It’s ridiculous how much I love the coupons (as I call them) that come in the local paper at The Mom’s. To me, they are a window on a world that I don’t know much about. They offer valuable– and interesting, it must be said– insight into what other people eat. In general I find supermarkets fascinating. For a while there, I was considering embarking upon a world tour of sorts, but a world tour that would only include trips to supermarkets. I’m not even kidding you, I do truly love wandering around a supermarket. But that involves a couple of things I don’t always like doing: getting dressed and leaving the house — which is why the coupons are so brilliant. I get all the fun of roaming the aisles, finding new and weird things, without even having to beg The Mom to drive me to the grocery store (which I could of course do myself, but it’s not as much fun on my own).
The various flyers all have their own distinct tone that reflects, to me at least, their target audience. The Supercentre, which is my favourite grocery store of all, is one I insist on visiting each time I’m home as though it were some kind of national monument. It’s the best because it’s got such weird and wonderful things, things that our local supermarket doesn’t have. In the New Year, there’s always a big special offer for things that would be appropriate if one were celebrating the Lunar New Year – all kinds of noodles, sauces and exotic fruits and vegetables. It reminds me of when I used to live in Chinatown in Toronto and shopped almost exclusively in my local Chinese supermarket. In and of itself this was a tremendous source of intrigue and excitement for me: I read not a stitch of Chinese characters, and though I know (kind of) how to say hello and thank you, my tone is off. So I’d happily wander through the aisles, putting this and that into my basket, having little to no idea what the things were I was buying. It was fantastic! Like always being on holiday.
I also get very excited about the strange to me but common to most normal people things: the funny cakes and sweets and biscuits that I’ve never eaten. I marvel at these things, at these new products that I can’t for the life of me imagine anyone eating. Weird gels and brightly coloured potions purporting to contain all sorts of things. Or perhaps some kind of ham will be on offer which always leads me into a lengthly discussion with The Mom about my preferences around this meat, and what, exactly gammon is and why ham in general looks so strange.
Frenquently, my perusal of these flyers leads to a lot of questions for The Mom, meaning she has to try and explain the Rest of the Western World to me.
“Why would you need a 2L tub of coleslaw? When is that necessary?”
Once, whilst living at home with The Mom one summer when I was studying for my PhD, there was a super special edition of the coupons, special for the upcoming Canada Day celebrations. It was a double page spread so you knew they were quite serious about it. Chapman’s ice cream was offering a square box of ice cream with a red maple leaf in the middle, so you could cut slices of ice cream off (this alone delights me because I think it’s very Olde Tymey) and then you’d be delighted with a maple leaf in the middle of your dessert. I cut the picture out and placed it at The Mom’s spot at the kitchen table and every hour or so reminded her of its sheer and utter brilliance until finally, some days later, I’d worn her down to the point that she bought it simply to shut me up. Nobody else liked the ice cream (apparently it wasn’t the best flavour, which I couldn’t have cared less about because I don’t even like ice cream – happens when you were raised on something called Rice Dream which is a frozen dessert made from brown rice. It tastes much better than it sounds, but it’s nothing like ice cream, which I’ve only discovered rather recently).
But the creme de la creme of the coupons is the twice-yearly Insider’s Report from President’s Choice. I can happily spend weeks reading and re-reading this short flyer. It is enthralling. Each time it comes out, it advertises all the new things that President’s Choice has on offer. Mostly it’s things that come in a box– readymade meals, desserts, sauces, that kind of thing. One year, when I was still up in Glasgow studying, they had the best thing: butter tart mix. A very good friend from home has been living in Glasgow since I don’t know when, but he’s from near my home town, and when I returned to the UK that autumn, I brought this mix with me. After we had a long discussion about whether or not to include the raisins (which his wife thought was more absurd than usual even for the two of us), we made the butter tarts up and were in heaven. Sometimes it’s nice to have a taste of home.
I often imagine what it might be like to be someone who eats all these things that I see in the coupons. The Mom won’t buy anything pre-packaged or readymade for me, never has, never will, so this is the closest I come to enjoying these things. She points out each and every time I get worked up about something that it’s not going to be anywhere near as good or fun as I imagine.
To this day, when I get freakishly excited about the coupons, and demand that we go out immediately and purchase all manner of random things, The Mom brings the Dairy Queen incident to bear. Don’t ask. But sometimes, if I’ve been really good, or The Mom is feeling particularly weak, I’ll be allowed one random thing from the coupons. I’ll cut the picture out and stalk around the shop until I find it. This brings me no end of happiness, though The Mom often finds it odd when I decline to consume whatever it is we bought. But this is because she does’t understand the purpose: which is of course to just have it, admire it, consider it, and imagine what other delights can be had with it.
Oh, joy!! I have just had a wee look online for the Summer Edition of the Insider’s Report – it’s flipping online! They have beer flavoured sausage buns! Hibiscuus water! Siracha mayo spread! Orange creme pie! Though they also have rather a lot of kale, chia, and quinoa, but never mind there are strange new things for me to try!! Brilliant.