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By Herman Sillas
Fifty-plus years ago, my folks and I went to meet Cora’s parents to ask their permission for her hand in marriage. Mexican tradition requires this step. Cora and I had dated for over a year, but this was the first joint gathering of our families. After introductory remarks, my father cleared his throat. He told Cora’s father that I was a good son, a hard worker and that we had come to seek his permission to allow me to marry his daughter.
Cora’s protective father responded that Cora didn’t cook, didn’t help around the house nor keep her room clean. I assured him that I loved Cora and would take care of her in spite of his comments. He nodded his head and gave us permission to wed. Cora’s mother brought out the tequila, and we all toasted the future. I was a law student, and we married a year later.
We both worked. Cora didn’t drive a car, but cooked our meals. Each one was an improvement. Today she is a great cook. In those early years, I drove her to the market and pushed the cart as she filled it. I didn’t like going to the market, but eventually we were able to afford a car for her. I obtained the services of a driving school to teach her how to drive. We both loved her newfound freedom. She could drive around to see her friends and shop. Better still, I didn’t have to go to the market anymore.
Over the years I learned to barbecue and cook other dishes as well. But Cora let me know that the kitchen was her domain; at best, I was allowed temporary exemption to enter. After our children left home, cooking required less effort. Eventually, it was just Cora and I eating together. As we aged, I’d accompany her to the market and push the cart to help her out. I didn’t mind doing it then but never focused on what she was buying. Costco, Ralphs, the 99 Cents Store, Trader Joe’s, and Smart and Final were her destinations. She was a bargain hunter, and I tagged along.
Recently, due to a minor stroke, Cora is under doctor’s order to stay home while she gets some physical therapy. Don’t worry folks; she is doing fine. With God’s blessing, Cora will be out and about in no time. In the meantime, I have become the shopper and the cook. She gives me the shopping list designating the product, label, volume and which store to visit. I head out—alone.
I push the cart down the aisles holding Cora’s list in my hand. As I search for the items, I realize how fortunate we are in this town. I think about all the people involved in bringing food to us: the growers, cattlemen, fishermen, farm workers, butchers, meat packers, wholesale buyers, canneries, truck drivers, warehouse persons, managers, clerks, cashiers and box persons. Then I think of the food industry, trying to meet our tastes and government’s regulations in an effort to protect us. Our choice of good food is endless.
But becoming a forced shopper, I gained respect for Cora’s and all other committed shoppers’ abilities. What I once viewed as a time-wasting process, I now recognize its importance. Cora always checked labels for ingredients’ quality, quantity and price. She picked vegetables and fruit that were fresh. All these steps bring us better health. Cora seeks information from other shoppers and gives them tips as well. Recipes and food secrets were also shared at the takeout line. Serving as a temporary full-time shopper, I discovered a new world. When Cora returns to the market aisles, I will accompany her, but I’ll be doing more than riding shotgun; I’ll be a selector, too. That’s the view from the pier.
Herman Sillas, an attorney and artist, fishes at the San Clemente Pier most Saturday mornings. He is the author of the award-winning book, View from the Pier—Stories from San Clemente. He may be reached at email@example.com.