Perhaps it’s a remembered love of gumball machines---the little bright fellows on a shiny post, with their penny-slots and cheery krickle as you turned the handle, which causes me to LOVE big plastic dispensers in grocery stores (or candy stores, with their Wonderlands of pastels and chocolates, or even the Pet Store, with squirrel-corn and treats for Fuzzy-Pup).
The flat scoop-ones are little storm-cellar doors into Aladdin’s treasure cave:
Just the PLENTY of them is appealing, the gleaming vast tubes stretching the aisles, like great faucets of colorful, interesting things to try. The beans always catch my eye, and always, always my long-ago Uncle’s sepulchral bass intoning DON’T MIX THE BEANS comes to mind, for all HIS store beans hung waist-height in half-barrels with heavy silvery scoops, so tempting to young hands.
All the range of hues from the pale limas and Northerns, shading into the speckles and maroons of Pintos to the pale greens and dull browns of lentils and peas, (with a lot of interesting NEW beans, one beauty splashed with maroon and white in exact patterns of a REAL Paint pony).
The pastas and the rices---so many lengths, so many shades of gold and beige and white, and the debate over which size of couscous and don’t we still have a bag of quinoa from last time? The surfeit of choices, shapes, colors, and the necessary height of the dispensers give me the déjà vu moment of stretching tiptoe to peer through the glass of a childhood candy-case.
I grab a bag and fumble open the wispy plastic, hold it fist-encircled around the faucet’s opening, turn the little tap. The riches pour or cascade or rattle into the bag, filling with a gentle heft or the nil of cotton. We come home with a few regulars, the old stand-by bulgur wheat and the dried apricots, some walnuts, some arrow-root, several sizes of salt, a tablespoon or so each of several new items, to be cooked in perhaps a cup of water, all on their own, for tasting and testing of flavor and texture, and the ponder: will this go in that cucumber salad, or would it be better as a little punctuation in a pilaf?
There’s one big clear reservoir that stands out---the contents are as gold and fluffy as Rumplestiltskin’s dreams, and I have to smile every time: In this Mecca of Organic this and Gourmet that, the Importeds and the Importants, this one stands an unblushing parvenu amongst the grands: A whole bushel or so of the golden powder which fills those little packets in the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box.
SOMEBODY must be buying it; the level is never the same. In such a discerning crowd, I wonder if they cover such a plebeian item in their market-baskets, as ladies used to camouflage Wrinkle Cream and Midol beneath the Lipton and DUZ. Discretion amongst the dried goods---that would be novel.
The cupboards are full, the storehouse holds a gracious plenty, but somehow, I’m getting a hankering to go to Whole Foods and turn some spigots, though they have nothing that will ever equal the tongue-curling anticipation as the penny fell, and the big ole gumball rolled out into my hand.