you a list of items, for the most part I think you could begin heading off to the correct aisles.

Onions and peppers and bananas… easy. Sour cream and yogurt… easy. Potato chips… come on… easy.

For me on this day, as I set off for the store it certainly seemed simple enough. Terry had me making some nut brittle from a recipe we like. Because of an event she was planning, she needed me to put together several double batches. And that meant I didn’t have everything.

I had a good assortment of nuts overall, but a fourth run at doubling the recipe would be aided by getting some more… and some peanuts would be great. That’s eight runs through the recipe… better get some more light corn syrup. Actually, four double batches, eight batches… probably should also get some more sugar.

And so there I was… walking in to the store… and preparing to head toward the baking needs as a start. Because where else would you go for sugar and light corn syrup?

Turns out, not the baking aisle. Oh sure, you’ll find the sugar there. That’s a given. But corn syrup? Nope. That will be in the aisle with things like waffle mixes. You know, where the other regular syrups would be. And waffle and pancake and biscuit mixes don’t qualify for the baking needs category in this store.

Peanuts. Mentioned peanuts. Ten minutes into a search for corn syrup, I’m crossing it off my list and shaking off a desire for some waffles, while moving on to look for peanuts.

Walked into the aisle with the chips.


Candy. Sometimes you’ll find nuts and such near the candy.


Now I can’t tell you if I was looking up to check out the aisle markers or looking up in an attempt to view the heavens while asking for divine intervention. I can tell you I looked up and spotted popcorn on one of the signs and figured it was worth a shot.

Note to self… nuts are near the popcorn, not in the chips or candy or whatever aisle, but in the popcorn and snacks aisle.

The crazy thing was that this particular trip wasn’t new territory for me. It wasn’t a new experience. I’ve headed out on scavenger hunts such as this before. And I’ll tell you… it’s losing some of its charm.

Dutch processed cocoa.

Have you ever had to look for that? Dutch processed cocoa?

I have.

And good luck to you in finding it should the day come that you need it.

Head down any baking aisle in a grocery store, and I feel fairly comfortable saying that unless you in any way or by definition cook professionally, you will be stunned at some of the ingredients available in each and every store.

I have never seen a recipe that actually listed agave nectar. Never seen one. Agave nectar has a considerable amount of shelf space. Dutch processed cocoa? Nope.

Now, I kid. To a degree. The reality of agave nectar or whatever you care to consider is that depending on where you are, certain items may or may not be common. And, depending on where you are, the organization of the store is going to be different.

Let’s move away from cooking and food for an example. You don’t walk into a home improvement store in Orlando expecting to find huge displays of snow blowers and snow shovels.

Coffee syrup? In Rhode Island, absolutely. In most other states, not so much. Or try finding salt potatoes. In New York, not only will you find huge display areas in the grocery stores featuring multiple brands and options, you’ll also find at least one bag in pretty much a requirement in every kitchen.

It’s not just that the specific items that are available, or even the brand names that may differ as you travel. Where certain things get placed change. We know the basic definitions and categories… we understand them, from frozen vegetables to soup. But that doesn’t guarantee a large, obvious, or even marked section for international foods.

I’m not proud of this, but the other day I spent fifteen minutes trying to find some granola. Perhaps I was just spoiled. Old neighborhood market used to have some great granola options located near the fresh produce section, along with dried fruit. New neighborhood market, no such luck. Felt like an idiot when it was right there, on the shelves with breakfast cereals.

But enough about coffee milk. I’m back home now, and I’ve got some nut brittle to make.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com