Not everybody grows up with a dad who likes grocery shopping, but I got lucky. My father was the son of a grocery man and had his first real job working for the same grocery business as Grandpa did, so it was not entirely unusual that Dad would be the one who took us kids grocery shopping when it was time to stock up again. Even summer vacations followed a little in Grandpa’s tradition; instead of the stereotypical roadside tourist attractions, he was wont to stop at any grocer’s the family passed on their travels, wanting to see what ‘the competition’ was doing and reveling in the interesting inspirations he might find along the way. My dad, too, had enough of the bug from watching his father in action that when we did go to the grocery store, it wasn’t one of those stomp-through-at-top-speed reluctant shopper experiences that so many have with their parents, notoriously fathers most of all.
We meandered up and down every aisle, having a happy, leisurely look through everything on display, and more often than not, we came home with something new or unusual or just plain frivolous. Much to the delight of Dad’s junior shopping contingent, of course!
Mom was a good grocery shopper and fed us well, and taught us the kitchen skills to use the stuff we were buying, but Dad got to play the primary role of finding the unusual fun in visiting the store. Between the two, then, they gave us kids not merely those practical survival and sustenance skills we needed but a sense of pleasure in exploring what food does beyond keeping us alive and healthy. Thanks to their teamwork, it became a focus for community, artistic invention, entertainment, and exploration, and this all made it easier to expand those ideas far beyond our home walls.
That my parents’ ideas about division of labor and gender roles was generally more practical and individualized than American, middle class, mid-twentieth-century standardized was a boon to us as we grew in many other parts of our lives. It was Mom who taught me by example to do the fix-it stuff for general home maintenance, having been brought up in a carpenter’s household herself, and both parents took part in helping us with homework, counseling us, playing with us, and much more. Dad was a neatnik by inclination as much as Mom was a careful homemaker, so there wasn’t much obvious differentiation when it came to keeping the house up and running on a simple organizational basis.
But that’s all peripheral to my thesis, which is that I was fortunate to have two parents, not just one, who took an interest in the choosing and assembling of what we ate. Dad never demonstrated a huge urge to Make things with recipes, so sandwiches and cereals and the occasional barbecue tending was his main realm of preparation, but he did those with aplomb and enthusiasm and played sous chef many a time. Mom was the chief in the kitchen. Having two skilled shoppers in the house, though, that was, and still is, inspiring, and I am the better and happier for it. If your household consists of more than your lone self, or you share meals and their preparation even occasionally with younger people, I hope you’ll consider creating such an atmosphere of joy and adventure in the process as well!
Yes, you were lucky to have two loving and involved parents. Thanks for encouraging parents to create an atmosphere of love and discovery. blessings, Brad
Thank you, Brad. I still marvel constantly at the rich blessings my husband and I had and have in our parents and other family who have consistently supported and encouraged us throughout life. What a gift! Since we don’t have kids of our own, we feel a particular responsibility to pass that along to our students, colleagues and friends and hope that others will continue to do so as well. 🙂
I love that idea. Keep on sharing the love and wisdom. 🙂
Love it Kath! I enjoyed “going along for the ride.” Happy day to you! xoxo a. ing
😀 I guess you know that some of those times up at the cabin were among the great early food adventures I remember most fondly, when the men were barbecuing up a storm, Granny was teaching us to make goulash or Saturday Night Special, Gramps was hauling in fresh salmon and steelhead, and the women were showing us how to pit roast potatoes and foil packets of other stupendous dinner treats, all topped by wild berry picking to go with the ice cream we cranked in the ol’ barrel. Even grocery shopping in Monroe or Sultan was a pretty cool experience, especially if it happened to begin with second-hand-store explorations with Granny in the lead and end with all of us cousinly squirts getting to have a trip to spend our fortunes on penny candy at the Ben Franklin!