Back in the summer, when I first started working where I do now, my new colleague A watched me shovel cold apple pie into my mouth and asked, “Is that your breakfast?”
She rolled her eyes, and I asked, “What? What’s wrong with eating apple pie for breakfast?”
“There are a lot of things wrong with apple pie for breakfast,” she said dryly, but then we were interrupted, and I never did get to hear her reasons.
I am the kid who gleefully grins ear-to ear and and waves my hands excitedly whenever the local Safeway restocks my favorite Mrs. Smith’s Deep-Dish Apple Pie in their freezers. And I bring it home and promptly bake it and then – because the family refuses to share in such excitement – I single-handedly consume the pie for about a week.
At work, I’m known for my various food obsessions. First, there was the rice krispie treats obsession. I still maintain this is B’s fault. When I suddenly turned around from my desk one day and whined, “I’m freakin’ craving rice krispie treats, dammit!”, B laughed and said, “You know, you could buy gelatin-free marshmallows. Or, better yet, get marshmallow cream from Safeway. It has no gelatin in it.”
“Are you serious?!” I went on a marshmallow cream hunt, found it in the baking aisle, and it was just as B had said – no gelatin. I grinned ear-to-ear, waved my hands excitedly, grabbed two boxes of rice krispie treats cereal, and went home to make the snack I hadn’t consumed in, well, nearly two decades. I ate nearly half in one sitting, and took the leftovers in to work the next morning. This was repeated a few times.
Next up: String cheese. One day, I decided string cheese was a good snack for munching on while at work. I bought a few pieces, stuck them in the work refrigerator, pulled them out whenever I felt hungry, and they were good. Especially with cranberry juice (the one obsession I will never tire of). Once I finished the string cheese stash at work, I should have just stopped altogether, but no, I was hooked at this point. Thus, my next brilliant idea was to buy some string cheese from Costco. Do you know how many sticks of string cheese you get in one Costco package? About three freakin’ dozen. “Oh, my god,” said the co-workers, laughing in spite of themselves. “What were you thinking? You know you’re going to have to eat all of those yourself, right?”
I’m so over string cheese now.
My latest interest is in doughnuts from Safeway – not the one closeby my workplace, which is a small, hole-in-the-wall sort of market that caters to the nearby Santa Clara University students and lacks a bakery, but instead the one by my house, which offers hot, fresh doughnuts every morning. The first time I came into work with doughnuts and a bottle of sparkling cider, we took an impromptu break and picked doughnuts out of the pink box, standing around with cider-filled cups in hand, brushing sugar off our faces. B proclaimed them “the best doughnuts [she] had ever tasted.” I’ve decided I can’t go wrong with doughnuts, as long as I don’t do it everyday.
Yesterday morning, in the midst of checking my emails and updating my project plans, I continually muttered to B about how hungry I was. I went so far as open a new tab in my web browser and pull up a list of local stores on safeway.com. “There’s one that’s 0.34 miles away from here,” I informed B, “and it has a bakery. Maybe I should go get some doughnuts.”
I got too distracted with work to follow up on that, but, as lunchtime approached, I had an epiphany: “I need brownies! I’m going to Whole Foods to pick up some brownie bites [mini brownies]. Anyone want anything?” Brownie bites remind me of the summer, when Z still worked there and we used to drive down to Whole Foods nearly every day for lunch (and, in my case, dessert).
One of my co-workers smiled at me when I stopped by her office and posed my question. “I don’t need anything, thank you,” she said.
“Not even a sandwich? Or…a salad?” I asked skeptically. The co-workers are used to me shuddering and making faces whenever they mention salads for lunch, and have long given up on me ever eating salads in their presence. Now, they ask me just to see my reaction. (I always eat a salad with my dinner, actually, but I refuse to consider salad an entire meal. What’s wrong with people? Dessert, on the other hand, always constitutes an entire meal, as far as I’m concerned.)
The co-workers all declined anything from Whole Foods, so off I went with my one-item mental grocery list. Once at Whole Foods, I picked up a mini pumpkin pie, and two packages of brownie bites (one for the office, one for home). I also bought a slice of something called “chocolate eruption cake,” simply because all the whipped cream reminded me of desserts from my beloved Konditerei and Little Prague bakeries. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be even nearly the same.
I got back to work and proudly unpacked my purchases, while the co-workers laughed and shook their heads in dismay. “Yasmine, you just can’t be trusted to go to the grocery store,” said B. I shrugged, and stuffed a brownie in my mouth.
On the way home from work yesterday, I stopped at my usual gas station to fill up the tank. While the gas was pumping, I walked into the convenience store to buy a bottle of water (to drink with my brownie bites, naturally). The gas station employee, a big, bearded man, let out a friendly “Hello!” I turned from the fridge, water in hand, and smiled back. “Hi.” I placed the water bottle on the counter, and he rang it up while asking, “Is that it?”
“You sure? Just the water?” He had a friendly, gap-toothed grin, the kind that makes you smile back instinctively. He looked (and sounded) Desi, and I wondered if he were repeatedly questioning me just to make me stay longer. Any second now, I expected him to ask, “Where are you from? Are you [Pakistani/Indian]?” Perhaps he was lonely, being so far from the motherland – but then I reminded myself that this was the South Bay; there were no shortages of fellow Desis ’round here.
“Just the water, that’s it.”
“No gum, candy?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You’re not getting any gum or candy?”
I laughed. “I already have brownies in my car.”
“Okay,” he said. I handed him two dollars, and pocketed the change he slid back across the counter. “Have a good day,” he said, smiling again, and I couldn’t help but smile back. “You, too!”
Driving home while munching on brownies (I forgot to drink the water after all), I laughed out loud in the car. “No gum, candy?” I always wonder how even strangers manage to figure out the right questions to ask.