COVID-19 is certainly teaching us new skills. A skill that my husband Nagib is painfully learning is how to do a full-scale grocery shopping. Nagib typically does not do groceries; this is a chore that my mom and I enjoy doing weekly. The odd time Nagib comes grocery shopping with me, we have distinct roles: I do the groceries, Nagib manoeuvres the cart and organizes the groceries beautifully so that vegetables sit with vegetables, bread sits in the upper part of the cart, eggs are placed just so.
With the coronavirus situation, we looked at delivery and pick up options at Loblaws, T&T, Longos, Metro, even Walmart. Nothing was available for at least two weeks. So Nagib offered to go grocery shopping all by his lonesome self a couple of weeks ago. He had a list of only the most essential items we needed – 10 at most. Please understand that Nagib’s interest in shopping generally is tepid at the best of times, so shopping during COVID-19 tested his patience.
He was, however, fascinated by the measures that the staff at Galati’s had taken to create a safe space and when he came home, he expressed with great gusto what transpired at the grocery store, complete with pictures and hand gestures, and re-enacted every scene. I was in stitches.
This past week, Nagib went out for groceries again. We needed full groceries this time and I asked him how I could help make his task easier. He asked me to give him the list in groupings (i.e., bread, fruits and vegetables, dairy, etc) so that he could go to each aisle just once. I thought he was joking but he clearly wasn’t. So I did just that, and typed up the list, double-spaced. Before he ventured out, we walked through the list where he asked me to further cut down the list to just the essential items. I did this with a yellow highlighter.
15 minutes into the store, I get a text. What is cilantro? He was going up and down the aisle and had a hard time differentiating the greens. Finally, he asked for help at the store and learned that cilantro and coriander was the same. When he reached the taco aisle (yes, tacos are an essential item in the Premji family), I got pictures from him asking whether he should buy the shells or the dinner kit, which brand (always El Paso!). A minute later I got another text asking if coconut milk came in a can or in the frozen section. By now, I was doubled up in laughter, just waiting for another text! It came quickly. Did I want mushrooms in a packet? Did I want whole mushrooms or sliced? Then another text, and another.
I waited with anticipation for Nagib to come home. I opened up the bags and was incredibly impressed with how he got everything on the list and was still standing. Until I saw 3 bags of onions. A million zillion tomatoes. 2 extra large, pregnant, oversized, gigantic eggplants. 3 boxes of mushrooms. As I was howling on the floor laughing, Nagib desperately tried to explain that the onions and mushrooms were each 3 for $5 and it didn’t make sense to buy just one for $1.99 each. After putting away what we needed, I called a neighbour and asked if she could use some vegetables. Out of curiosity, I asked my husband how long his grocery run was, and he said two hours!!! Two hours! He explained that he needed to psych himself up for the lines and the wait at Food Basics, so he picked up a Tim Horton’s coffee before starting; he also had to put on a mask, sunglasses and ear-muffs (to protect himself from the sun, cold and you know…). And, on his way home, he then stopped by Galati’s to pick up a specific kosher spreadable butter for our neighbour, and decided to order and bring home pizza for lunch.
My husband is the smartest man I know. He is an extraordinary caregiver. I think he has the potential to be a good grocery shopper with practice. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I expect we will be having a lot of grilled eggplant, tomato soup and mushroom risotto this week.