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On Being Treated Like a Human

November 23, 2012

It’s Thanksgiving week and, like the silly person I am, I went to the grocery store yesterday. I thought it wouldn’t be that crowded, not a Monday, not even during Thanksgiving week. I mean, it’s not like I was going to the grocery store on Wednesday! That would just be madness!

Yeah. I was wrong.

The store was packed with people. At 1:30 in the afternoon, the crowd was more like a “regular Saturday morning full week grocery shopping” crowd rather than the “oops, need a couple things on a Monday afternoon” crowd. Of course, there were some aisles that were more crowded than others, with what appeared to be the highest concentration of ill-mannered folk in it.

One such aisle was the baking aisle.  Because I can be a forgetful doofus, I ended up going down that aisle three times! It was during one of the trips down that aisle that I had the strangest experience: I was treated as a human being by a store employee!

Before I go any further, I want to say that the grocery store I go to has employees who are consistently helpful and courteous. The times I’m treated rude there are the exception, rather than the rule.  But what happened yesterday really blew my mind a little bit.

See, what happened was a person (store employee in this case) noticed what I had in my shopping cart and did not judge me.

My second visit to the baking aisle was because, after I’d left it, I realized that the baking aisle was also the cooking oil aisle. I don’t buy oil all that often and when I do I have to go looking for the oil because I usually forget where it is. As I was looking at the plethora of oils available for me to purchase, a store employee attempted to get into the aisle to restock some evaporated milk (which was right next to the oil). I made way for him and he thanked me.

He asked if he could help me find what I was looking for, and I said I needed to figure out what I was looking for first. He agreed it would be helpful. He started up a conversation, apologized for the “mess” the store was in, and told me how it wasn’t even as busy as it would be the next day. I commiserated with him (being an ex-retail employee, I understand from the standpoint of Black Friday), and said I’d thought I was being proactive in avoiding the crowds by going yesterday. We both laughed when I said I needed to redefine what “crowds” meant if this wasn’t the expected busy day of the week.

By this time, I’d decided on the size oil I wanted (for those curious, it was the one gallon size of store brand peanut oil). He saw my choice and said, “Oh, if you want the cube of peanut oil, we have it in another location. I can show you where if you like!” At first I was puzzled. Why would I want a cube of peanut oil?

Yeah, I’m slow sometimes, but I don’t fry that often. “Oh! Thank you, but no. I’m not planning on frying my turkey. This is just for …” and here I floundered. How to say “deep fat frying of stuff like fried cheesecake and such” without playing into every “ZOMG Obesity Epipanic!” stereotype there is? I finally just finished with “… for regular frying.”

He nodded and we finished our conversation. He didn’t say anything judgmental.  He didn’t lecture me on how, if I just left off the frying, I’d lose weight and be healthier. He didn’t even make a face when I said the oil was just for regular frying. I left the aisle (to return 15 minutes later for vanilla extract), feeling very surprised.

Now, I don’t usually fry things. I have never owned a “deep fat frying” machine. In fact, outside of various fast food jobs (at a taco place that fried all it’s own tortillas for taco shells and taco bowls and corn chips and such, and the ubiquitous McDonalds), until a year and a half ago, I’d never deep fried anything.

I know. I’m such a rebel. How dare I be a Fatty McFatterson and not fry everything — twice even — in oil!?

The reason I started frying in oil at the ripe old age of 44 was because I was cooking a full course for a feast that my local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) group was holding, and my course included fritters. Yeah, I had to learn to make fritters so I’d put out good product. The reason I’m needing oil now is because I’m the head cook for another feast we are putting on, and I found a recipe from an 1300s cookbook that is, basically, fried cheesecake! I mean, how I could I resist having that as dessert, y’all?

I finished out my shopping in a much better mood. It’s amazing how being treated like a human being, instead of a bunch of quivering adipose flesh in a bag that must be lectured, makes one feel.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Fab@54 permalink
    November 23, 2012 10:00 am

    In my opinion, deep frying gets an undeserved ‘bad rap’. When deep frying is *done right*, (correct temps) there is very little oil absorption into the foods. The calorie difference between deep fried and other cooked foods is – again, IMO- not significant enough to sacrifice the time honored process of deep frying to get that golden brown color/crunch/crust on things. Now a days with virtually no one using lard or other animal fats for deep frying and instead using all different kinds of oils with even higher smoking temps… it’s all good.
    Generally, 9 times out of ten I oven bake things like breaded chicken parts, french fries, etc. But once in a while I pull out the deep fry pan and do a deep fry. YUM.
    Fry away and enjoy!!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      November 24, 2012 12:35 pm

      I know all the food science of frying in oil, it’s just not something I ever did. My grandma’s version of “frying” was to put about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan and fry whatever it was in that. (Notably, a dish she called “fried pork chops” which was pork chops with a crushed saltine cracker “breading”, fried in oil not hot enough so all the saltines soaked up the grease. YUCK!)

      It’s just, when I’ve had examples like the fried pork chops, I never really thought about frying things myself.

