Diet or Die

When frightening phone calls drive Rose out of her apartment, grocery shopping seems like a safe distraction. She shops on Bleecker Street, with a quick detour onto Cornelia for Murray’s. You can still visit most of these stores, although you’d find Murray’s around the corner on Bleecker now, and Ottomanelli’s in a different building. Faicco’s remains at the same spot, but Zito’s and the Vegetable Garden closed. While Rose visited these markets as part of her regular errands in 1986, the surviving stores now qualify as food meccas. The search for semolina bread as wonderful as Zito’s continues.

Someone somewhere might even have published a self-help book that could be a good source here. The Detective’s Diet, or Mystery Munchies, or, most likely, Diet or Die. She’d have to check Books in Print soon. Never give in to fear until you’re sure your bibliography is complete. Grab at every little bit of comfort laughing at yourself offers….

Trying to anticipate the joys of shopping, Rose crossed Seventh Avenue South and headed into the food stretch of Bleecker. She believed these blocks between Sixth and Seventh Avenues offered the most tempting food stores in the city. The yeasty smell of Zito’s and the warm round of semolina she bought there helped focus her thoughts on her errands. Joking with Charlie while he made her change never hurt either.

The guys in Murray’s were gregarious today, too. She tasted four cheeses before she decided on which new one to buy this time, adding the fresh ricotta to the pound of Italian pasta, two cans of roma tomatoes, jars of anchovies and capers, crock of marmalade, log of French butter, half pounds of chevre and parmesano reggiano, dozen fresh eggs, quarter pound of black olives, and rueful box of Irish breakfast tea she’d brought to the counter. Stefano scrawled the wonderfully low prices on the big brown bag she’d carry her purchases home in. If they’d only add delivery service, Murray’s would be the perfect store.

All of those helpful articles her mother read on shopping tips had probably been right when they advised against shopping on an empty stomach. Forget what it did to your food budget; it simply wrecked havoc on your ability to carry the stuff home. A rich bowl of minestrone at the Italian luncheonette on Carmine gave her the strength to continue. She poured in extra cheese and ate both pieces of bread with the thick soup, fortifying herself for more than finishing her shopping and carrying her loot home.

At the only produce store with the grace not to serve miso soup left in the neighborhood, she bought enough greens for five salads, oranges and tangerines for her big glass bowl, garlic, onions, and flat-leaf parsley. She paid for these purchases with the guilty suspicion that half of them would pass their prime, age ungracefully, and venture into rot until she tossed them out.

Half of a pound of Genoa salami from Faicco’s and a small chicken with half a pound of the great bacon from Ottomanelli’s pushed the load on her arms to their limit. She’d rather not push the question of why a woman who lived alone and ate dinner at her job five nights a week was shopping for a family of six. The prospect of cooking herself a good dinner and mulling everything over in her safely warm kitchen made this beast-of-burden routine almost worthwhile. At least trudging home and up five flights loaded like a mule kept her mind on the tasks at hand.

She wanted a good long talk with her sister while she cooked tonight, too. Marie would manage to help her find something in the current mess to giggle about and would probably come up with comforting answers while they laughed.

Stock your larder, talk to your family, forget the fear. She might manage to salvage the rest of this day yet.

Rose didn’t know how she managed not to drop the bag holding the eggs when she saw the bouquet on her apartment’s doorstep.

Food TravelMaggi Blue