Rohit Khare (
Sun, 24 Jan 1999 02:54:00 -0800

Inspired by the late presentation of the Annals of Improbable
Research multi-media extravaganza, "[Nobel] PROFESSOR LIPSCOMB Goes
Shopping", I humbly offer my own forays into the wilds of

It's 11:45PM, and after ninety minutes of shopping, I've just
staggered in with 1,2,3,4,...17 bags worth of groceries. In fact, in
getting up to take a census, I spied the bag which started the whole
frenzy: Kleenex Cold Care 3-ply with Lotion, Aloe, and Vitamin E, and
Albertson's Allergy & Sinus ($5, vs $6.20 for Tylenol). I have a
nasty postnasal drip that just won't go away -- it kept me in bed all
day today. Getting up to go shopping is the only thing I've done
today, and that only because it was too late to order pizza delivery.

Well, not quite. I'm also terrified of fat & calories, and pan pizza
is definitely not on my list. This terror is a newish thing, since I
started going to the gym again this year. When every kilocalorie is
at least three more seconds chained to the elliptical machine, you
start getting antsy.

First, a word about bags. Plastic bags are great. Seventeen bags of
groceries transported in three handfuls! Try to tell that to the
children of a decade ago ferrying flat-bottom paper bags in from the
car. Environmentally, I believe it's a wash, but handles are a major
evolutionary win.

In fact, much of this narrative will be about technology --
especially the twin breakthroughs of low-calorie food processing and
impulse marketing. I'm a sucker for instant gratification, like
unwrapping the plastic advertising panel on my Kleenex, the carboard
perf protector, and finding an coupon for my next purchase of this
famously addicitive product (don't believe me? search FoRK-archive
for Kleenex and find the Kimberly-Clark corporation's opinion on the
topic! And no, they had no menthol today, either...) nestled beneath
the plastic dispenser panel. What foresight!

And Kleenex is itself a high-tech plaything, as I pause to
resuscitate the candle-sculpture on our living room centerpiece. I
proceeded to spend twenty minutes burning myself with matches and
makeshift cellulose twists rewicking them. But back to our story.

Ah, yes, the pills. I was actually set to buy the Tylenol after a
quick perusal (TheraFlu? I'd rather not assemble my own drug. Dristan
-- it's still on the market? Apparently so obscure without its old TV
commercials, they want a fossils-mailing-list for a $2 mail-in
rebate), but the merchandiser's tent points out that the generic is
cheaper by 5 cents a caplet. Let's take one and see... First warning
sign: it takes two caplets to make a dose...expires May, 2001. Sure
hope I have another cold by then...

What else is in this first bag? Mazola no-stick corn oil spray -- I
scanned a wall of tempting oils and just couldn't bring myself to
bring any of the real stuff into the house. Basically, my rule is
that if it's in the cart, it's in the house, and since I'm the only
one in the house, it's going inside me. All of it. So spray it is --
after all, about the most I'd use it for is eggs.

Yamamotoyama Green Tea bags -- 16 individually sealed aluminum bags.
Wonderful Japanese pacakge design overkill. I'll make some now, in
fact. In my classic W3C coffee mug... and, oh, Tostito's tortilla
chips -- the Olesta kind, after I had the regular-lime kind in my
hand and put it back for 30 calories less a "serving".

Two x 2-liters of Diet Coke.

Six-pack of Henry Weinhard's bottled root beer. I wanted Thomas
Kemper's, but no luck with distribution this far south of Seattle.

Broguiere's Grade A, Pasteurized, Homogenized, Extra Creamy Chocolate
milk (in the old-time glass bottle - $1 deposit).. Healthy Choice
(herinafter HC -- I bought a lot of their green packaged stuff) 97%
fat free combo pack: ham and turkey cold cuts... RoJo's Hot Salsa...
HC Chili Beef soup... Campbell's Home Cookin Chicken & Pasta with
Roasted Garlic. Green Giant corn Niblets (canned)

3 red onions, 2 russet baking potatoes, 3 D'anjou pears.

