You all may be too embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not. I graze at the grocery store. I actually chose my grocery stores according to the variety and abundance of free food. I thought about this today when I went to Publix (my FAVORITE grocery store) and there was a whole platter of Cuban sandwiches up for the taking. Of course, I accepted the invitation. Publix also has this handy cooking station where delightful employees make little plates of delicious nibbles. Today it was flank steak in a chipotle barbecue sauce and baked beans. Can you say, Yum! Then there was the seafood dip with Wheat Thins by the fish counter. Also yum. And when you order sliced sandwich meat from the deli counter, the guy behind the meat case always asks you if you want to eat the first slice. Well, thank you, sir, I believe I will.
Harris Teeter is also quite impressive. You can barely make it through the produce and deli section without encountering these little plastic domes under which reside peaches, strawberries, cubes of cheese and meat – and my favorite – broiled baquette slices with jalapeno pimento cheese melted on top! Oh, my goodness. I have actually circled the pimento cheese bites three or four times, pretending I was looking for something or another so I could get another piece.
Costco may be king of free food on the weekends. If you don’t have a Costco, I’m just sorry for you. There are tidbits almost every other aisle, everything from spinach ravioli with butter sauce to lobster spread to cheesecake. I blush to say that I have gone to Costco on Saturdays with the express purpose of having lunch on Costco’s dime.
But back to Publix and then I’ll be done for the night. The Cuban sandwiches. When I was growing up in Tampa, Cuban sandwiches were like peanut butter and jelly. They were everywhere and everyone ate them. You have to have real Cuban bread, plus sliced pork and ham, pickles and mustard. That’s it. When I moved away, I just craved them. So imagine my complete delight when Publix came to Tennessee and they brought real Cuban sandwiches with them! The only way to eat them is to put the sandwich in a hot skillet and press it with a weight on both sides so the bread gets crispy and the sandwich is flat.
A few years ago, I went for a visit in Tampa and brought back some Cuban’s for Mark from Alessi’s Bakery, which makes the quintessential Cuban sandwich. Before I could get to him, he’d popped that thing in the microwave. I almost had a heart attack.