Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shopping for tomatoes

Took the kids to Costco.

That's the low-price, high-volume wholesale warehouse, for the uninitiated.

Costco is fine. If you are a survivalist and have the bunker to store 128 super-large tins of tomatoes. I'm not and I don't. But Shark is removing the oxygen tank, fins, wetsuits and thing-with-body-armour-and-tubes from the walk-in shower this week, since she has to check in the summer gear back to the club, and the space she leaves makes way for my tomatoes.*

Taking the kids to Costco is, I feel, something that should be in every child's education. It makes visible the trade connections - say between wholesale and corner-shop retail - with all the attendant profit rises, yet simultaneously makes any rational person feel utterly miserable about the soulless scale of consumption we are all capable of. Like 128 super-large tins of tomatoes, 80 mega-boxes of Cheerios, and 448 double-sized packets of tacos.

It's not an easy shopping experience for me. Truth is, I wouldn't mind conferring to my teenage offspring my problematic condition (feeling guilty and shifty about buying 5kg of non-traidcraft coffee at a super-cheap price). This way, the family could talk over the issues arising; maybe arrive at that place where I devoted my coffee-drinking to a more ethical experience, so long as they gave up the horse-riding to cover the cost.

Then think of the endless, vital, education to be had from a trip to Costco! Our twenty-first century patterns of consumption, global trade, ethical shopping, supermarket responsibilities, a shopper's moral duties to our fellows and the planet, vs look at the price of 5kg of non-traidcraft coffee! Can we store it in the shower?

But that conversation didn't happen. Not even the usual one which starts Why don't we grow it ourselves on an allotment? and ends with Oh that's the reason why not. The conversation didn't happen, because I was stupid enough to walk Shark, Squirrel and Tiger past the cake department.

Now, if you have never seen the cake department in Costco, that is the exact place where your heart stops beating. Especially if you are aged 13. The cakes on sale here are as big and as round as the moon fell down in your back yard, and each one is iced twelve inches deep, fluffed up with buttercream fluff. Big, and round, and fat, and fluffy enough to feed all of East Anglia and most of Essex. And did I mention the exquisitely styled decorations on top, with sprinkes all the way round?

Listen. Can you hear the sighs of love from Shark, Squirrel and Tiger? For a perfect, hushed and awed five minutes there was something akin to prayer happening in the Costco aisles, just where the carrot cake met the lemon drizzle sponge. Then I could hear their brains working, calculating the seconds to go, before the birthday party where no-one is invited, but we will, Lord preserve us and Costco, eat cake.

* Don't ask about the shower. It last showered anyone in 1999.

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