So, I’m at Whole Foods over the weekend and wait until the last minute to swing up the bakery aisle. If I start there, I’m likely to fill up my cart with every variety of bread (I’m partial to the cranberry walnut) before I even get to my list. And I can linger over the olive bar for hours, imagining each taste in turn â€“ the olives stuffed with garlic, with figs, with things you’d never think of belonging with an olive but tasting oh, so good.
I had every intention of passing the bread, knowing I had my own sourdough mix waiting to be refreshed. But the smell wafted out and drew me in. And before I knew it, I was chatting with a bread maker who, with an evil twinkle in his eye, told me that some fresh ciabatta bread was coming out of the oven within minutes.
Oh, I demurred at first. Then I bowed to the inevitable and said I didn’t need to wait for a hot loaf; I could take one of the three remaining ones, sliced. He started to reach for it, stopped, looked at me again and said, â€˜Are you sure? Fresh, hot, straight out of the oven?â€™
And when it came, it was pure heaven. He sliced it carefully and slowly, slid it into a protective bag and left the end open for the steam to escape. He even pulled the end piece off and handed it to me to pop into my mouth. It was one of those food experiences that you just want to repeat â€“ delicious, fresh bread with a slight crunch from the crust and steamy softness in the middle.
I’ll confess that the loaf was further eroded before I ever got to the checkout lane. After all, I had to taste the sample of Seaside rugged mature English cheddar cheese, and it just cried out for a bit of bread to balance it!
That’s the beauty of making shopping an experience. It’s not about sullenly pushing a cart up and down sterile aisles, operating off a list. It’s about leaving yourself open to the smells, the sights, the tastes of things that are just coming out of the oven or just being introduced as a new product. Grocery shopping can be a tour of discovery if you allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from the plan.
The loaf was even further gone before I made it home. Blame it on the new economy â€“ the loaves are getting smaller.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Breadcrumbs and all.