THE READER
August 2004

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Slow Food Fast
Dan Moore
Deli Manager


I’ve got a confession to make. I like fast food. Not the Fast Food Nation or Super Size Me kind, but the kind that makes it from the store to my table with limited in-between steps. After working here all day, then doing my grocery shopping, I don’t want to cook any more than anyone else. For everyday meals, I want something quick and easy. That goes for vacation food, too. Last month, I was traveling to a weekend benefit concert for Seed Savers with my wife and some friends, and, as usual, my wife put me in charge of the food.
So the day before the trip I hit the aisles of the Co-op. I was looking for food that would travel well as well as food that could be eaten with little to no preparation. We were staying at the house of some friends who were going to be out of town, and we really didn’t want to make a mess and use all their dishes. Besides, after a full evening of concert-going, we were definitely not going to be in the mood to cook or clean up.


Produce
The obvious place to start was the produce department. I picked up some melons, pineapple, and berries for car snacks, and then turned my attention to dinner. There is no better fast food than sandwiches. We have the best produce department I’ve ever been in, and in a minute I had a basket full of vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, organic alfalfa sprouts, red onions, red leaf lettuce, and some fresh basil. (I almost grabbed the young, green coconut out of curiosity. Maybe next time.)


Cookies, Crackers, Dairy
Then, after a short diversion for some Matt’s peanut butter cookies and a box of crackers, I made my way to the dairy aisle. It had previously been my firm belief that you should be prohibited from drinking anything other than Silk’s chocolate soymilk with a sandwich. I do now make an exception. The Co-op now carries Wisconsin Organics milk in glass bottles. Say what you will, but you can definitely taste the difference from milk sold in cardboard or plastic. I picked up both the soymilk and the regular. I figured maybe I could hide the Silk from everyone else.


Condiments

So by now I had the snack food, the beverages, and the sandwich innards. Next up, condiments. I already had some Nayonaise at home, and some pickles I picked up at a farm near Algoma (Wienke’s Market—highly recommended, especially the dilly beans), so all I needed were olives and some mustard. As for the olives, I decided to splurge. I was off to the deli.


Deli, Cheese and Bread
Yes, I’m biased, but I don’t think you’re going to find a faster, easier meal with as high a quality of ingredients as in our deli. First things first, I grabbed a half-pint of feta-stuffed olives from the self-serve case. Then, over at the bread aisle, I picked up a loaf of La Brea’s pan rustique, a flat ciabatta-style bread that makes great sandwiches. At the cheese shelves, I faced my biggest challenge. There are so many types of cheese, I have never been able to decide quickly which to take. I settled on three. First, a big hunk of Colby. We had kids coming along, and Colby goes well with both crackers and sandwiches. Second, a container of fresh mozzarella. I’m just a sucker for fresh mozzarella. Besides, it goes well on a veggie sandwich, too. Finally, just for the crackers, I got a wedge of triple cream Brie.


Side Dishes from the Deli

Now that I had the sandwich fixings complete, I needed side dishes. That’s where the deli shines. I decided to go for simplicity and tradition. We were having sandwiches and would be eating them at an outdoor concert, so I got us a pint each of macaroni salad, potato salad, and coleslaw. At the last moment I added a pint of tuna salad. You aren’t going to find a better tuna salad anywhere else, so I figured why not?


Road Food
Now there was only one thing left. Lunch for the road. We obviously wouldn’t be putting together sandwiches in the car, and fruit would only get us so far. Easy enough to solve. I grabbed a couple of our Al Caprese Panini from the sandwich case. Part of a new line of sandwiches developed by deli cook extraordinaire Stuart; these have basil, fresh mozzarella, and tomato on a La Brea demi-baguette. Other new sandwiches he’s developed include the Pan Bagna, which is a mix of olives, peppers, and vinegar sauce that soaks the bread and tastes delicious. There are also two new Vietnamese sandwiches and a vegetarian torta as well. I chose the al Caprese because, like I said, I’m a sucker for fresh mozzarella.

I was done. I left work at 2:00 that day. I finished shopping at 2:15 and was home by 2:30. By the time I finished chopping veggies, getting the fruit ready to go and packing the cooler, it was 3:15. I had food for five, bought and ready to serve, in a little over an hour. All I had to do then was convince my wife to drive, so I could hoard the chocolate soymilk and the peanut butter cookies.