Monday, November 22, 2010

Hoard, Hoard Again

Being in the line of work I am (psychology), I have conducted many informal self-assessments and have a reasonable sense of my behaviors that would be diagnosed as clinically pathological, and the habits I have that can be categorized as "loveable". So it is with professional confidence that I share a proclivity of mine that falls squarely into the latter category: I like to accumulate food and food-related products. Not to the extent where you cannot enter my home without tripping on heads of cauliflower, but more in the "why buy one when you can buy two or  three?" mindset.

I have very little interest in food that has been prepared or cooked. I like to make some meals and have had success despite my refusal to follow a recipe or use any measuring implements. Rather than have to deal with putting unused raw food into a ziplock bag, I tend to cook however much is included in the pack I purchased. Whereas my husband will meticulously measure a "portion" size of spaghetti for each family member and put aside the rest, I just throw the entire packet in the boiling water, whether it be for one person or an entire soccer team. And for the mounds of leftovers that invariably remain at the end of a meal, I am just as happy to dump it down the disposal and let it do its magic. The satisfaction never dissipates of witnessing machinery pulverize waste until there is no longer evidence that you have wasted (sorry, starving kids in far-away lands....). And I have never been the type of parent who cared too much whether my children ate everything on their plates. So I don't see my issue having much to do with fear of malnutrition or emaciaton. Trust me, these are not problems ever seen in my bloodline.

Rather, I overbuy. I wouldn't have thought much about the number of packets of rice cakes, boxes of Organic Raisin Bran Clusters or pounds of English Cucumbers that I buy if a cashier at Trader Joe's hadn't once asked me if I were preparing for a camping trip. True, he may more have been referring to my slightly unkempt hair and rustic-looking ensemble, composed of layered cardigans and a baggy skirt. And come to think of it, I may have been going through a beefy jerky phase at the time. Perhaps, even though it was mid-day in the middle of a work week, and I had a badge on a lanyard indicating I was in the process of a work day, he thought I was going to grab a canteen and ditch my office in favor of a tent and Coleman grill. For the record, nature makes me sneeze and wheeze, and animals smaller than wildebeast make me nervous.

But, the cheerful cashier had a point. I do not have a family of 12 who require more than a bag or two of bags of capellini in a given week. I do not have a catering business on the side. I live in an urban-ish area and actually live .3 miles from the aforementioned Trader Joe's. Truthfully, I do not believe there was ever a time when I needed Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil when it was not stocked on the shelves. So it is bewildering, even to a licensed mental health professional like myself, why I cannot approach the checkout line without 3 bags of shredded parmesan cheese (in my defense, once in February 2006 TJs was out of this cheese and I had to come back the next day for it...).

And the compulsion is not limited to store-bought food. Sugar-substitute packets, condiments, napkins and plastic utensils are not safe from my paws. I do, however, draw the line at those little packets of salt and the high-sodium soy sauce packets. I am not a big fan of sodium. No matter where I have worked, the top drawer of my desk has been devoted to packets of unused condiments. And they remain unused until the day I switch jobs, when they are promptly thrown away. You would think there might be some sentimentality involved in ensuring that these little packets of spicy perfection are passed on to a worthy soon-to-be ex-coworker. But no. Maybe there is a tinge of disappointment in my never becoming "known" in any job I have had as the seasoning go-to person. I am not one to self-promote, but I have learned the hard way that a reputation is not earned through silence...

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