What I Learned From Food at Wal-Mart

I was on a quest last night at Wal-Mart for puff pasty.  I do not cook with puff pastry too much so I had no idea where to find it at other than it was somewhere in our local Super Wal-Mart’s ginormous (now a word…look it up) frozen foods section.  My search for puff pasty took me down three isles, past ice cream, frozen pizza, frozen pasta, frozen veggies, frozen burrios, and more frozen calories than I could shake a stick at until I finally broke down and sought a Wal-Martian Merlin to guide me on my quest.

“Do you have puff pasty?”  The simple question seemed to confuse the middle aged male stocker until I repeated it.

“This way,” he tells me and leads me to the next aisle over (of course) and points out the cream puffs.  Not what I am looking for at all.  Then he points out the fruit pies before finally pointing out the puff pastry.  “I don’t think is what you want, but there’s just the pastry.”

“Perfect!  That is exactly what I need.”

“Oh.  Well, frozen fruit is right there.”

I admit, with some shame, to being a little taken aback that this man, who was stocking Wal-Mart shelves at ten o’clock on a Tuesday, knows how what to do with puff pastry, especially after his utter disbelief that I was actually looking for it.  I smiled, thanked him, and then told him I was not going for a fruit filling, but mushrooms and shallots (recipe forthcoming.)

“Oh, you like savory fillings.”  Another shock to the system.  It had taken me months of watching Food Network to understand the fundamental terminology of savory vs. sweet.

“I do.  What do you fill your puff pastry with?”

“I like jellies and jams.  I bet your son” — we were at Wal-Mart to my child ice cream for going in potty for the first time — “would like them.”

I bet he would, too, and so you should expect a recipe for puff pastry filled with jam in near future.

And while I will be indebted to that stocker if create a good recipe, I learned something far more valuable from him that night.  I learned to always listen.  There are gourmets out there everywhere, sometimes where you least expect them.  Behind every gourmet there is a story, a recipe, or a technique that adds something wonderful to this thing we call food.

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