Away from home

There are many things I like about living in a small community like Muscatine. It’s big enough to have a symphony orchestra and a civic chorale, and several Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops. But it’s small enough to have little traffic, it’s rare to have to wait long in line at stores or banks, and people know each other – especially as so many of them have lived there all their lives.

What they don’t have is a lot of selection when it comes to shopping. If you like to knit, there’s a great store for buying yarn of all varieties and colors. A shoe store just opened at the mall, so I’ll have more choices next time I need shoes. But there are a lot of things that just aren’t available in town, so we either have to buy online or drive to the city – or wait until we happen to travel to a larger population center.

This weekend we’re in Michigan. Instead of putting our older son on a train back to college, I suggested we drive up and visit relatives in Canton, then drop him off on the way home. We try to get up here once a year, to see my husband’s grandmother (who is in her nineties, and we don’t know how many more times we’ll see her), and to give our sons a chance to play with their cousins.

I didn’t have shopping in mind when we came up, but once someone suggested it, I thought of all the things I could look for that I can’t get back home. There are so many stores within a few square miles that I could spend hours and hours without even getting to most of them. (There are also more cars within a few square miles than I usually see in probably a whole year, and getting into and out of the shopping centers can be a challenge.)

I happily headed off to Holiday Market, which struck me as an odd cross between an ordinary supermarket and a gourmet shop. The deli is larger than the entire meat department at the supermarket near our house (which is not the biggest supermarket in town, but has the best meat). There is an entire rack of gourmet sea salts – something I never heard of until I read What Einstein Told His Cook recently.

I saw what I thought at first was bulk nuts and grains, but it turned out to be bulk coffee beans. Next to it was the bakery, with all sorts of fancy cakes and pastries. There was an entire aisle of wines, and a huge variety of international foods.

So I finally found a jar of the tahini I’ve been looking for, so that I can make my own hummus. (My doctor wants me to eat more raw vegetables, but of course he doesn’t want me to eat them with dip. I’ve discovered that they taste good with hummus, which I hope he would approve of, but prepared hummus costs way too much.)

I found elderberry jelly, which my husband loves, but which we can hardly ever find. I also got him a jar of habanero peppers and another of hot cherry peppers, for the next time he makes his hot chili. I got Lebanon bologna to make sandwiches for the drive back home. I bought two pounds of scrapple, which I haven’t been able to find in years. And I got a can of Habitant French-Canadian yellow pea soup.

Next I went to Dunham’s Sports. Unlike the Dunham’s back home, this one does have green racquetballs. Next door at Bed Bath & Beyond, I had great fun browsing, but ended up getting nothing except Wild Bands for my younger son, and a sound-activated key chain finder for my husband. (I had considered getting one back home, but it was activated by clapping, and I was afraid it would activate by accident too often. This one requires whistling. And it was on a post-holiday half-off sale!)

Then I stopped at Target. On worldmagblog I have sometimes read people’s comments about liking Target better than WalMart. I’ve never lived near a Target, though I’ve occasionally shopped at one. This one is certainly nice, with wider aisles and larger selection than the WalMart back home, while seeming less crowded. But as all the stores here are bigger and have a larger selection, that doesn’t really say much. But I found a nice insulated travel mug, after looking at a very large selection. 

By then I’d mostly had my fill of shopping, but I had one last stop, at Meijer. There I found mint-flavored Alavert (at home we can only find citrus-flavored), and a much wider selection of barrettes. I walked up and down aisles in the grocery part of the store, marvelling at all the varieties of food I could buy if I lived nearby. (Most of these were perishables, which made it impractical to stock up on them.)

It’s great getting to see family (they surprised me this evening with an early birthday cake! – actually brownies with ice cream and lots of toppings, which is even better). And I had fun shopping for a few hours.

But I’m glad I live in Muscatine. And I’ll be happy to get home tomorrow.

5 Responses to Away from home

  1. Karen O says:

    What is the approximate population of Muscatine?

    Stafford Springs has around 10,000 people. We don’t have any big name stores here, either. Well, we do have a Big Y supermarket, which is a regional (Conn. & Mass.) chain.

    When I was in high school, I lived in the village of Little Chute, Wisc., pop. approx. 5000. It was a nice little town.

    • Pauline says:

      Muscatine’s population is approaching 23,000. That’s probably more than there were in Newington when I was growing up – but Newington is sandwiched between Hartford and New Britain, while Muscatine is surrounded by farmland and a few much smaller towns.

  2. Margaret says:

    Newington had about 29,000 people in 2003, according to Webster’s, so it probably had close to 23,000 while we were growing up (I don’t think there’s a lot of places to add people). Our parents said that the people who originally lived in our home moved there because they wanted to get away from the population centers. Then they saw how everyone was moving to Newington so they sold their house and moved further out.

  3. Margaret says:

    Also, I found Habitant pea soup for sale at Newington’s Food Mart some 20 years ago, but I haven’t seen it since. It is a comfort food that I miss. Send me some by “WU” (family joke).

  4. Karen O says:

    Stafford is small people-wise, but I think land-wise it is the largest town in Connecticut. We’re considered semi-rural, or something like that. I like this town a lot.

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