The whole thing started with onions. Steve's mother was going to make corned beef hash from scratch and told him to come for lunch the next day. Usually Steve's brother and nephew, who install overhead doors, get through early in the afternoon and show up to eat too. However, Jane (Steve's mother) changed her mind and decided to make beef stew instead. She told him that morning she needed onions. Steve realized he would have to leave for Big Y immediately if he was to buy onions and bring them over to Jane in time for her to cook stew for lunch. (Jane uses a lot of onions.)
Last time he had been at Big Y Steve had noticed these small whole onions packaged in a bag that read "Vidalia Onions." He honestly did not think they were Vidalia onions but he wondered if they would have a sweetish taste and he thought his mother might like to try them. But, he knew she wouldn't put them in her stew so he needed to get regular onions. Unless, he said, "don't you already have some you can use until I get more?" "I probably do," Jane said. "Count your onions," he said. I am still a little confused as to whether Steve's mother ended up using her existing onions or new ones for the batch of stew, but in any case everybody ate it and enjoyed it.
There are often vegetable issues here. Jane sent Steve for carrots. There's a smaller independent grocery store near Steve's house. They have lovely produce (I've been there). Steve had a dentist's appointment but he was early and thought he would go get the carrots there to kill some time. If you live almost anywhere in the United States you know that this is the worst winter on record and that parking lots are very icy. VERY icy. Steve slowly shuffled, carefully picking his way in from the truck and trying not to fall and maim himself. All they had were those baby carrots already peeled and packaged. He knew his mother would not use those so he would have to look elsewhere.
After his dentist's appointment, where he learned he would be having the rough surface of the back of one of his front teeth filled in (because it was getting thin from him worrying it with his tongue) he headed for a local produce store and, finding the carrots he needed, walked out feeling like a puppy wanting to wag his tail. His mother was happy too.
Steve doesn't mind going grocery shopping and he does usually go to his local Big Y, a HUGE store I was bowled over by when I first saw it. It also has sales beyond the pale. The thing is, he told me, there is very little confusion about shopping in general until he gets to the produce. There he usually gets jittery. Once he could stand things no longer and finally asked a worker what the difference was between sweet potatoes and yams. "HAH!" the worker said, "There is absolutely no difference. But some people want sweet potatoes and some want yams, and so we put them in separate displays and mark them differently." They were, in fact, the same price so this made sense to Steve.
BUT Steve is not one to take things that lightly and the next time he was at his parents' house he dragged out their encyclopedias (this was pre-computer) so he could look up sweet potatoes and yams. Well, one or two yams, he discovered, would take a pickup truck to transport. They are grown in Africa and are about six feet long. Steve says he sometimes sees people looking back and forth between the two displays at Big Y and he usually looks over and says "HAH!" like the worker did. Sometimes for kicks he will go right up to the display, shake his head sadly and go "pssht" like Ed Bassmaster in these famous skits :
"I just feel like I have to do it sometimes," he said.
There is an issue with green peppers, too. Some are shorter
and rounder and some are longer. Often when he brings her peppers his mother will say "Stephen, those peppers are too big." "What do you mean those peppers are too big?" he asked her. "I got them in my car!" Too big for stuffed peppers, she explained. Steve thought she cut the tops off and stuffed them but in fact she cuts them in half and makes two. Therefore the logic is that she can use a smaller pepper.
There are a few other vegetable considerations in the family. Jane puts "eating celery" on her shopping list when she wants celery hearts because she doesn't like to eat or serve "cooking celery," though she will just ask for celery if she's planning on cooking it. How often do you cook celery, anyway? What do you put it in? Beef stew, I know. Hey, I'm not making fun of anybody. When I run out of cat food I always say "Well, if worst comes to worst I always have a few cans of human tuna." (Human tuna with eating celery makes a good salad, of course, if you put it with mayo and elbow noodles.)
"You know, I think most people get confused when it comes to cuts of meat," Steve said, "but really it's the VEGETABLES. If you don't understand the different vegetables you can really drive yourself crazy. It's all well and good to know the butcher, but the guy who can help you with the vegetables? That guy? He's like this all-knowing presence. He can tell you everything. He's like a sage."
Sage, I think, is in the next aisle over.