Manyu took a four-day trip to Chicago and left me without a car. She also left me without milk. There was a half carton of soy (I won’t even call it milk) in the refrigerator, but that’s a different food group from dairy and has no place on my Cheerios. I’d made sure I had coffee and sandwich fixings in the house before Manyu drove away, but forgot to check my milk supply. As I wondered whether it was worth a three-mile walk to restock, I tried to remember another time I wished we had a second car. I couldn’t think of one, which must mean we don’t need a second car.

I decided I wouldn’t walk an hour each way just for milk, but could instead get a half gallon from the gas station near my gym. I was going to the gym anyway. The options at the gas station/convenience store are limited, and for the first time in years, I bought milk that wasn’t organic. On the walk home, I started to think about other ways I’ve become more selective about the foods I purchase and consume. None are necessarily healthier, just more to my liking. In addition to organic milk, there are whole bean coffee, free-range chicken eggs and free-range chickens, natural peanut butter, artisan bread, and a particular Jarlsberg cheese I can only find at, of all places, Sam’s Club. And that’s only my side of the shopping list. On Manyu’s side, there’s a certain olive oil, a particular Korean brand of spicy ramen, and a special long-grain rice variety that seems to me no different from any other rice. There is also an Asian sweet potato that she can’t find in La Crosse, but buys whenever she is in Rochester sixty miles away. Once upon a time Manyu and I did all of our grocery shopping at a single warehouse supermarket. Now it’s not unusual for us to make a six-stop shopping loop that includes two supermarkets, the food co-op, the Asian market, the bakery and, in the summertime, the farmer’s market. It is reminiscent of a time when there was a separate butcher, baker, and green grocer, but those folks were across the street from each other, not across town. 

The point is not that Manyu and I have become food snobs. The food items I’m writing about are, after all, peanut butter, ramen noodles, and cheese from Sam’s Club. The point, which I did not realize until I was walking home with a half gallon of milk that got progressively heavier the farther I walked, is that driving all over town for groceries is a form of privilege. I‘ve seen people doing their grocery shopping at the gas station, and I‘ve seen people standing with groceries at the bus stop. Fortyfive years ago I did those things myself. Since that time, however, I’ve taken it for granted that I can just jump in the car even if it’s to buy only one item. 

I wrote the first draft for this week’s blog nearly a week ago. It opened much the same as this final version does (about not having milk for my cereal), but then digressed into an essay about a politician who, when asked, didn’t know the price of milk and bread. One sentence in that original blog bothered me, and in the middle of the night I came up with a way to improve it. Thinking I’d forget the exact wording of the new sentence if I waited until morning, I climbed out of bed to make the change. Instead of making a quick edit and going back to sleep, I decided at three o’clock in the morning to rewrite everything. It was not until I’d written an entire new essay and gone back to bed around 4:30 that I realized it was Thanksgiving morning. That makes this my Thanksgiving blog, and I am grateful for easy access to good food.

Steven Simpson