Do you ever go grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons? It’s not pretty.
Two days ago, I was weaving in and out of aisles at Whole Foods, repeatedly cornered or trapped by someone’s cart or, worse, by those two dark-haired women who stood in front of the entire yogurt section, chatting with sour faces that never once looked my way, for the solid five minutes that they’d commandeered the dairy case, and by the time I’d finally made it past them and to the baking aisle, my mindset was reduced to pure self-preservation: Flour. The only other thing I needed was flour.
There were people on my right and people on my left, with one couple edging towards me quickly. I scanned the shelves. No whole wheat pastry flour, but white whole wheat flour! That’s similar, right? I grabbed a bag. While I waited in line with it at the checkout, a surly balding man cut in front of me, pretending not to see me or my shopping cart that were inches away from him, and would you believe it, I let him.
That grocery store broke me, I tell you.
Turns out, though, that the experience wasn’t entirely bad. Because white whole wheat flour? It’s different from whole wheat pastry flour in that it has more protein (13% compared to pastry’s 9%) and comes from a different flour (hard white spring wheat rather than soft white winter wheat) but has specific strengths: It offers all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, for example, but with milder flavor and lighter color. It has a finer grind than regular whole wheat flour. It makes a good substitute for white all-purpose flour. It’s said to be great in breads, cookies, bars, etc.
Also, it makes a great pancake.
While it’s true I’m easily persuaded about most things, whether it’s trying cookies without flour, taking trips to new places or realizing I’d been wrong all along about that crazy thing called meatloaf, you could still say there are a few fixed aspects of my nature, ones I don’t expect I’ll ever shake.
It’s hard to imagine a me that didn’t love the sky, for example, who didn’t stare at the clouds or gasp at a golden sunset. Would I still be myself if I didn’t notice the seasons change? I love the way my dad chuckles when he knows he’s wrong, the way my mom only shows her full grin when she’s laughing hard, how my younger brother is a better driver, planner and cook than I am. And really, I’ll always move towards relationships without pretense. That’s just who I am.
Since they say a person is defined by what she really loves, you might as well also know, in that case, that I like fall leaves and fresh fruit and people who sacrifice without expecting anything in return. I want warm sunshine and broad daylight and to spend time with those who know me.
Also, and no less important, there is lemon.
It is the strangest thing to look at the shell of a person, the body without the soul, and to comprehend how someone could be here and then, not here at all. I spent some time thinking about that this last weekend, surrounded by people who were bonded only by the shell we were standing near, the shell of someone who had lived long and with infectious charm.
I’m thinking about it now as I type, the fingers of this body punching keys on a keyboard, forming words chosen by my mind, my thoughts, my sense of reason and understanding. Someday, these fingers won’t type, my body will cease to work, the breath of life will be puffed out of me but, what is inside of me—what is most me—that will never die, that will just move somewhere else. I will move somewhere else.
Right now, as I’m typing, I’m sitting next to a window, feeling with my body the slight chill of the air outside that leaks through into this room. I can hear the buzzing of someone mowing grass. I can see clouds streaking the sky through the window. These days, there are signs of life all around me—green lawns, budding branches, even new babies being born. There is that paradox: all around us, death and life. Here then gone. Alive then not.
Saturday, I made this easy smoothie, part POM Wonderful and part frozen banana, and slurped it down to the bottom, drank every sweet and icy bit until I felt it go down deep and chill me, too. Read more…