For the past 14 months, we have been ordering and picking up groceries curb-side at our local Walmart on an almost weekly basis.. My "love-hate" relationship with the retail giant is put to the test every single week. Walmart's service and selection are inconsistent — sometimes attentive and vast, other times, lackadaisical and limited. But, their ridiculously low prices are reason enough to continue to put up with the incessant "Walmartness" of the situation.
A few days prior to our scheduled pick-up time, my wife compiles an online shopping list using the handy Walmart phone app. Because we have been eating salads for dinner for the last two years, our weekly order doesn't change much. It includes a number of fresh vegetables and some jarred accouterments (like roasted red peppers and bread & butter pickles), as well as the occasional household item as needed (like lightbulbs or batteries). When our order is ready, my wife guides her car into a designated space in the Walmart parking lot. After identifying herself via the app, an attendant — sometimes masked, sometimes not — opens up the rear hatch of our SUV and loads in the pre-picked and already-bagged items from our order. Wanting to avoid any unnecessary social contact, we wait until we get home
to check the accuracy of the order... and, invariably, something
is wrong. At least Walmart is consistent
in that respect. In various weeks gone by, they have given us four 15 ounce cans
of Mandarin oranges to make up for a single 29 ounce ca
n they did not have. (Math is not my forte, but... come on!
) Another time, they substituted jalapeno peppers
for out-of-stock radishes
. Despite their mistakes, our receipts reflect the price of the original
items, so we actually come out ahead. And, to a company the size of Walmart, I hardly
think they care
Just this week, Walmart continued their streak of getting at least one item wrong, but this time.... well... things had a surprisingly pleasant outcome.
I'm not sure if the person who brings the bags out to our car is the same person who actually roams the aisles and picks the stuff off the shelves. Whatever the case, this week's picker didn't know the difference between a head of lettuce and a head of cabbage. Apparently, anything large, round, green and leafy qualified as "lettuce." Lucky for us, watermelons or rubber playground balls don't have leaves. When we arrived home, I was confused when I extracted three huge, solid heads of cabbage from a bag... panicking when I discovered that our order did not include lettuce. Making a salad for our dinner would be difficult without lettuce. My wife made a quick phone call to her parents (who live around the corner from us). They were able to spare a slightly brown, slightly hacked-apart partial head of lettuce for our nightly salad until an emergency supermarket trip the next day could replenish our supply.
But, what were we supposed to do with all that cabbage?
Mrs. Pincus is a phenomenal
(phenomenal, I tell you!
) baker, as testimony from the numerous beneficiaries of our annual "Night Before Thanksgiving" dessert party
will affirm. But, cooking
... well, she will be the first
to admit that she does not enjoy actual
cooking. Y'know... like meals
. As the recipient of over 36 years of my wife's cooking, I will heartily disagree
with her assessment of her cooking ability. She may not like
cooking, but she is
a pretty good
cook. Recently, in an effort to inject a little variety into our daily "salad, baked potato and vegetable" dinners, Mrs. Pincus had introduced steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower (awakening my heretofore unknown affinity for cauliflower) and grilled asparagus. With the recent purchase of an air fryer, experimentation had yielded crispy potatoes — both sweet and white — panko-encrusted mushrooms and eggplant (another previously sworn-off vegetable that I am just now enjoying) and even battered fish filets. But cabbage
? What to do with all that cabbage?
After staring at those three giant heads of Brassica oleracea for a good long time, Mrs. P fetched a large pan from our kitchen cabinet. She requested the cooking oil from the pantry and I obliged. Suddenly, she sprang to animated life. With knife in hand and cutting board at the ready, Mrs. P sliced strip after strip of cabbage from one of the heads, her head down, carefully monitoring her precision and uniformity. Without looking up, she asked for an onion. Assuming my role as the new sous chef, I grabbed a medium-sized onion from a previous order that Walmart had gotten right. Mrs. P moved the pile of shredded cabbage aside and cut up the onion, adding the pieces to the oil simmering in the pan on the stove. To the onion, she added chopped garlic — our newly-discovered flavor enhancer — followed by the cabbage. She topped it all off with some shredded carrots and a sprinkle or two of sesame seeds (previously reserved to line the crust of our homemade pizza).
"What exactly are you making?," I cautiously asked.
"I'm not sure yet.," Mrs. P replied with a smile. She pulled out a package of DynaSea mock shrimp*
that had been defrosting in our refrigerator and released its vacuum seal with a flick of her knife. She dumped the contents of the package — eight pink and plump little "shrimps" — into another pan, where they were now glistening in some sizzling oil and chopped garlic. Then, she switched on a third
burner (I didn't even know you could light three
at one time!
) and got a small pot of quinoa going. Along with the simmering cabbage and the simmering "shrimp," Mrs. Pincus was on fire! "Doesn't enjoy cooking?" Yeah... right!
We began making our standard dinner salads, just like we've been doing every night forever. As I doused mine with dressing, Mrs. P began the "plating" process, as though she was winding down her second round of Chopped and was confidently about to dash the dreams some line cook from the most exclusive restaurant in Pierre, South Dakota. She layered two bowls — first with perfectly cooked quinoa, then the translucent cabbage-onion-carrot-garlic creation. She topped each steaming bowl with four braised "shrimp" and some of the little charred pieces of garlic.
You can't believe how good
it was! Well, I'll tell you... it was so
good, that two nights later we made some more. And the night after that, Mrs. P started making a variation on a theme. We skipped the fake shrimp and added green peppers. I spiced mine up with a couple of shots of sriracha and soy sauce. Oh my goodness!
— I began to have visions of opening up a food truck or selling this stuff from our back porch. I was already devising the "bill of fare" in my head. We could sell this stir-fried cabbage dish and some delicious baked goods.... and maybe my mom's iced tea
can make that. Depending on what Walmart mistakenly adds to our order next
week, some new
items could be popping up on our menu.
Hey! When did this become a cooking blog?
*a seafood product made from pollock, shaped and seasoned to resemble shrimp, specially made for those members of society who observe the laws of kashrut [keeping kosher]. I have not eaten actual shrimp in over 40 years, so I can't determine how close they got, but it is pretty tasty.