Grocery lists go further than just cataloguing what your fridge and pantry might need. They are more than simple accumulations of “what if I had that” and “but I thought I had pasta tucked away in there somewhere…” They go into your week: your hopes, your dreams, your plans, your guesses that maybe on Thursday, you might not need to have the chicken defrosted because maybe he grew a pair and finally asked you out. As you take out the pen you “accidentally“ stole from dinner last Tuesday because you liked the click after you had to have that dessert glass of wine after a cocktail, bottle of white, and bottle of red—with your three other friends, though!—you, even if you aren’t the planner of the year or even of your household, start to plan. You remember texts and emails that tell you on this day you’re supposed to meet them here and that other person at some restaurant that was just written up in the New York Times. What is it that might transpire this week ahead?
Normally when I find myself starting this list, I am standing on a lost solider of cereal from earlier that day, barefoot, staring at my stove and cook books hoping that I’ll get inspired. This week, I think, I won’t cook that couscous dish again, I should switch it up. No more kale salads. And it’s not considered cooking Indian when you order it online. Maybe tomorrow, Monday, I’ll come home from my yoga class and try that broccoli rabe, sundried tomato, fresh mozzarella with cold-pressed olive oil and Himalayan pink salt followed by a Cornish game hen stuffed simply with goat cheese and dried cherries soaked in red wine. No big. That olive oil and salt will do me good in the long run and Tuesday’s lunch will be a sautéed version of Monday’s appetizer but with toasted baguette I’ll grab on my way to work from the local bakery. Wednesday I have plans, and Thursday can be “Thanksgiving-style sandwich” lunch day, and I’ll just need to make some mayonnaise and grab a few things of iceberg to complete my gourmet lunch. I’ll try to spice up that Kale salad sometime this week, and a fresh cold Spring soup is what I’ll be in the mood for by Friday.
But Monday’s yoga class turns into a run, and drinks with friends that I haven’t seen in two months, because that’s how frequently it appears I see good friends in New York City, and then dinner turns from a two course feast into a postponed dinner for me and a friend on Wednesday but then that falls through at 4pm on Wednesday and here’s the thing: I haven’t played this game just once.
So back to me standing on crumbs, barefoot: I try to factor in the spontaneity that will be undoubtedly thrust upon me throughout the week; from leaving my door to getting on the subway, readjusting my pupils as I come into the sunlit streets of NoHo on my way to work, my plans for the evening have most likely changed twice. I know that whatever might be penciled in, is in pencil for a reason. We are all busy, and to combat that, we create some sort of structure in how those three meals (or maybe just two because you have a deadline to meet) come every day. What I find is grocery lists are a way to control the ebb and flow of our social lives; these scratches on paper scraps are the outline of how we define the tenuous line between what we can create for ourselves in the upcoming tangible future and what will be created for us, and how we chose a preference between the two. So when I note that I have two open dinners, two lunches, and four breakfasts, there is no way that my grocery list looks anything like recipes to dishes, rather ideas of what I might want to eat (see: pasta, arugula, olives II cornish hen, cherry, goat cheese II cod, lemon, bacon, avocado).
Without doubt, I will go to the grocery store, forget whatever list I tried to make, and try to recreate my week from memory and those items, too. I will hope that actually he doesn’t stand me up on Tuesday, and we can try that little noodle spot on the Bowery. I dream that I will have the self control to go straight to the gym after my grueling 12 hour day of service and administrative work, come home chugging a coconut water, and dive right into prep for a proper two course meal, finishing off with a heavenly Levain bakery cookie. And I plan on not sticking to 100% of those scheduled dates.