With less than 12 hours to prepare a dish for my work’s Thanksgiving potluck and exactly nothing in my refrigerator besides a bowl of old cous cous, a cup of apple juice and a wedge of Parmesan cheese, I knew I was in trouble.
I scanned the kitchen shelves looking for a miracle. I found two cookbooks that I forgot I owned instead. One is for pairing wine and cheese, the other for making homemade pasta. I have never used either of them. Pasta was out due to the fact that it was 8:15 p.m. and I was short on time, and wine and cheese was out because we have a principle of not drinking alcohol at noon in the office. Bummer.
Out of my own set of principles, I refuse to buy a prepared dish for a potluck. That’s not how I grew up.
I rifled through the mail and found one recipe in one of my roommate’s magazines for a potato and fennel dish that looked pretty self explanatory. Slice, mix, sprinkle with cheese and bake. I can handle that. Five minutes later I was standing in the middle of Safeway confused.
For one thing, the lighting in grocery stores is a problem for me. Normally, I have perfect vision. But the minute I step inside one I feel like I am squinting at everything. Plus I don’t understand the layout. Why isn’t everything alphabetical? For a recipe that had exactly eight ingredients: salt, pepper, olive oil, cheese, fennel, Yukon potatoes, bread crumbs and parsley, it took me 40 minutes to find everything.
For me, shopping at grocery stores is like entering a black hole. I have no idea where I go during that time. I thought the entire round trip would take me 15 minutes. I was prepared. I had a list. I live four blocks away. Instead, I strolled up and down the aisles, putting stuff in my basket only to pull it out again ten minutes later. And I never actually found the fennel. I don’t even know what fennel looks like. I think I ate it once in a salad. Turns out they were out of the stuff.
So there I was. No dish for the office potluck. And officially late for dinner with my new manfriend. I left Safeway feeling defeated and with a grocery bag filled with nothing I needed for today – armed with a bag of flour, sugar, eggs, milk, cereal, bananas and a pepper. I didn’t even make an attempt at a dish. The potluck is now in 90 minutes and I still don’t have anything. There is no time for principles at this point. I think I will just have to buy something instead.