Monday, May 6, 2013

Shopping Days

Ballyfree bowl and mug
Thirty years ago, shopping for dinner fixings in Ireland was a daily challenge, and often an adventure.  The corner grocery store where we bought rice and tinned food was a tiny shop with shelves up to the ceiling.  We brought in our list and handed it to the grocer.  He was a lovely fellow who always had the time to inquire about our day, or ask about “herself” when Rebecca was in school instead of helping me with the shopping.  Checking our list, he would climb up the ladder to gather our purchases for us. The bill was totted up on the brown paper bag.   He was amazed at how often we bought rice, and assumed that this was an American thing.  Why didn’t we eat more potatoes, he wondered.  Well, I’m a potato fan, but the potato crop that year was a bit of a flop and the potatoes were not at all appealing. They were aged hard things that didn’t cook up nicely at all.  We even read of potato trucks being ambushed and their cargo stolen.  We loved to shop with our friendly grocer, but he didn’t have most of what we needed so we usually had to venture further afield to assemble the ingredients for a complete meal .  The butcher shop down the street had dead cows hanging outside, gathering flies.  We didn’t go there, of course, and in fact, had to cross the road to avoid the stench of aging meat.  But a bit further on was a bakery where we bought our daily bread and our delicious teatime cakes.  Other provisions required trips to town.  We went to the vegetable store, the spice store, and were delighted to find a health food store where we could get dried beans and rice varieties beyond Uncle Ben’s.  We had several favorite delicatessens, and were thrilled when we found one which sold olives.  Once I was about to board a bus in front of the vegetable store when the clerk came running out and grabbed me.  “We have just gotten some Romaine lettuce,” he said. “I know that all Americans like Romaine.  I saved some for you!”  Actually, we preferred the usual Irish variety of lettuce, but I bought some anyway.  It’s the thought that counts, you know, and what could be more thoughtful than that? Then there was the Ballyfree egg store!  There, of course, one bought eggs, but also one could turn in the little Ballyfree emblems from off the egg cartons, and redeem them for Ballyfree crockery.  I was mad for the crockery, and as we were enthusiastic egg eaters, I collected the emblems quickly.  I first got a little egg cup, then another.  The egg cups were not that cute, but they didn’t require many emblems.  I got a mug and a bowl (very cute), but the thing I really lusted after was the milk jug (super cute.)  This took a LOT of emblems.  Could I get that many before the end of our Irish sabbatical?  My friends all bought Ballyfree eggs and saved me their emblems for me.  The number of my emblems grew!  Finally, one triumphant day, I turned in my more than seventy emblems and got the long coveted milk jug.  It was one of my finest treasures, and I delighted in serving milk for our tea in it.

Ballyfree milk jug from  etsy shop.  Already sold! 

I served milk in it for several years, but then one fateful day, a certain little girl who shall remain nameless, was doing something naughty.  I said, “Stop that” You’ll break my Ballyfree milk jug!”  But she didn’t stop! Crash! I was devastated. Usually, I was not angry about accidental breakages if they were really accidents.  But when one says to one’s child, “Stop that or this terrible thing will happen,” and then it happens, one is more inclined to be bitter.  It’s horrible, but I was bitter about this for years! Years! 

Angelic Becca has tried to atone by getting me several lovely milk jugs over time, and I love all of them.  She got me the green one shortly after the disaster, and it is actually quite a bit prettier than the poor Ballyfree one, but still….   Now it is very aged so I no longer use it for milk, but have it on display in my kitchen.  I think loving thoughts about my darling girl every time I look at it.  The autumn leaf one is a somewhat more recent gift, and it too seems too nice and delicate to use, so it is also on display. But then ….. we were wandering through the Metropolitan Market recently, whiling away time before the opera, when Becca spotted --- the perfect milk jug!  Cute, but not to beautiful to use! Not too delicate looking, and just the right size! I am happy every time I pour milk from it into my tea.


Marta said...

Great story. I love hearing about your time in Ireland.

How many pitchers does it take for mommie to forgive Becca?

joannamauselina said...

I forgave her right off, but was still bitter! About the loss of my jug rather than at her. She is the best girl!

I. F. said...

Just think, if that hadn't happened you would never have acquired such a great collection of milk jugs.

Laura said...

They are really pretty. Interesting to read of food shopping on your Ireland trip.