Dreamy fro-yo and fiscal self-control

Jun. 11, 2013 @ 11:57 AM

Yesterday was a big day.  I went to Costco, and only spent $1.35.

And I left as happy as a country singer at a sequin convention.

When Petey and I visit our local warehouse store, we end our sojourn with a treat from the snack bar.  Petey always gets a piece of pepperoni pizza, which he then doctors with one envelope of pepper flakes and one of fake parmesan cheese (yuck, and more yuck, but that sweet man loves it).

I order frozen yogurt.  I started out with chocolate, because I figured the strong flavor would conceal any yogurt funkiness

One day, as I was throwing away our snack trash, I spied a little old man eating the vanilla version.  I stopped and asked him if that flavor was good.  We still laugh at his response.

He looked me right in the eye, and said, “It’s beautiful and exciting.”

I still wasn’t sure, but the next time we went in, I screwed my courage to the sticking place, and ordered vanilla.

You know what?  The old guy was right.  It was absolutely delicious. 

My favorite ice cream treat is Dairy Queen’s Peanut Buster Parfait.  It’s their famous soft serve covered with hot fudge and salted peanuts.  I once hankered for it so strongly that late one night I drove from Elizabeth City to the closest DQ, in Nags Head, for one.

Last month, after The Kid’s scrumptious birthday feast at Bull City Burgers and Brewery (107 E Parrish St), we headed over to the Queen for some dessert.  Stuffed, I ordered just a child’s-size unadorned vanilla.

That night I made an amazing discovery.  My beautiful and exciting confection from Costco was just as good as DQ’s ice cream.  Blindfolded, I probably couldn’t tell them apart.

And an itty-bitty Dairy Queen is comparable in price, but at Costco, you get a giant cup overflowing with frozen happiness.

I accompanied The Kid yesterday on a Costco trip.  My only purchase was the dreamy vanilla fro-yo, totaling $1.35.

This fiscal self-control has been gained through a lengthy, arduous effort.  When we started shopping at Costco, we would leave with a cart straining to contain its contents. For some reason I thought it was a great idea to own the entire film catalog of Dana Andrews.  I was convinced we could eat 14 gallons of pickled kumquats.  And that we wouldn’t survive without 2,000 pairs of glow-in-the-dark shoelaces.

Now I try to buy only what I know we like, and will actually use.  But that’s still a ton of stuff.

Some of their clothes look like what your great aunt Mildred might wear to a rave.  But some of it is really cute.  I have a collection of their sweaters and colored denim, and Petey loves their Kirkland jeans.

For Christmas one year, my spouse bought me a Henckels knife set that I use every day.  I got a laptop there, and The Kid bought a fancy television to take to school.  The tires on the Jeep were bought and installed at Costco.

But it really is more about the food.

Temple Grandin is an autism activist and renowned animal husbandry expert whose work has revolutionized the treatment of feed animals.  Costco works closely with her to maintain humane standards from their suppliers.  And it shows.  We’ve purchased and consumed many, many pounds of their meat.

In each warehouse they have a massive walk-in fridge in which they keep fresh veggies.  The temperature is akin to a gloomy winter day in the Yukon, but the produce in that frigid box is varied and beautiful.

Berries, mushrooms, greens and Brussel sprouts are displayed like museum pieces.  But when in season, they have cases of gorgeous, fresh green asparagus.  And if you buy those tasty spears for your family, there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing it wrong.

We’re big fans.  But what we were eating tasted more like grass, and less like goose (Matthews speak for asparagus).  I resolved to find a farmer and educate myself.

And, man did he school me.  Asparagus takes a few years after being planted to produce.  When the plant is either too young, or conversely, too old, the harvested spears are pencil-thin.  The taste of them will closely resemble the flavor of the gunk stuck to the underside of your lawn mower.

But a healthy, mature shrub will produce big, fat, ambrosial spears as thick as your thumb.  Mr. Green Jeans confided in me that he didn’t really mind the ignorance of the consumer, because that left the good stuff for his family. 

Another point in the company’s favor is they pay all their employees well above the going rate of most other retailers.  Your tax dollars aren’t going for government assistance to help the workers’ families survive, unlike some other corporate big-boxes.

I still occasionally get carried away, and jam our Jeep full of questionable acquisitions. But with a bit of willpower, and Petey’s gentle supervision, I usually keep my head.

But jeepers, I love me some sweet, sweet Costco.

Thanks for your time.