Thursday, June 30, 2016

As Corny As Kansas In August

As Corny As Kansas In August

I went grocery shopping yesterday.

At one time, I was a shopping list kind of guy. When I retired, I became a different kind of shopper. I am now an anarchist-never-mind-the-bollocks-shopper. No more lists. Instead, I now just sort of wing it, swirling and dodging my shopping cart around the aisles of the store like a man lost in time and space.

On a good day, I have no idea what I need, and I don't really care. For me, the grocery store is a welcome diversion, a social event, a cotillion, an adventure like no other. All the glistening fruit and vegetables, all the glitzy packaged items, all the super frozen, super-tightly-wrapped chunks of cows, pigs, and chickens, all just begging me to take them home. And when I get them home, I own them as my own. I stock my refrigerator and my pantry like a mini-grocery store. For a few moments at least, I am Joe the Grocer, Mr Hooper, and Cassie Checkout-Campbell. Yippee Ki Yay.

"Bing, bing, bing ..." goes the cash register. "Bing, bing, bing ..."

Oh, to me. it's like a slot machine rolling up the numbers. I watch and listen, almost expecting to see a row of three cherries dance across the checkout screen. I await the big payout, and I shudder when it's me making that big payout. So it goes ... obviously you don't win every time.

So, I went grocery shopping yesterday. There I am in the canned food aisle, and a large black woman was filling her cart with cans. Obviously, this immediately caught my attention. Something was afoot.

At this point, I must tell you that I am a sucker for sales. If something is on sale, I want it — whether or not I need it and even whether or not I'll eat it.

I blame this shopping obsession on my paternal grandmother. All the long summer days that I spent sitting with her, while she "booked" horse race bets on the telephone, she hammered into my head that there was another Great Depression just around the calendar-corner. Of course, it never really happened, at least not like the one through which she lived in the 1930's, but the possibility has remained in my consciousness throughout my life. Honestly, I still wake every morning and wonder, "Could this be the day?" If so, it is obviously important to be prepared. A full pantry is requisite to surviving the Second Coming of The Great Crash.

Yes, there I was in the canned food aisle, and this large black woman was filling her cart with cans. I stopped dead in my tracks. I nonchalantly eased my cart into her oversized derrière so that I could see what she was hoarding. Not surprisingly, she had discovered one of those In-Store Specials. No-Name Cream Corn @ 39¢/can. Unbelievable. The race was on.

I began yanking cans of No-Name Cream Corn off the shelf as fast as my little hands could manage.

The woman looked at me with eyes of sheer hatred, like I was stealing her children's next meal.

"Mister, I'm not finished here," she growled at me.

I said nothing.

"Mofo," she snarled, and her big hands, the size of tennis racquets, blurred as she slapped can after can into her cart.

I mauled the display with an increased ferocity.

Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty ... and suddenly the shelf was empty.

The sweat beaded on my brow, and my fingers were twisted and knotted.

I hadn't beaten her, but I had done my damndest. I had enough to move on to the cookie aisle with a certain amount of pride.

But, here's the thing. Who eats cream corn?

I mean, is cream corn even corn at all? A cob of corn is obviously corn on a stick. A can of kernel corn is a can of corn kernels. A can of cream corn is more like a mishmash of some kind of yellowy soup mixture with bits of yellow specks, resembling chunks of macrame, floating in the midst. I'm not sure it is corn in any sense of the word.

Don't get me wrong. I have, over my lifetime, had cream corn. I have seen it slopped on my plate from time to time, and I have spooned it up as best as I could. I'll even admit that it's not bad if you scoop the stuff over your mashed potatoes. It acts as a kind of salty dog gravy, giving the aforesaid mashed potatoes some kind of oomph. Apart from that, however, I should think cream corn is best served in a bowl, like gruel, like you were playing out the pivotal scene in Oliver Twist. God forbid, you might say, "Please sir, I want some more."

Well, undeterred by the logic of either nutrition or the obvious absence of cream corn in Good Housekeeping's Guide To Cooking, I did what I do. I wheeled those twenty tons of No-Name Cream Corn cans around the supermarket, and when it came time to checkout, I stood with a certain amount of pride and a smirk on my face, as the cashier rang in my harvest of the champagne of goopy tittle.

"Bing, bing, bing ..." goes the cash register. "Bing, bing, bing ..."

Oh, the folks in line behind me may have looked at me with a certain amount of curiosity and disdain, but it didn't matter. For those brief moments, I was as corny as Kansas in August. I was the King of Cream Corn.

So now, the cupboard is full. The world may be starving in places that I know nothing about, but here in my home, I am secure in the knowledge that when push comes to shove and the economy collapses, I have enough cream corn for forty days and forty nights.

I must add, however, that cream corn takes a strange journey through the human body. After having a can for lunch, I have discovered it comes out pretty much the same as it goes in. Just sayin' ...




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