There are three grocery stores in town. One I’ve never been in – I find the bars on the windows a bit off putting; one has aisles stacked high with generic label merchandise with names that mimic big brands (Fruiti-Os!) but is reliable for having cilantro and then there’s the other one, the one that I go to fairly regularly.
Soon after we’d moved here, we went to this store, detailed list in hand, optimistic. I was doing well until I came to tofu on the list. I looked in the produce section and the dairy section; I didn’t bother trying to find a health food aisle. Kel suggested I ask someone, but I have a real loathing of asking for help in stores. So I’d decided that they didn't have tofu and I’d just strike that meal off of the menu. Finished, we rolled the cart up to the check-out area, tofu-less. We queued up, putting our items on the small counter, a couple of people lining up behind us. Then Kel did the unthinkable. Acting on his own initiative, he leaned over to the cashier and with his next words, sealed our fate forever as the town’s wacko treehuggers: Do you carry tofu? Blank stare, long silence from the female cashier – before turning to her neighboring cashier and asking: Do we carry tofu? This produced a frown from the other cashier who cocked her head and bellowed: Soul food? Do we carry SOUL food? Every head in the market turned our way.
A few weeks after that, I noticed four boxes of tofu sitting in a basket in the produce section, the unrefrigerated part of the produce section. The boxes had puffed up and appeared to be about to burst. I did not buy any tofu that day. After that I never saw tofu there again.
That’s a few years back now and we’re more or less regulars, accepted as being a little bit different when it comes to food. The Soul Food cashier never fails to say, “Still eatin’ healthy I see,” whenever we come in. And I always say, “Well, we try.”