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By: L. Azar

Crackers, Please?

             Remember your most recent grocery shopping expedition? If it included a harried mom, a child or two (or three or four or ten), a shredded grocery list and a shopping cart that looked like it survived a shipwreck, then kudos to you on your “authentic” shopping experience. You sped down the aisles, hastily grabbing the standard household favorites (firm peaches for her, red hot potato chips for him) while wholeheartedly berating yourself with a mantra to the tune of “What was I thinking coming here now?!”

            But sometimes, while grocery shopping, you have a delightful luxury called time. Imagine this: You deliberate over the products, compare prices, and engage in other shopping-related habits that require you to truly think. Heinz or Hunts? Granny Smith or Fuji? Three cases of water or four? The possibilities are endless!

            Not long ago, while on the latter sort of shopping trip, I experienced an epiphany.

            Allow me to preface this story with a revelation: I am currently going through a Melba Toast phase. A whole-wheat Melba Toast phase, to be specific. Okay, a sesame whole-wheat Melba Toast phase is more like it. Normally when I shop, I automatically reach for (or bend toward, depending on the supermarket) the carton containing my trusty source of nourishment.  That is how it went for quite some time, until, one fine day, I searched in vain for it.

            At the local supermarket, I stood in Aisle 3 scanning the inventory for my sesame whole-wheat crackers. Since there seemed to be none left, I figured I would have to make do with either the sesame crackers or the whole-wheat ones, but not both. Once I was “settling for less,” I began to consider looking into other cracker options altogether - which turned out to be an overwhelming yet enlightening feat. Did I want plain, whole wheat or spelt? Based with rice, corn or potato? Crunchy or chewy or light? Rectangular or round? Salt-free, gluten-free or sugar free? Sesame or garlic or zaatar or everything? Not to mention that I still had to decide which brand to buy!  


            In the end, I was relieved of my indecision by one of the staff workers who had been stocking shelves (of yet more crackers) nearby.

            “Miss,you look for something?” he asked in broken English.

            I described with few words and more hand motions what I was seeking.

            “Crackers, you want?” That was said with much incredulity as he spread his hands out wide. “Here! This aisle the cracker aisle.”

            I know.

            I grasped a green and brown box of the close-but-no-cigar sesame Melba Toast. “Please. This in whole-wheat,” I said, subconsciously adopting his accent.

            I appreciated his next action very much; he got up on a stepladder and retrieved my coveted crackers from up high. “Here! This crackers you want!” In response to my thanks, he raised his hands and shook his head in wonder.

            And so eventually, I did get my crackers, but until then I had the time to contemplate the variety of products we presently take for granted. Abundance surrounds us when it comes to nearly everything – food products, clothing, restaurants, shoe stores, kitchen gadgets, etc. (well, maybe not parking spots…).

            Old-timers like to reminisce about the good old days when “things were so much simpler” and kids were less spoiled by selection. We can’t turn back the clock now, but we can take “stock” and marvel at all we have today. Hashem showers us with plenty and wants us to enjoy the multiplicity in His world – the colors, the textures, the flavors – all of it in service of Him.

            Go to the supermarket (whichever of the many you desire!). Cruise slowly up and down the aisles and awaken an appreciation for both the goods you put in your shopping cart and those before you on the shelves!