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Nov 6, 2010

Confessions Of A Not So Secret Shopper

Attention Grocery Store Checkers: I am not a secret shopper and have never been one. However, it is no secret that I am a shopper, and considered by many to be a professional, but secret? Nooo. I came out of the closet many years ago, or at about the time my credit card limit exceed my age by at least three zeros. 
     Still, about once a month as I go through the checkout line, I get accused of being a secret shopper. The truth is, I don’t even know what a secret shopper looks like, and to my knowledge I have never met one but to the trained eye of a Checker, they must look exactly like me.
Some of the produce that's chillin in  in my fridge today--herbs, leeks, zucchini, poblanos, jalapenos, ginger, radicchio, shallots, shitakes, tomatos...
     I usually manage to slide a few benign items across the scanner before Checker Girl gets suspicious. Since my OCD causes me to categorize my groceries, all goes pretty smooth until she gets to my produce. It’s likely she will hold up a small head of radicchio and ask “is this thing a purple cabbage?”, at which time I have to make a split second decision whether to lie or not. If the next question is, (as she studies my leeks) “are these just really big green onions?”, I will play by the Two Strikes and You're Dumb Rule, and lie through my teeth and say, “yes, ma’am that’s a cabbage”, or “yep, thems some big ass green onions.”  If she rings up my shallots for garlic, I feel like I hit a homer and have to contain my urge to high five the Bag Boy!
The beginning of risotto
     It’s about then when the first eyebrow is raised, which is followed by an accusation of, “hey, are you a secret shopper?”    
     I will deny it and go about my business of reciting my produce in a monotonic way like I’m some weird vegetable-possessed alphabet teacher: arugula—crimini—ginger—habanero..
     Somewhere between the fennel and the tomatillos, Checker Girl will wave a parsnip under my nose and say, “are you sure you’re not a secret shopper?” 
Almost finished risotto
    Checker Girl will frantically look up the codes and eyeball me simultaneously to see if I am taking notes so that I can write her up in my next Secret Shopper Report. I may appear to be doing just that, but I’m really just making up my next grocery list, while she tries to find jicama under the 'h’s'. 
     “It’s under the 'J's,"  I say, tapping my pen on the homely root vegetable. 
 “I knew it! You are a secret shopper, aren’t you?” Checker Girl will accuse me again, pointing a handful of mushrooms at me. 
    “Shitake,” I bark.
     “Gezuntheit,” Checker Girl says, “you really should get that checked that out.”
    I lean in, like I'm about to share a real secret with her. "If you hurry,”  I tell her, “you can still catch that turnip truck."

This recipe is for a Risotto with Shitake Mushrooms, Leeks and Truffles.  Trust me when I tell you that there is not a black truffle within a 500 mile radius of me, so I finished this dish with truffle oil, which is the next best thing and about $100 per ounce cheaper.  What made this risotto special, was that the shitakes and onions were oven roasted rather than sauteed, which gave them great flavor and texture, and the leeks were simmered in heavy cream. Both were then added at the end. Oh, and the secret: do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to go a little wild with that drizzle of truffle oil! Go to the "Soups-Salads-Sides" tab at the top of this page to view it.   


  1. I have never eaten half of the produce you just mentioned. But don't you hate it when you put your groceries on the belt in a certain order. Like all the cold stuff together all the cans all the produce and all the non food items in groups, and then the dumb bagger puts your cereal in with the lettuce?! It losses me right off every time! Their is a certain way to bag food and no one seems to get that. I might just be picky because I use to bag groceries in high school but who knows.

  2. Jordan you gotta get to the store! Girl, you are missing out on some good veggies! I feel your bagger pain, makes me crazy too. Thanx for reading!