Weekdays off come with a bit of a sting for parents because that of course means no school, which means activities must be found for the kids who are home for the day. This is where I as parent and erstwhile role model put on my cheerleader hat, trying to interest a certain 7-year-old in getting dressed out of her pajamas, turn off the television and join me in a walk to the grocery store.
"I don't want to go to Whole Foods!" she screams, throwing herself backwards against a sofa cushion and kicking her feet into the air. "I've been there two days in a row!"
I take that as a 'No' and switch into a higher gear, explaining that the reason for the grocery outing is to purchase ingredients for muffins that I am making for a client and that we can have so much fun when we get back making muffins together.
"I don't want to make muffins!" is her less-than-enthusiastic response.
I then switch into bribing mode, holding out the possibility that there may be some kind of delectable treat waiting for her at Whole Foods, yet to be discovered but only if we start walking there sometime within the next 15 minutes.
As a final inducement, I encourage her to think how miserable she'll be sitting in front of the television all day in her pajamas. With a heart full of love and kindness, I growl, "Turn off the television!"
A few minutes later I find that she has had a change of heart. She is indeed getting dressed and ready to go. Now my wife is at the door urging us to take the canvas shopping bags she has purchased from Whole Foods. We are doing our part to save the world from plastic shopping bags, only I keep forgetting to take the more eco-friendly bags.
By way of cementing our resolve, and assisting my memory, my wife says, "There will be no more plastic bags allowed in this house. Don't even think about coming back with a plastic bag." She hands me the canvas bags and we are off.
Our local Whole Foods is about a 20-minute walk and I figure both daughter and I can use the exercise. Daughter is less convinced.
"Why can't we take the car?"
"Don't be silly," I say. "Look what a beautiful day it is! It's a great day for a walk."
"But my legs hurt."
"You're a young kid. You've got lots of energy."
"But my legs are really going to hurt."
"Do we need to take you to the doctor?"
In fact, it is a lovely walk, although I feel a bit silly carrying two bulging packages of used plastic shopping bags in one hand. They won't be recycled if you leave them at the curb. I'm taking them back to the Whole Foods to do whatever they do with used shopping bags.
Our shopping list is fairly short: honey, eggs, egg substitute, a sweet potato, some whole wheat pastry flour, frozen blueberries and something called lecithin granules. This to make several different kinds of heart-healthy muffins that I will put in client meals over the coming months. I have a feeling there could be some surprise waiting over the lecithin granules. I have no idea what they are or why they are called for in a recipe for "coffee cake muffins."
Sure enough, the lecithin granules turn into a bit of an adventure. The man at the customer service desk gives me a blank stare. After waiting several minutes for someone from "grocery team" to arrive and show me where they are--if they exist--I walk around the corner to see if the store concierge has a clue.
I like the concierge. Like a good hotel concierge, he seems to be always primed and ready for the next challenge. He can't wait to help you with your most outrageous request. When I tell him we are looking for lecithin granules, he screws his face into an expression that says, "Never heard of 'em, but if that's what you need, I'm sure we can find some around here someplace." I like that.
The concierge disappears into his den for a moment to check for lecithin granules on his computer, then reappears saying they are most likely to be in the "Supplements Section."
Here I'd been scouring the baking aisle, looking up and down and all around for the mystery ingredient, when it turns out lecithin is some sort of vegetable concentrate providing "97% soy phosphatides," whatever those are, along with "phosphatidyl choline" and "phosphatidyl inositol." I have no idea what any of this means, or why I would need them in a muffin. But I feel I am somehow broadening my healthy muffin horizons. I take a $10 bottle of lecithin granules.
Our shopping complete, I wonder what treat I can possibly offer daughter, who has been pushing our shopping cart around the store the entire time. The stuffed animal strapped into the kid's seat is supposed to be a squirrel, except in a strange almost grotesque twist only a 7-year-old can appreciate it has the face of a child. Daughter calls her, aptly, "Squirrely."
Daughter is drawn to the steam table and the selection of soups. I hesitate. In all the years I've been coming to Whole Foods, I've never eaten the prepared foods. These days, Whole Foods turns into a veritable restaurant around lunch-time. I am convinced that every Ethiopian cab driver in the District of Columbia for some reason chooses to eat lunch at Whole Foods. At noon, the parking lot at Whole Foods looks more like the taxi stand at National Airport.
Daughter decides on a small cup of chicken noodle soup. At first I am loathe to eat anything. But I relent, making a box of lentils, couscous, chickpeas, steamed tofu.
It all looks suddenly very appetizing. We actually find an empty booth, but that is because the table is falling off its legs and wobbles dangerously whenever you touch it. Nevertheless, daughter happily thrusts a spoon into her soup. My food, though colorful and authentic looking, is rather bland. I'm not sure whether this is for the benefit of the general "I-don't-do-ethnic" public out there, or because the chef is missing some taste buds. For my taste, some seasoning would be nice.
But we have a swell lunch together, daughter and I, just the two of us. It's amazing how quickly kids can recover from a tantrum in front of the television. Persistence is a virtue, and sometimes makes parenthood grand.