Gammon and Spinnage: The Grocery Store

“I’m not a banana person. No! No, I’m not a banana person!”
And thus began my trip to the grocery store. A clean well-lighted place, and one that happens to often be entertaining. Today it was particularly so.

The not-a-banana-person was young and blonde. Young-and-Blonde wandered through the produce department, really wishing her boyfriend and all the rest of the world to understand her point. Her voice rose above the hum of carts and clatter and hundreds of people wandering through the fertile aisles.

Pushing my little steel rolling cart past the pharmacy section (there is a pharmacy in every good grocery store in America you know, and really for very good reason) I noticed the six foot tall brunette with hair flailing down to her behind – the hair clipped back ever-so-touchingly with a plastic and pink rhinestone barrette (this is a hair clip, people, not a beret which is a hat – and if you wonder why I insist on mentioning this it is because I’ve often heard people use the word barrette for beret around here – along with using the word toboggan which is a sled for going down snowy hills where I come from to mean a woolly cap worn in the winter) (sorry for the side thought but can you imagine being told Put your toboggan on your head unless you want to get a chill (?). Disturbing. Very.) but anyway this six foot tall brunette is buying cupcakes.

A dozen. Six in bright neon green with multi-sprinkles, six more in a turquoise blue the color of Elmo – also with multi-sprinkles. “Thorazine!” she barks out at the pharmacy attendant. “The scrip is for thorazine!”

From gammon and spinnage to cupcakes and thorazine. Cupcakes and thorazine. Cupcakes and thorazine.

A higher level has been reached. Last month in a snowstorm I edged my car past the car badly parked in front of the pharmacy take-out window glowing brightly from the front brick wall of the grocery store. “Prozac!” the woman bellowed into the window.

At the checkout the students are buying their staples. These staples can be defined in one single word important to the economy of our town: Beer. This is a college town, a town where the college is well-regarded, a town that exists because of the college. And it would not do so without beer, and lots of it.

Cupcakes and thorazine, cupcakes and thorazine.

A memory from last week slipped into my mind. My neighbors, in celebration of a sporting event win, had held keg stands past midnight two nights in a row. A glorious and horrible thing, a keg stand.

“I’m not a banana person!”

Cupcakes and thorazine cupcakes and thorazine.

What a world of gammon and spinnage it is, though, ain’t it.

Leaving behind the cupcakes and thorazine, the bananas expounded, the beer by the multi-keg, I pushed my little steel cart – always filled to the brim though I’d only come in for a few small items – right out the automatically-opening exit door.


Gammon and Spinach (from Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson) – The expression gammon and spinach for “nonsense, humbug” is not as familiar today as it was in Dicken’s time, when he used it in David Copperfield. [ . . .] The phrase, most likely an elaboration of the slang word gammon, which meant nonsense or ridiculous story, is probably patterned on the older phrase gammon and patter, the language of London underworld thieves. The nonsense part of it was possibly reinforced by the old nursery rhyme “A Frog He Would a Woo’ing Go” (1600) heard by millions: “With a rowley powley gammon and spinach/Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley!”

Why not a recipe? Why not, a recipe. Here’s a good one: Spinach fiorelli with gammon and mascarpone from TimesOnline.



10 thoughts on “Gammon and Spinnage: The Grocery Store

  1. This grocery visit doesn’t seem so much to a clean, well-lighted place for bananas, as to an annoyance-venters’ rendezvous. I trust such entertainments are exceptional. Chiquita Banana with some plain, good food might be better therapy than the prescriptions.

  2. Actually, reading this, I can’t believe we live in the same town, Karen, as this NEVER happens to me. But then maybe you shop at a different store, not that we have so many choices.

    Oh what I wouldn’t give for a Fresh Market or Whole Foods here.

  3. Clean, well-lighted places can be full of contradictory stories and personalities, Bob, no? But yes, I agree with your final conclusion.

    Cindy, in any given situation the eyes of different people viewing it can see it differently, as can the ears and as so goes the emotional attunement, don’t you think? In that store were people who did not see what I saw – and even if it had been happening right in front of them, they may not have picked up those particular threads. The ways of looking at the world are myriad! My eye often gathers the ridiculous or the dark side of things. And I gather it without meaning to, and not to use as reportage but as story.

    The more time I spend writing, the surer I come to feeling that the writing of stories is where I’ll end up being. Not the writing of food, delightful as the topic is. 🙂

    Yes, it is the same town, the same grocery store. It is the same town (though neither of us were there so we would have a hard time believing it if it were not factually true) where several days before I viewed the grocery store this way, a beheading happened in a small cafe – and where a man sat and waited with a young woman’s cut off head in his hands till the police came to arrest him.

    This has been in my mind. The dark underbelly often is, though I love to laugh and be silly.

    But anyway. Fresh Market . . . every time I drive to the one about an hour away I spend a ridiculous amount of money and come home with a bunch of charming nonsense food. But it really is great fun and I love to eat the delicious halibut filet which cost me about a dollar per bite. 🙂

    Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  4. The beheading stunned me, too, and I still cannot quite grasp it.

    That said, I learned long ago that there’s a lot of darkness out there, human nature being what it is, and I guess I choose to walk through life shutting out a lot of things.

    Storytelling, yes. I’m reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” right now. Just finished “Trail of Crumbs” by Kim Sunée. Both haunt me, but in a different way. Both delve into the cesspool of human nature.

  5. 🙂

    I’ll have to take a look at those books, Cindy.

    I’m almost finished with Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” and am surprised once again by Murakami. His range is tremendous. This book is different than the magical realism things, different than the Tokyo subway book, different than the short stories . . . and though I am not a runner and it talks about running and I will never be a runner, I love it. The running is merely his grounding for a philosophic excursion.

    My mother had the habit of shutting out things. Very strongly, till they got to the point of overwhelming her. I think of her always, sitting on her couch with a cup of coffee next to her on one side and a Persian cat along the other side. She almost froze herself up with the strength she emitted in trying to shut out things. Her favorite author was Agatha Christie. Well, there is something about Jane Marple that makes one think that if one just believes in her long enough and strong enough, the world would become the Right Sort of Place.

    I could (and did) walk down the street in Brooklyn Heights on the same sidewalk as my mother as she walked towards me, and though I would be looking at her from some yards away she would not see me even as she passed me and as I was lifting my hand to wave to her.* A willful blindness was what she had.

    It’s possible I may err in the opposite direction. 🙂

    *P.S. Actually I remember my father doing the same thing to me on that street – Montague Street – but I’m quite sure he did it intentionally. Ah, well. Perhaps they both thought I was a Capulet.

  6. Of course each person views the world and the things in it very differently. We also notice what we need to notice, I guess, to stay on track.

    I doubt I would miss you coming down the street …

  7. Damn. I knew there was something I was forgetting to do.

    That stay on track thingie.

    Now I know why it is that every time I go to the grocery store I end up bringing home a number of things that I did not set out to get but never bring home the exact and most important thing I went there for in the first place. 😦

  8. Grocery stores are for one thing and one thing only, dearies.

    Clickey here: (Use both paws if neccesary.)

    That, and the stray kipper.

    Purrrrrrrrr. Rrrrp?

  9. Yeah . . . those cupcakes gave off sort of an aura of Barbie-Joins-a-Motorcycle-Gang, don’t you think?


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