10 December, 2009

Grocery Shopping

I love to grocery shop, I mean I really love grocery shopping. If you've ever been to Market Street on a Sunday with me, or, even better, to a Whole Foods with me, you can attest that I'll spend hours walking each isle inspecting all of the items. I rarely buy much, but I love looking for new items, sampling the breads, and ogling the shined produce; peach season is my favorite. Though grocery shopping happens everywhere the cultural differences between societies are often highlighted in the way they buy and present their groceries and even the frequency of shopping trips out.
In the US everything is clearly orchestrated. Shined oranges and genetically modified apples stay in perpetual surplus stacked neatly in pyramids awaiting our touch. As soon as one is purchased or taken from the immaculate stack an army of stock people descend restoring order. Granted there are different classes of grocery stores; I have yet to see a grocery store in the US which, even at the lowest end of the scale, was anything less than representative of abundance.

A typical orchestrated produce section in a US supermarket.
Spanish grocery stores (Super Mercados)were smaller and more authentic to the human condition; nothing was shined and everything had a true to nature smell, meat smelled like meat. The Spanish system of grocery shopping is slowly creeping from separate smaller shops of panderias and canicerias to the 'all in one' connivence of Super Mercados. Though some Spaniards still hold on to the separate shop approach, which allows for specialization and thus higher quality goods, the connivence and low pricing of the Super Mercados are surely taking over.

A fruiteria in Sevilla, Spain.

Some images of a Super Mercado in Sevilla, Spain.

British grocery shopping is somehow a middle man to Spain and the US, which seems appropriate with their geographic location. Everything is sanitized, bagged, and shined. The bagging is absolutely excessive, even produce is often wrapped in plastic. Produce selection wanes throughout the day; if you go shopping at night you're unlikely to find a surplus of any produce as it's shipped in each morning. I do praise British shops for embracing the free-range, organic, vegetarian, and reusable trends in such a large capacity; even the most rough looking men at Tesco have their lady bug patterned reusable bags in toe to carry their Carlsburg and free-range eggs home in. We as Americans often have these options but they are considered fringe and often priced out of the reach of the average American who sees the green movement as an irrelevant luxury. I still carry my Twiggy Marks & Spencer reusable bag to Market Street where the confused sackers often ask if I want a separate plastic bag for my drinks or produce.

Sainsbury's produce section, at the beginning of the day.

All of these grocery stores pale in comparison to what I consider the holy grail of food shopping; I of course am speaking of the farmer's market. I adore, in every sense of the word, farmer's markets and farm shops, and I have never seen such an abundance of the aforementioned places as I did while in Britain. While living in Oundle I experienced the outdoor market every Thursday and the large farmer's market every second Saturday of the month. I could spend hours looking over the indecently cheap fresh cheeses and eggs, and even had a personalized nickname from the farm produce man, the "Texas Tornado". I still look back to my summer days in southern England and can not help but long for those grocery Thursdays; I'd give all the shined fruit in the world for the smallest of farm shops. Here's a little sample of those times..
Thursday's outdoor market; Oundle, Peterborough, England, UK.

My farm fresh free-range eggs, 2 GBP Port Salut Cheese, local Lemon Bakewell tarts, and amazing raspberries.
03 December, 2009

Bourbon Oatmeal Cookiewiches

It's snowing right now, in Lubbock Texas. I know many people think, 'What, snow? Can't be', but indeed it is. Personally, I don't like the snow. I'm much more of a warm over-cast day girl myself, but to every season turn turn, or something along those lines. So since it's snowing and I don't have anything I should be doing, though honestly I haven't checked, I began to bake.
Now for the past couple of days I've been wanting to make oatmeal cookies, and gave it a go yesterday, but alas, disaster. I'm not going to go into it.
So today I gave it another shot and have come up with Bourbon Oatmeal Cookiewiches. Now I've never been a fan of oatmeal cookies and have never, as a point of fact, eaten a sandwich made with oatmeal cookies, though I've seen them. My disdain for oatmeal cookies wasn't anything personal, I'm not really a cookie person. I also don't like raisins (or Crasins for that matter) in my baked goods; on their own I'm on board. Due to these two statements it does seem like a rather odd choice that I would make Oatmeal Cookiewiches...but mine are without raisins and plus booze...so inherently superior to any previously created.

Bourbon Oatmeal Cookiewiches

1 stick of butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp hazelnut coffee-mate (mine is sugarfree but that's of no consequence)
.3 cup of chopped walnuts (or any nut for that matter)
.5 cup bourbon
.3 cup of corn meal
1 cup of all purpose flour
3 cups of oats
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
.5 lb whipped white icing

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl cream butter, eggs, and sugar together. Add vanilla extract, coffee mate, .25 cup bourbon, and nuts, then set aside. In separate container mix: flour, cornmeal, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Slowly add the dry to the wet mixing thoroughly. The mixture should be decently thick, but everything should be well incorporated. Spoon into tablespoon dollops and flatten into round shapes. These cookies will not spread much so you need to flatten them yourself.
Bake at 400 for 10 minutes? I have no idea, just check on them and you'll know when they're done..

For the cookiewiches

Let the cookies cool completely, very important! You can eat all the warm ones you want, but for the wiches, they must not be warm or it'll melt the icing, which might be nice though aesthetically disastrous. Now pair the cookies by size and shape, which will all be slightly different.
Mix the icing with 3 tablespoons of bourbon. Then using a butter knife or frosting knife, take the smaller of the cookie pairs and put the desired amount of icing evenly on the cookie. Add the paired cookie to the top and lightly squeeze down. You get the idea.

Sorry for the picture quality, I was using the MacBook.