Half-gallon each skim milk and Sunkist with-pulp OJ. The Sunkist won
on a Bonus Buy price-tent -- I like Albertson's card-free discount
program because I hate the thought my buying preferences would be
floating out on the Internet :-) Of course, it's no high principle:
Albertson's has cards in other, less-competitive grocery markets.

More cans: Campbell's Home Cookin' New England Clam Chowder, 98% fat
free. How they do this with a cream soup is beyond me -- must involve
"modified food starch" and the fact one can has 66% of the
Recommended Daily Allowance of salt... Green Giant Mexicorn (R) --
corn with red and green bell peppers, but now it can have a
registered trademark. It's not clear what *besides* branding is in
the box: 1/3 cup has 0% fat, 0% cholesterol, 5% carbohydrates, 2
grams (!) of protein, 0% Vitamin A, 0% Calcium, 0% Iron, 6% Vitamin
C, yet they needed added sugar to even get this nutritious. Didn't
know you could squeeze everything out a vegetable. At this point,
they're selling pure texture and color, I suppose. Food as decor...
Veg-all Cajun Mixed Vegetables (with "reconstituted pink beans")...
Taco Bell (R) Home Originals (TM) Fat Free Refried Beans with Mild
Green Chiles, another triumph of brand marketing:

[Is it transparent yet that if I had any real wit and editing energy
right now, I'd want my grocery list to read like an issue of NTK?]

Sometimes they pack a bag a little thin: Wonder Bread LIght Hot Dog
Buns (8). I had my favorite potato rolls in the basket, but for 1/3
fewer calories, taste can take a flying leap...

SnackWell's Hearty Fruit'n'Grain Cereal Bars: Mixed Berry and Autumn
Apple. The bagger has clearly added too much entropy to my shopping
cart to make this clear, but a lot of these purchases were duplicated
or triplicated for Bonus Buy deals... Lean Pockets Philly Cheesesteak
and Pepperoni Pizza, ditto... three Weight Watchers Smart Ones (R)
Swedish Meatballs; Tuna Noodle Casserole; and Turkey Medallions,

2 Lean Cuisine French Bread Pizzas, ditto: Creamy Garlic and Supreme
(300 Cal each, not bad!)... Lean Cuisine Skilled Creations Herb
Chichen & Roasted Potatoes -- a bagged freezer concoction you
dispense onto the range. One of the very few processed foods on the
market that's quicker to prepare conventionally than microwaved.
That, and the XLNT Beef Tamales (which require steaming) were about
the only products I found that weren't pitched as 'microwaveable'.
You can even nuke Pop-Tarts and products like 'Toaster Pizza' -- what
is this world coming to? Is there no semblance of cooking left to
salve the conscience of the prepared-food-dependent?

Velveeta Shells & Cheese kit.. The Spice Hunter Quick Pot Thai Ginger
Lemon Noodles kit, on introductory special ("just add water" -- are
the product names are their own finest satire?)... real meat: 2 Lamb
sirloin chops... 2 pre-seasoned boneless pork loin-chops...

I decided to cook one of the lamb chops at this point, per my
father's midnight special. Preheat toaster oven. Open spice cabinet.
Use everything.

In particular, sprinkle liberally with salt, Tandoori powder, and
Mom's garam masala (literlly, 'hot mix' -- she made this batch three
years ago, and it's still potent!). Rub into the flesh, Saran Wrap
one cut for later. Same for a sliced onion -- found that one of the
three was rotten on the inside and briefly contemplated returning a
food product for the first time in my life, then decided the hassle
wasn't worth 30 cents and chucked it.

At least the process proved my sinus medication is working... the
recipe and the onions are usually a crying game...

Michelina's Risotto Parmigiano; and Four-Cheese Lasagna (twofer
deal)... HC Bowl Creatons: Colonial Pot Pie, Turkey Divan, and
Roasted Potatoes and Ham (threefer)... Oscar Meyer Pre-Cooked Bacon
-- hey, diet or no, this seemed too cool: "We've carefully cooked our
premium bacon so you don't have to. No mess,/No cleanup! Just great
tasting bacon ready to serve for any occasion. Made from America's
Favorite Bacon." -- such lyrical heights! -- and for all those
bacon-ready occasions I'd never thought of before! -- 10
microwave-ready seconds to crispy bliss...