  2. Kala permalink
    November 23, 2012 12:23 pm

    I’m glad that you were treated well at the supermarket. I pity the fool who gives someone shit in front of me for what’s in their cart. SCA feast sounds cool, I have a new friend that’s all up in SCA, but I’m not personally one for costuming. But I could totally see myself contributing to a food thing. Obviously not historical, but historically inspired, but I really enjoyed this blog where two ladies went out to try to cook a bunch of things described in A Song of Ice and Fire series. http://www.innatthecrossroads.com/

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fried foods in moderation, and as Fab says, when properly fried, it’s not as if things are soaking in oil. I think the whole idea behind the deep fried turkey is that the oil frying keeps just about all of the moisture in the bird, for an incredibly succulent meal. I don’t think much of the oil breaches the outer layer of skin, and you don’t have to eat the skin if you don’t want to. I think the only people who think it’s somehow gluttonous don’t have any idea how it works or why people do it. I’m sure the same reasoning applies when cooking waterfowl, which I’ve never had dried out. Ducks and such have a thick layer of skin fat.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      November 24, 2012 12:22 pm

      I’ve had people (not employees at this store, but other shoppers at this store) look in my basket and make comments on “no wonder you’re so fat” before. Most of the time, I have “staircase wit” (http://youtu.be/PyQ_IKkAM9I).

      SCA feasts, when they are done right, are awesome! I’ve been a helper in many feasts, and took care of a whole course once (whole course meant meat, veggies, starch, and dessert) for over 80 people, but this is my first time being “head cook” for the full feast. We have a limit of 90 people for this feast.

      I’m geek enough to love reconstructing the recipes from the time period. Many recipes read “take some flour and enough eggs to make a thin batter”, or things like that. It’s so much fun to experiment and see how much flour, how many eggs, etc.

      I have the Inn at the Crossroads website bookmarked! I love reading about what they are doing. 😉

      • Kala permalink
        November 25, 2012 6:13 pm

        I have a tendency to get angry when I screw up a recipe (one time I tried to make dumplings and my partner went and hid upstairs when he realized it wasn’t going well). I think reconstruction would be a blast if I got it right, but perhaps not worth it with the perspective of getting it wrong. LOL

        • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
          November 25, 2012 6:17 pm

          I used to be that way. Now, as long as I didn’t use the last egg or butter in the messed up version, I just roll with it.

          But then, for the past 2 years I’ve been developing recipes for different caramels, both different flavors and with different sugars to be more friendly to the sugar intolerant. I’ve learned that sometimes, something has to go through a bunch of trials before it’s correct. 🙂

  3. November 23, 2012 2:17 pm

    SCA sounds awesome- any chance of getting that deep-fried cheesecake recipe? I’d love it!

    I cook a lot of Japanese meals for my friends (learned to as a teen, and somehow it’s the one cuisine everybody in my circle of friends can agree on), and more dishes than you’d think call for deep-frying stuff. My current favorite is deep-fried chicken bits covered in a special marinade after frying and then being tossed in black&white sesame seeds alternately. Looks beautiful, tastes better!

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      November 24, 2012 12:23 pm

      As soon as I get all the quirks worked out of it, I’ll share the recipe. 🙂

      And that chicken dish sounds awesome!

      • November 25, 2012 6:10 am

        And it’s really simple! Here’s the recipe, if you’d like it (adapted from Kurihara Harumi-sensei’s cookbook):

        2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
        1 Tbsp soy sauce
        1 Tbsp dry sherry or shokoshu (which you almost never get outside of Japan)
        Sunflower or other vegetable oil for frying
        roasted white and black sesame seeds (roast them yourselves to save some serious money), on separate plates

        For the sauce/marinade:
        1/4 cup soy sauce
        3-4 Tbsp fine white sugar
        2-3 Tbsp dry sherry or shokoshu
        1 star anise (pod? Seed? 1 star!)

        Wash&pat dry the chicken bits. Combine sherry and soy sauce&marinade chicken in there for ~10-15min.

        Prep the sauce/marinade #2. In small pot, heat sugar, sherry, soy sauce, star anise until mixture thickens.

        Remove chicken bits from marinade&pat dry. Heat oil in wok or a deep pan&fry chicken on low heat until almost done. For a final touch, up heat to crisp the outside of the chicken bits.

        Take hot chicken bits from the oil&dip in sauce (on one side). Immediately dip that side in roast sesame seeds of your color choice. Firmly press into sesame seeds so enough of them will stick. Serve alternating between black&white sesame-crusted chicken bits with added cuts of lime (the lime adds a great tang to the dish when squeezed fresh on top).

        Enjoy hot or cold!

        • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
          November 25, 2012 6:14 pm

          That sounds great! I’m going to have to try it soon!

  4. JeninCanada permalink
    November 24, 2012 11:51 am

    I’m so thankful that you had such a positive shopping experience. Too bad that it was so remarkable that you needed to post about it! >_<

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      November 24, 2012 12:24 pm

      Yeah. It really sucks that being treated “decently” is such cause for celebration.

      • Fab@54 permalink
        November 26, 2012 9:03 am

        Seriously! Eh… there is always Hope…. 🙂

  5. November 26, 2012 1:23 pm

    You’ve all already covered my thoughts… it’s just so sad that an absence of dickish behavior is something to be happy about. But I guess it is when you’ve got a spoiled identity.

    Peace,
    Shannon

  6. January 29, 2013 11:01 am

    I don’t fry that often, but I love fried food. It’s mostly my lack of culinary talent that prevents me from foraying too deeply into the world of greasy goodness (and the desire to keep my cholesterol in check). Damn, now I want some fried chicken. By the way, I wouldn’t recommend it for a huge Turkey, but light tasting olive oil is great for frying small things. It tastes yummy and doesn’t have the peanut allergy thing going for it, if you’re serving to a large crowd.

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