The Grocery Train Came In

Friday, May 28, 2010
Because the main industry in the area is tourism, anyone who’s lived here for any extended period time has had to answer their fair share of stupid odd questions from visitors. The universal favorite such question among locals seems to be “what’s that big river we’ve been driving along for a couple hours now?” (Lake Superior.) But there are other good ones, like “when do deer turn into moose?” Some, more legitimate, questions just grow weary with time such as, “what’s happening to the birch trees?” (A number of things: for one, birch trees don’t have very long life cycles and they’ve also been stressed out by an ice storm, droughts and invasive insects. Also, they die from the top down, which is a big part of why they look so very bad along the highway.)

And then there’s the one I never liked: “what do you do in the winter?” Part of what makes me so hostile to the question is that after graduating from college, I never knew what I was doing in the winter. Again, because of the tourist industry, a lot of jobs around here are seasonal. But there’s also an underlying implication to the question that makes me prickle. It seemed what they were actually asking was “this is lovely place to be in the summer, but you can’t possibly live here all year, can you?” I was never quite sure what to tell them: that we caught a ride on the steamer down to Duluth every October 1st? That we stayed and hitched up our dog sleds every month or so for the grocery/mail run?

Yes, we live 100+ miles from the nearest movie theater (which isn’t usually an issue, except when Sex and the City 2 has been released and you really, really want to go see it, even though you’re sure it’s going to be even worse than the first movie) but despite what we might want to think, we’re really not in the middle of nowhere. Sure, it can be hard to coordinate things like groceries, banking, laundry, and gas when you live 60 miles outside of the nearest town, but we make it work. In a lot of ways, I think it’s probably easier (and dare I say, less running around?) to drive an hour into town on a pretty much empty highway to run errands than it is to run errands in a metro area.

Still, every once in a while, it’s nice when the grocery train comes in. Whenever Andy or I venture out to the big city, we almost always make sure we do a major grocery run. The prices are lower and selection is so much better. (Did I mention that we live in a tourist town?) We mound the grocery cart to the point where I’ve been asked if I’m preparing for a blizzard. You can see the clerk shuttering as you cajole your cart – which by now has locking wheels – into the checkout line.

Andy was out of town at the start of the week and he brought home several hundreds of dollars of groceries back with him. This is good, because while he was gone, I found we didn’t have nearly must food on hand as I had thought. Once I moved around the basically empty jars in the fridge that had been taking up space, I realized we had only a few things in the house that were readily edible: three bagels, stale rice cakes, and lots of mustard.
Things are looking at lot less dire now. I think we’ll have plenty of food for the next month, at least, although we do have to stock up on fresh veggies more often than that. An arrival from the grocery train is always welcome: it’s one less thing to worry about as the busy summer season begins.

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