HC Traditonal Breast of Turkey With Gravy and Dressing, Corm Carrots,
& Peas in Butter Sauce and Apple Cranberry Compote (all for only 4.5
g fat and 290 calories!).. El Charrito 98% Fat Free Lean Ole Steak,
Beans, and Rice burrito (& Chicken)... HC Apple Streusel dessert bars
-- such an impulse buy I set one aside for dessert.

At this point, my Mac crashed from a flawed INIT. I'm very
disappointed. I was far enough along I had to finish this documentary
process, for whaever obsessive reason I had already began. I mean,
groceries! More obsessive than any vanity site even I can think of to
publish such musings to the world. To recover, I held this laptop
next to my Intel to retype the portion visible on screen. At least I
had that much -- on Friday, I lost my notes on 300 emails, and all of
my latest class notes, because Word lied about saving even when it
was set to AutoRecover evry 2 minutes (!). Tim, where's my QuicKeys
macro to hit apple-S every minute, whatever application I'm running??
Durn grmblfkn non-memory protected 1983 OS!

1lb peeled baby carrots for snacking. Earlier, next to the hot
pickled Okra, I saw baby Belgian carrots in glass, which reminded me
of a colorful story within _Nature's End_, wherein cancerous
Jersey-dwellers of the early 21st reveal to shocked yuppie Manhattan
refugees that the 'baby Belgian carrots' so lovingly decribed as
TAV'ed (trans-atmospheric vehicle) in on the finest restaurant's
menus were actually grown in the EPA-declared dead-zones of the
polluted tri-state area. That book really shaped my life, especially
its notion of iterative perfection in AI modeling of humans through
surveillance throughout a cyborg-intelligent Net ("A Level 10
conviction knows you better than you know yourself!"). I lent my copy
to Adam for his birthday, seeking insight as to the writing process
he suffered through from me... Kraft Free American Singles... Kraft
Mexican-style Shredded Cheddar Jack with Jalapeno peppers... Sargento
five-cheese pizza mix...Mission 98% fat-free tortillas in a very
handy resealable pouch -- but still 130 cal each!

Chavrie Basil & Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese... Country Farms (?)
Hawaiian Sweet Egg Bread (still jonesin' from Honolulu)... SPAM lite
-- I couldn't resist. Cross-promoted with the SPAM Gear website. Also
a Hawaiian hankering -- if you've been there, you know... Reser's
pouch of mashed potatoes ("Fresh-cooked flavor without the fuss!")...
BallPark Fat-Free Frankfurters -- actually fewer calories than the
soya-veggie imitations... House of Tsang Mongolian Fire Oil (infused
with red chiles)

Basmati Rice Vegetable Pilaf -- imported from the Punjab, packaged in
Irvine. Gotta keep the profit margin local!... Two pints of
Albertson's Amazing Egg: fat-free, cholesterol-free processed egg
product. Pour an omlet in seconds...

Bananas... 2 lbs red rose potatoes (tiny, for roasting with meats)...
three rome apples...

Betty Crocker Four-cheese mashed potato flakes (just add water, milk,
and butter)... Idahoan REAL (TM) Roasted Garlic Complete Mashed
Potatoes (just add water)... Quaker Oats bagged (budget) cereals:
Cinnamon Crunch and Apple Zaps -- part of the new American Simplicity
non-trend in the media, I just think it's a natural response to boxed
premium cereals that cost as much as *bushel* of raw wheat. If you
can't beat the private-label budgeteers, join 'em.

The total came to... $147.95. A bargain for a month's sustenance --
given that these are all wildly overpriced packaged foods. It's not
even four times my meal last night at Cafe Tu Tu Tango. And almost
every product in the basket was a premium-priced 'health-conscious'
product -- fat is even cheaper! Most memorable prices for the
mid-90's: a complete frozen fried chicken dinner with vegetables and
dessert, not even on sale: $0.99.

What a country! What a world! We're edging up on SIX billion people
planetwide, and our biggest problem is still food SURPLUSES....

Finally finished with dinner,
(five hours after I started!),