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First up were the bulk foods. I found the unbleached flour just fine. And the quinoa, no problem. Spaghetti, that was easy. But the wild rice. I shit you not, there were four kinds of wild rice in the bulk section.
What the hell? I thought. How could there be four kinds of wild rice? There is wild rice, and there is tame rice… right? Who made all this wild rice? Prisoners? Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things?
I was forced to call Mel and ask her what rice she preferred. I did the same thing in the Popcorn/Cookies/Candy/Cracker section, and again in the Baking/Spices section.
And in the canned products, my mind was blown when I saw that Mel had four different types of canned tomatoes listed. It was then I started to realize that I was in over my head. I looked around for twenty minutes to find tomatoes diced with green chilies, something that I didn’t think really existed, and assumed that Mel put on the list just to screw with me. I almost called Mel again, which would have been about the 10th time by now. Although I should say that Mel was never judgmental or rude about all my many calls. She never said, “See! It’s harder than you thought!” or “I told you so” or any of that crap. She always just answered my questions sweetly. But even with her non-judgmental tone, I still felt ashamed by how much I’d had to call her.
Luckily I happened to run into a friend who worked with me at the university named Dave. He was a slender man in his late 40s with a Ph.D. in education. His office was two down from mine.
I told him about my dilemma, and he helped me to realize that tomatoes diced with green chilies are a real thing, and where to find them. Then Dave said, “You don’t shop much, do you?”
“No,” I said. I told him that this is probably the first time I’d been to the store alone to get groceries for my family in about five years.
Dave laughed, softly and awkwardly. Then he looked me up and down with suspicion, like I was some kind of chauvinist republican. Like I was the kind of guy that went to work and did nothing else for his wife. I wanted to explain myself. I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t about gender, but about me not caring about what I ate, but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t seem to muster up the words. My argument seemed confused and weightless as I formed it in my mind, and by the time I thought I could actually form a sentence, he’d made his judgment, and we’d said our goodbyes.
And as Dave walked away, I started to realize that maybe all this shopping I’d thrown my hands up to over the past five years was about more than just me not caring about what I ate. Maybe it was about me not caring enough about my wife.
I know this sounds dramatic, but Mel really cares about cooking. She gets really excited about it, and I have never really cared about that. In fact, I don’t appreciate it. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but that isn’t the case with me. I like my food simple and bland, and I don’t really get excited about a good meal. But Mel does, and I think she wishes that I did too. I think she wishes that I cared about what she cooked. That I valued how much time she spent at the store, and how much thought she put into her grocery list, her meals, but I didn’t.
And I have told her as much.
It’s always friendly, and with the explanation that it had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with the fact that I just don’t care about food. But never the less, telling her that I don’t care about food when she has put so much work into it, really seems to say that I don’t care about her and her passions.
I stood in the aisle and thought about the suspicious look she gave while we were going over the list, and wondered if perhaps she wasn’t assuming that I was an idiot, but rather hoping that I’d appreciate how much time and effort she put into giving our family good food. But instead of complimenting her, I made it about me.
All of this kind of made me an asshole.
I hate these kinds of revelations, and sadly I seem to be having a lot of them lately.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley