I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to food shopping.
You know how some women are so slavishly excited about shopping for shoes that, when they pass a tiny boutique with impossibly tall shoes on little stages, their friends have to pry them away from the window with stern admonitions about not being able to afford any more pairs? Well, that’s not me. The other night, some friends of mine and I were talking about the big birthday I have coming up this summer. And thinking Carrie Bradshaw, I joked: “Hey, maybe someone will buy me a pair of Manolo Blahniks!” My friend Paul said: “I don’t see you in those. It’s more likely to be a pair of Keens.” It’s true. I like shoes. I do. I’m still a girl. But I just can’t stand high heels. I don’t see the allure. So that makes my ears deaf to the call of the shoe store window.
Some women must buy new clothes, every season, or have that adorable little blouse in the window, or reel with horror at the idea of wearing the same outfit twice. I buy all my clothes at thrift stores. I have my own sense of fashion, and I only buy designer labels. It’s just that every piece is ten dollrs or less. And so last season. Actually, I don’t think I’ve brought a single new-to-me piece of clothing into my house in six months. I suppose I should go looking again, but there’s always something better to do: make a meal, feed friends, laugh loudly. Later. So, luckily, I’m not drawn into Nordstorms for their half-yearly sale like a zombie who needs fresh meat.
This saves a lot of money.
Bookstores and record stores are always dangerous, of course. But somehow, either my entire memory of the twenty-two new albums I wanted is wiped clean by the rows upon rows of music available to me, or I just can’t balance that stack of books I want to read piling up in my arms with the bill building up in my checkbook. So in both places, with some difficulty, I can practice restraint.
But in grocery stores? Farmers’ markets? Little shops dedicated to oils and jams and spices? Forget about it — I’m a goner.
I’ve always been happy while slowly sauntering down a long aisle of little jars filled with thick tapenades or symmetric cans of tomato sauce or an expansive selection of soups. Walking through a grocery store promises fragrant foods, chewed and savored, soon. Every new category of food — breakfast cereals; expensive juices and cold drinks; olives and capers stuffed into glass bottles — evokes memories and inspires possibilities. The produce section brings dark-green zucchinis standing at attention, vibrant artichokes blooming in profusion, and round-bottomed eggplants just begging to be fondled.
Let’s not even talk about the cheese section. I’ve been known to linger so long there, sampling sharp bites and soft nibbles from all over the world, that all the employees know me by name and push the most expensive cheeses to the front of the case when they know I’m coming. That is me at my most addicted, not able to move, wanting it all.
Then again, there is also the chocolate aisle.
So I’ve always been happiest in a food store, far more contented than in the Gap or Barneys or even Elliott Bay Bookstore. Food is so primal, deeply sensual, and provides such immediate gratification that I can sometimes walk through a farmers’ market in a fugue state of orgiastic possibilities. Look at all that fruit!
However, since I’ve had to go gluten-free, and started this website, even I have to recognize that my favorite shopping habit may be growing out of control. After all, whenever I spy something luscious that doesn’t contain gluten, I can’t help but grab it. Truthfully, packaged gluten-free cookies or pretzels no longer intrigue me, the way they did when I was first learning to eat this way. I can bake those at home now, almost without thinking about it. Instead, it’s the tiny tastes and decadent pleasures that capture me every time.
A bottle of pomegranate molasses in a tiny Middle Eastern shop in Pike Place? Of course. Neal’s Yard cheese at $22 a pound? Well, David did just extol its virtues a few days ago; maybe there’s a tiny sliver for sale. Marcona almonds, direct from Spain? Perfect for my Friday-night dinner party. Fig spread from Dalmatia? Oh, it’s so expensive, but I’m sure it’s gorgeous. Green tea with mango, basmati rice from India, grey sea salt from Brittany? How could I not treat myself, when I have to go without gluten?
And of course, since I’m keeping this website, and so many of you are writing to me, asking for particular recipes, or advice on how to eat gluten-free, I feel a real tug — nay, a true responsibility — to sample any food that doesn’t have gluten. How else can I recommend the world’s food to you if I don’t eat little nibbles of it all?
There’s such a comfort in the pattern of discovery. In Seattle, I’m blessed with a plethora of choices for food shopping, so much so that I can make my rounds on a rotating basis and never feel like I’m stuck in a rut. Whole Foods on an errant Saturday afternoon. Central Market — my new favorite — when I’ve planned ahead enough to make the fifteen-minute drive north. Metro Market when I’m in a rush. Wait — I haven’t been to PCC for weeks. And of course, on a nearly-daily basis, Ken’s across the street keeps calling me in. Now that it’s spring, I’m back to wandering the stalls of the Market (Pike Place to those of you who don’t know) three or four times a week. And soon, all the farmers’ markets will unfurl their fruits and vegetables for us all to peruse, and I will be perfectly happy, once again.
How could I ever grow tired of this?
I’m not ashamed. I’m only admitting it — I’m in love with food shopping. I’ve never felt so alive as I have this past year, eagerly reaching for every new food I had never eaten before. Like Amelie, I’d love to plunge my fingers into barrels of beans, run my hands along spiny vegetables, and savor the sounds of everything around me. If I could, I’d stand in the middle of the Market, eyes wide open, arms spread wide to embrace it all, taking in every smell and texture, then dance down the aisles, humming to the food tune always playing in my mind.
Broiled Salmon with Orange Marmalade/Dijon/Wasabi
adapted from Cooking Light
One of the benefits of being a total food-aholic is that my pantry is — quite frequently — wonderfully well-stocked. Truly, I must have the most interesting, perpetually kept pantry of any person who lives alone that I know. No scrimping here — why would I wait until I have more people in the house to live well? With all my food wishes fulfilled (sometimes), I have the chance to experiment and play with recipes that call for a number of wacky ingredients. Like this salmon.
I must admit, my favorite way to make salmon is still a simple broil, with lemon juice, fresh garlic, and olive oil. But since I eat so much salmon, I like to play around sometimes. And here’s a dish worth fooling with, something to make any Sunday evening far more scintillating. Its succulence and surprising sweetness, cut by the heat of wasabi and ginger, will make everyone as happy in eating as you were in buying the ingredients.
two salmon fillets, preferably wild king salmon from Alaska
one-half cup orange marmalade (splurge and buy the best, please)
one tablespoon Dijon mustard
one teaspoon wasabi (or, buy wasabi/Dijon mustard)
one teaspoon fresh, minced garlic
one-half teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon cracked black pepper
one-half teaspoon fresh grated ginger
Preheat the oven to broil. Place the salmon on a tin-foil-covered baking sheet.
Mix all the ingredients, besides the salmon, in a small bowl, and stir them well. Spoon half the marmalade delight over the salmon. Use a pastry brush to coat the salmon.
Put the salmon under the broiler for six minutes, or until it’s bubbly. Immediately brush the remaining marmalade mixture over the salmon and broil for a remaining two minutes. The inside will still be a slightly darker pink than the rest of the fish, but the salmon is now succulent and ready to eat.