I recognize that this will likely result in my girl card being pulled, but I will admit that I really don’t like shopping.
I do enjoy the results of shopping: owning a new pair of jeans, a lovely new cookbook, or a new serving platter from which I can sling my enchiladas. But the process of acquiring? Not so much.
And especially lately when I have been experiencing more and more of what I think of as ‘Bizarre Retail Exchanges'; whether it’s extremely aggressive sales tactics or inordinately awkward shopper overshares, I find myself wondering more and more often if I’m on some new twisted version of Candid Camera as I wander the aisles of my local retail establishments.
Take the following as my first example of the Holiday Shopping Season…
Last week I went to browse the wares of a store that you may know, although we shall allow it to remain nameless; let’s just say that its name rhymes with ‘entomologie’.
So I was shopping in Entomologie and I found a few whatnots that I decided to purchase. All of these whatnots were kitchen goods and all were extremely breakable, so, of course, I decided that the proper thing to do was to precariously balance all of those breakable goods in my arms along with my car keys, cell phone, and clutch, just before making the epic trek across the store to checkout.
There I was, laden down like some sort of Retail Sherpa, shuffling toward the checkout, hoping not to drop any of my whatnots or step on any small children or animals. Lo, I made it intact (as were my whatnots) to the end of the checkout line, which stretched clear to the back of the store.
No matter! There were all sorts of retro-stylishly clad young ladies zipping by, one of which would surely open up any of the 8 cash registers gathering dust as only one cash register was actually being staffed.
Hmmm… no such luck.
So I waited and balanced and I balanced and I waited, and I silently thanked my lucky stars that I had selected such lovely whatnots to purchase, as their patterns were slowly impressing themselves deep into the skin of my arms (I am now tattooed with the beautiful retro-stylish patterns of the serving dishes that grace my table!).
Finally it was my turn and I made it up to the counter, sweating but relieved, and carefully unloaded my delicate whatnots to be rung up. I waited patiently while the retro-stylishly clad young lady hand-entered every single SKU for every single item even though she was standing in front of more technology than graced the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, and I maintained my positive energy throughout.
A total was determined, money was exchanged, and my goods were being packed up -I was just about to be free of my retail tethers!- when the final shoe dropped…
All of a sudden, another customer came up to the lone retro-stylishly clad cashier, with approximately 14 more customers lined up behind me, thrust a pair of black pants onto the checkout counter and proclaimed “Tell me what kind of shoes you would wear with this!”
Let’s just pause for a moment and do some math:
15 customers waiting + 1 cashier – 9 dusty, unmanned cashier + 1 pair of plain black pants
At this point the lone retro-stylishly clad cashier became a little kerflummoxed (I’ll be honest, I did, too): we’re talking about a pair of simple black pants with no embellishments, no buttons, no stitching, no sequins. I’m no fashion expert, but I’m pretty sure you could wear a clown car with black pants and no one’s going to be calling you out.
That said, the retro-stylishly clad cashier pulled herself together, mumbled something about some ballet flats, and started furiously whispering into her Janet Jackson-style headset for some backup or at least an Entomologie wingwoman to get her back.
Unfortunately Confused Black Pants Lady didn’t get the hint, and she proceeded to push the pants even further onto the counter, threatening to spill my delicate whatnots all over the floor, shouting “Well, what type of top would you wear with these? Could I do a shrug?”
Ok, again, no fashion expert here, and I’m certainly no behavioral expert either, but at this juncture I was pretty sure that outfit coordination was the least of this customer’s problems. And there’s not a shrug in the world that could cover the mortification that was written all over the poor lone cashier’s face.
It was 5 seconds of retro-stylishly clad crickets before several Entolomologie Black Pants Experts swooped in, rescuing the cashier, and releasing me to run away to the silent, ballet flats-free comfort of my car, where I shook like a leaf for 10 minutes before driving away home.
And so the Holiday Shopping Season begins! No doubt there will be more stories of Bizarre Retail Exchanges to share, and I hope you will bring them here so that we can commiserate.
In the meantime, I’m sharing my recipe for a Fried Tomato & Tomatillo Torta (Sandwich) smothered in Southwest Special Sauce that brought me back to life after this first BRE of the season.
It’s comforting, it’s satisfying, and it goes great with black pants and ballet flats. Enjoy, my friends!
Fried Tomato & Tomatillo Tortas With Southwest Special Sauce
For the sandwiches:
5 medium-large heirloom tomatoes, cored, sliced approximately 1/2″ thick
8-10 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, cored, sliced approximately 1/2″ thick (If you don’t have access to fresh tomatillos, you can simply substitute more heirloom tomatoes; 2-3 medium-large tomatoes should equal 8-10 tomatillos in terms of size and frying materials used.)
6 large eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
3 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tbsp. cumin, ground
1/2 c. peanut oil + more for frying (Note that I often find when frying items breaded in panko that I need to clean my oil after every batch, and occasionally completely refresh the oil that I’m working with in my pan. I recommend having a spider on hand for removing any impurities from the oil, and extra peanut oil on hand, just in case.)
5 buns, toasted and lightly buttered (I used plain hamburger buns, but any sort of sandwich roll will do here.)
For the sauce:
2 1/2 c. mayonnaise
3/4 c. ketchup
1/2 c. dill pickle relish
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chiles de árbol, ground (Click here for more information on toasting and grinding dried chiles.)
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Tabasco (optional)
To prepare the sauce, whisk the mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, vinegar and Tabasco together in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the onion powder, sugar, salt, chile powder and minced garlic. Transfer to glass air-tight containers and store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Note that this is a great all-purpose, sweet and spicy cream-based sauce for dressing burgers or even cole slaw. Just be sure to store it in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, to prepare your sandwiches, set up a breading station that includes a bowl for the egg wash, a bowl for the breadcrumbs, and a bowl for the flour. Whisk the eggs together with the buttermilk, and the black pepper and cumin together with the flour. Once you have your breading station set up and your tomatoes and tomatillos prepared for breading and frying, heat the oil over a medium/high flame in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Note that I did not need to use a candy thermometer to get an exact temperature on my oil for frying – you want it to be hot enough that it’s shimmering, but not so hot that it’s smoking. You can test your oil with a small, breaded piece of tomatillo or tomato, which should immediately begin to bubble and fry if the oil is hot enough.
To bread your tomatoes and tomatillos, simply dredge each piece through the egg wash on each side, then the flour mixture on each side, back to the egg wash, and then in the bread crumbs. As you can see from my photograph, I found it easiest to have all my tomato and tomatillos completely breaded and ready for frying before starting – the frying process moves quickly.
Once you’re ready to fry, simply place your pieces into the oil and let them sizzle away. Each piece will likely take 2-3 minutes on each side to cook through, and will boast a solid, golden brown crust on the outside when finished. Just be sure to fry each piece on each side. Once a batch is done (you’re not going to want to crowd your frying pan – I recommend working in batches of 5-7 pieces depending on the size of the pieces), carefully remove to a rack or paper towel to cool and dry, and clean your oil and/or refresh it if necessary before starting the process again.
Continue working through your pieces until all are fried. To assemble your tortas, simply pile your fried tomatoes and tomatillos onto your buttered, toasted buns, and top with a healthy dose of sauce. Serve immediately.
YIELD: 5 large sandwiches and approximately 4 1/2 cups of sauce