Love getting back to Ann Arbor, even on a stifling day like Saturday. It was for a baby shower, and aren’t those fun. One of my mother’s family stories was about the shower when she was expecting me. It was a brunch, and my aunt made pink ladies. That’s a cocktail that requires egg whites, and after a few rounds, whoever was cooking thought she didn’t want to let all those yolks go to waste, and threw them in with the eggs to be scrambled, which made them hard and rubbery. Pink ladies also require grapefruit juice, and this being before the ruby-red sweet grapefruit was the standard cocktail mixer, the drinks were quite sour and pucker-y.
“My mouth feels like an asshole,” my aunt Charlene is said to have announced, right before she stuck her fork upright in her eggs and left the table.
So with this in my family heritage, it seemed a good idea to bring the ingredients for a fruity afternoon cocktail as part of my contribution. The mother-to-be is expecting a boy, to be named Alexander, so I called my libation the Baby Alexander. It’s basically a margarita made with mango nectar and a little bit of lime juice, and it was a big hit. There was also chicken piccata, two delicious salads, wine and cupcakes. No one told episiotomy stories, and we all mooed when the guest of honor unwrapped the breast pump. Women really know how to throw a party.
I wasn’t sure if I had enough mango nectar, so I stopped at Trader Joe’s in Ann Arbor, after first considering Whole Foods. The parking lot at Whole Foods was packed. It’s always packed. I don’t know when it closes, but my guess is, if they stayed open around-the-clock, the parking lot would never have an open space (every other one occupied by a Prius, natch), the well-off denizens of Ann Arbor lining up to throw money at the cashiers. Trader Joe’s is a bit more downmarket, and everybody, and I mean everybody, had brought their reusable bags, so many that I declined a bag at all, carrying my mango nectar and bag of limes out to the car in my wee hands. I can go green with the rest of you Teva-wearing posers, Ann Arbor.
Along the way I watched the lawns, to see if my favorite A2 cultural trait (weeds) is still in evidence, and yes, yes it is. Expensive real estate, crappy lawns — that’s Ann Arbor for you. Lawn care beyond mowing once a month is too bourgeois for that place. If you mow too often, you’re not keeping up with your New York Review of Books subscription. You might even be a Republican. And there would go the neighborhood.
On my way back I stopped at a place that was called, in my time in A2, the Big Ten Party Store. Alan carped at one of my wine purchases the other day, describing it as “cough syrup,” and I needed to come back strong with a decent bottle of something for a dinner menu to be named later. The Big Ten was run by some former Zingerman’s people, and as I recall, stocked mainly wine and cheese, with a few “artisanal” (how I hate that word) beers thrown in, but at lower prices and 15 percent less attitude. Since I left, they changed their name, a huge mistake, because what beats the fun of buying aged Stilton at a place called the Big Ten Party Store?
Anyway, now all employees wear navy-blue lab coats and hover at the periphery of your space, offering helpful opinions, or perhaps to catch you when you faint at the prices. I was expecting to splurge, but when I saw $25 described as “economical,” I knew I was in over my head.
I did linger for a moment at the leg of jamon iberico in the cooler. Price per pound: $100. Not that you would buy that much, but good lord, when I’m buying ham shaved in razor-thin slices and so expensive that dropping a piece on the floor is like lighting a cigar with a tenner, that’s asking for karmic retribution. I don’t have a full professorship at a respected university. This is out of my league.
I selected a $15 beaujolais and got the hell out of there in a hurry.
(This was the cough syrup, by the way, and Alan’s right, it was pretty bad. I don’t know what happened to the label, as the first 10 bottles I bought were so good it became my vin ordinaire, but recently? Ugh.)
Boring, boring, boring, I know. So let’s hop to the bloggage:
Our national debt crisis is solved. I repeat: Our national debt crisis is solved.
Much of the overpriced wine at that place I just described was labeled “organic.” My mistrust of such standards, honed while living through approximately 7,000 food fad cycles, serves me well. The words “grown in China” and “organic” should not be within 12 miles of each other, and now it seems the U.S.D.A. agrees.
And now, Manic Monday awaits. Onward!