Besides the fact that the makeup aisle and the dairy section were next to each other, the Kroger grocery store was my favorite place in Oxford, Ohio. It was minutes from our house, I went there multiple times a week, and I knew exactly where to find everything.
Once, I actually helped a Kroger employee tell a customer where to find canned pumpkin. He suggested the canned vegetable aisle and I blurted: “It’s in the baking aisle!”
When I used to get bored in Oxford, I’d often walk to the Kroger to buy one thing and just walk up and down the aisles to get in more FitBit steps. And I knew all of the cashiers, like the lady with the perm who always said about Ansel, “he sure likes the lights in here.”
That’s not to say I didn’t have any slight critiques. I had this conspiracy theory that they were purposely marking stuff on sale, but then wouldn’t actually give you the marked-down price at the cash register because most of the college-aged clientele wouldn’t notice. I started religiously checking my receipts after every purchase and found a pattern that they commonly weren’t giving me the sale price. Once a customer service person gave me an extra $10 for my trouble.
Was she trying to pay me off to stay quiet? Would I get to meet the Kroger mob boss?!
Once I was looking for poblano peppers and I asked a young man, Henner, working in produce if they maybe had any in the back. He said he would go check and I waited 20 minutes (I timed it like a freak) with an irritable baby until I decided I couldn’t wait for him anymore. I found the produce manager and he acted like I had made the mistake – “you asked Henner?!” The manager then went to the back and got me the peppers right away and said he couldn’t find Henner.
Where did Henner go?! It’s still a mystery to me. Maybe he’s still wandering the storage area of the Oxford Kroger, like a ghost of produce past.
Nonetheless, the Oxford Kroger held a very special place in my heart. On one of my last days in Oxford, I actually made away with a Kroger placard advertising salad dressing. I keep it as a momento.
Now I’m in Tacoma and I’m really distressed about the fact that I don’t have one single grocery store to pledge my allegiance. I live only 6 blocks away from two big grocery stores, a Safeway and a very tony grocery store called Metropolitan Market. And then there are also a whole slew of grocery stores, specialty and massive, in the area. And now I’m finding myself going more and more to the flavorless, yet still appealing Costco.
On paper, Costco seems wonderful. It provides livable wages to employees and has a history of generally not being too terrible of a business. (Plus, it’s actually from the Seattle area, so it’s local?). And what’s not to like about being able to buy a box of 36 Butterfingers?!
At the end of the day, Costco is a big warehouse that sells massive amounts of a couple of things. When you start looking at other people’s carts, you realize how basic we all really are. Oh, you’re also getting bulk organic chicken breasts and eggs and diapers and cauliflower? Cool, me too. No one in Costco has a unique grocery cart (although admittedly, Aaron and I did see a couple buying ~30 pillows last week).
Since our local farmer’s market has been slowing down, we’ve also been buying a lot of our fruit at Costco, which has mostly included ridiculous amounts of pears and apples. So last weekend when I found myself with some overripe extra pears, I was super-excited to finally try this cake!
Most people have heard of pineapple upside-down cake, but did you know there is a whole world of upside-down fruit cakes?! I did not know this until I got deep into one of Martha Stewart’s cake books (where this glorious recipe is from).
Here’s what this cake entails. First you caramelize thick slides of pear in a mix of butter and sugar. Then you deglaze the pan with brandy, creating a rich pear-brandy-butter syrup. You place the pear slices in a patter on a cake tin and pour the syrup over them. Then you make this very spongy gingerbread dough that is fairly high on the egg ratio and includes fan favorites like fresh ginger and molasses. Then you pour the batter over the pears and pop in the oven. Voila! After it bakes and cools, you turn it upside down and enjoy. Feast your eyes!
Since I made it on a Saturday night, we had some for breakfast the next day.
That Sunday, we took Ansel hiking again. We went on this really beautiful fall hike in Mt. Rainier National Park (the Ramparts Ridge loop) and Ansel actually hiked about a mile uphill of it!
Of course, he also had a bit of a meltdown in the middle of the trail at one point and thought it was really funny that he wouldn’t get up when asked.
It was so great to get another hike in before it gets too cold and enjoy the mountain trees changing colors.
And we there was actually quite a bit of snow on the trail, which made the hike feel extra magical. Look at this sweet fairy stream!
And some of the trees were steaming in the afternoon sun.
We’re hoping to get out and hike next weekend too, but we’ll see what the weather will be like. Weekends are also good for grocery shopping and enjoying Costco lunches of slices of pizza for $1.99 and something called a “chicken bake” that costs $2.99.
If you are interested in making a pear upside-down gingerbread cake, I’m pretty sure this recipe is close to the one that I used.