The breaded chicken tenders were the thing DRY in the entire deli display case. The rest of the offerings - allegedly "ready to eat" dinners (like Jewel's rotisserie chicken) - looked uncomfortably close to what happens a few hours after eating: oily brown chorizo, greasy pulled pork in sticky orange fluid...and a shiny yellow fish-dish whose appearance is usually followed by "Gesundheit!"
Unfortunately, Jewel closed 6 months ago...and that left Cermack as the only game in the neighborhood. Though I still bought meat/produce at Cermack, I had to go elsewhere for my "white people necessities," including Ranch dressing, Kraft Mac & Cheese, chocolate soy milk, and of course, deli chicken. It's always sad to lose "your" local grocery store, and despite great meat/produce, Cermack made me feel like a tourist visiting a foreign land. Sure, most sale signs were written in English, but that always seemed more like a courtesy...as if to say, "Be nice to the white people."
And it wasn't just any ketchup….it was Heinz, the good stuff - "a bottle of our finest red."
It was clear that Cermack had re-merchandised its store, in an effort to woo the white customers who used to shop at Jewel. I was pleased at this development, though the more I thought about it, the more I realized, "Hey! That means that I'M the minority! That's not how the world is supposed to work!"
"So, this is what it feels like," I thought, staring at the surrounding Hispanic patrons...and the small, timid huddles of pasty white shoppers. The bilingual pages echoed across the sales floor, and the MUZAK alternated between 80s pop - and Mexican mariachi.
As a white guy, the whole shopping experience felt just a tad out of sync, like watching a foreign film - dubbed or with subtitles. I walked - slowly - through this pork-themed, Hispanic Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, expecting at any moment to fall into a river of orange grease. But I didn't fall. And I somehow made it through the aisles of bulk rice, bulk tortillas, and children whose bulk came from eating rice & tortillas.
And somehow, despite the Oompa-Loompas singing their strange, siren-Salena songs, I somehow made it to this crazy world's cash registers, clutching my bag of breaded chicken tenders.