Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sweet Relish

For the past year and a half, I've been doing all the cooking at home.  All the shopping too.  Which has not been a problem.

(That my children are relieved to have me doing most of their cooking now is a sweet secret I smugly savor, like having a chunk of the best chocolate to enjoy in private.)

The only problem I've run into is this: we've had this no-sugar-added pickle relish as a staple in our home for years.  I would say, ever since we gave up sugar as a regular part of our diets almost thirteen years ago.  We went to Disneyland that summer, and the lower-than-in-the-house mirrors in the hotel revealed to me what I didn't want to know. So, we decided to try the Sugarbusters diet my sister-in-law had been having great results with.

As part of our sugar purification, my husband had found a pickle relish that was made with Splenda instead of sugar.  We've been using it ever since.  It's gone on hot dogs and hamburgers, into tartar sauce and tuna and egg salads.  We've just always had it around.  I took it for granted that I could keep getting it.

So, as the last jar has run out, I have searched for no-sugar-added pickle relish at the grocery store. No luck at Fresh Market or Costco.  I went out of my way to visit all the grocery stores I know he used to shop at.  He could make a whole weekend out of shopping at five or six stores, but I was pretty sure I knew the names of them.  Albertson's. Dan's.  Smith's.  Sprouts.  Looking for that relish, though, I bombed out at every one of them.

I NEED this relish.  Honestly, avoiding sugar is no small feat.  It's hard enough to avoid desserts.  I don't want it in my regular food.  If I'm going to eat sugar, give me a chocolate donut.  Don't hide it in there with my fish.

I took a good look at the nearly empty jar for the brand name.  Mt. Olive.  I went back to all the stores, inquiring about Mt. Olive brand. My regular grocery store has a whole wall of pickle relish.  Not a Mt. Olive in sight.  Not any other type of no-sugar-added relish, either. After I spent the better part of an afternoon reading each and every pickle label, the manager took down the information and said he would get it stocked.  The other stores said, basically, "Nope."

So after waiting a polite amount of time, I went back to my regular store and still didn't find it.  I talked to a different manager--the one who does the ordering.  He pulled out his flip phone, saying, "Don't judge," and called the person he orders from.  "It's not on the list," he said.  That was his whole answer.

I guess it can't be put on the list.  But, honestly, if they would put it on the list, I would come back to that store, faithful as an old dog, every time my relish got low, and buy some more.  For the rest of my life, which should be decades.  He and his flip phone were long gone, though, before I could get all of that out.

I looked up the brand name online.  Couldn't find out where it's sold locally.  Took the lid off the last, empty jar standing forlornly on my counter until I could figure this out. Took it to work with me. Called the 800 number in North Carolina.  Was told that she can't see where their products are sold in my state.

"But I know it's sold here.  We've always had it."

So she told me that Target and Walmart are two large chains that "don't participate" in their "store locator."

Bingo!  I thought.  Unless my ex was hiding more about his true thoughts than I've discovered he was, I know he wasn't shopping at Walmart.  No need to look there.  But Target--that sounded like a ray of hope.

I shop at Target but don't think of it as a grocery store, even though I know they have groceries.  I determined that I would stop in as soon as I could swing it, and finally claim my very own jar of Mt. Olive Sweet Pickle Relish.  Before I heated up any more fish sticks.

I know what you're thinking.  Why didn't I just ask him where he's been getting it?

Well, it's complicated.  I tried to keep things friendly.  I really did.  I even let him come into my home on a nightly basis to say goodnight to the children.  For half a year.  But he's made it clear, in more ways than the number of years of my life that I gave him, that he is no friend of mine.

I'm not going to ask him.

Most of the time, he pretends I don't exist.  If I texted him, "Hey, where did you used to get the relish from?" I would get this response:

It's the same response I get when I try to talk to him about the kids. I'm not going to assume that he would consider my ability to procure relish to be more important than they are.

Saturday was my next opportunity to get myself to a store that was not already on my way home from work.  My teenaged son came along with me.  He wanted new ear buds.  (When does a teenager NOT need new ear buds?)  He was sympathetic as I told him all about my relish woes. After some time walking around in the grocery section, looking carefully among places where other condiments were stocked, we finally found the relish inch.  Looking at the one or two options, I remembered.  I had looked at Target before.

So I said all the same things about it to my son again.  I know it can be found locally because we've always had it.  I've tried all the stores I can imagine.  But I supposed I would have to order a case from North Carolina and pay the shipping charges.

I didn't have all these genius kids for nothing.  He asked simply, "But which Smith's have you been to?  Just Smith's or Smith's Marketplace?"  I had assumed they were one and the same.  I had.

So on our way home from Target, we stopped in at a Smith's that I've only frequented when I've forgotten to pack pantyhose before my pre-work workout.  We parked, walked in, located the condiment aisle, and found ourselves face to face with a WHOLE WALL of Mt. Olive products!  I almost wet myself.

Drenched in the sudden luxury of endless Mt. Olive products, I feasted my eyes along the rows until I found pickle relish.  I picked up a jar.  Then another.  No sense being skimpy about it after all that. Laughing with my son about our good, though long-delayed fortune, and how fun it would be to blog about this adventure, I paid for the relish and we left the store.

I stopped dead in the parking lot.

"Wait," I said.  "I don't think I checked for no sugar."  I drew out one of the jars and examined its label.  "Mt. Olive," it said, and "Sweet Relish."  It did not say "Splenda" nor "no sugar added" anywhere. Anywhere!  And, yes.  In the ingredient list, I did find enough dreaded words to make me hastily avert my eyes.

Moaning, we headed back into the store. Right back to that Mt. Olive aisle.  I scanned the shelves. You're not going to believe this, but I could not find "no sugar added" on any of the Mt. Olive pickle relish labels.

I did find some no-sugar-added house brand relish, and I picked up a jar of that.  My son asked, "Are you going to get two?"  So I got two.  But it wasn't exactly the right stuff.

I mean, it was sugarless pickle relish, thank goodness for that, but it looked different.  I exchanged the sugary Mt. Olive relish for it, and I took it home.  I'll use it in tartar sauce next time I feel like having fish.  Not saying when that will be.

But it all makes a good story.  And maybe I can get a kickback for the free advertising?

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