Hunting for cheese in a grocery store is harder than it seems

Bad shopping habits die hard.


– Tori Spelling


I was looking for ricotta cheese.

Now, I freely admit I don’t know much about ricotta cheese. I couldn’t describe its taste. I don’t know what color it is, or what sort of container they put it in.

All I knew was that its name was written in a clean, discernible cursive note on a list prepared by my wife and placed in my hand as she sent me off to Grocery-Land on Wednesday because I qualify for a senior citizen discount and she does not.

My wife’s grocery lists are marvels.

Although I don’t think she’s actively shopped for years (or at least since I began getting a discount) she still knows where everything in the store is.

She prepares the list in the order that I will find the listed items if I enter the store, head to the farthest right aisle and begin going up and down, one row to the next.

This is very helpful.

But on this day and with this list, she offered an apology.

“I’m sorry,” she said as I headed for the door. “I was in a hurry and didn’t get to rewrite the list and put everything in order.”

“That’s no problem,” I confidently lied. “I know where everything is.”

But you know I don’t.

Grocery stores are laid out for women. That’s why they have a limited selection of hardware supplies and power tools.

They’re big on choices and selections and female hair products. There’s a whole aisle of that stuff.

Motor oil? Maybe a shelf.

Still, I know where the cheese is. It’s in the cheese section, which is where I headed and where I found American, Swiss, aged Swiss, cheddar, Gouda, Provolone, Mozzarella, Parmesan, bleu and about 10 other varieties and sizes and consistencies.

But there was no ricotta.

At first I thought I had missed it because I know if my wife put it on her list, I guarantee you the store carries it.

So I did what I do. I went to the end of the shelving where the cheese began with a dozen different versions of the Philadelphia Cream variety and began to slowly and carefully read every product name on the price labels. But after going down the row, shelf after shelf and label after label, there was no ricotta.

Now I had a dilemma. I had to ask someone in the store where this cheese was, and if you think it’s tough for a man to ask directions while he’s out driving around on vacation, getting him to ask where something is in the grocery store is just about as bad.

I looked around for help. Every now and then, someone would push a cart past the cheese section and I would almost ask if she knew where ricotta was, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Just couldn’t.

I began to work on my story for when I got home. I was going to tell my wife the store had no ricotta cheese and she might have to pick it up herself next time she shopped.

“Sorry, Sugar Booger,” I could hear myself saying, “they were out.”

But then I noticed one of the older male shelf-stockers heading back toward a door posted “Employees Only.” I rushed over.

“Hey, man,” I said in my best just-us-guys tone, “do y’all have ricotta cheese?

“Sure,” he said. “It’s over by the eggs.”

“Naturally,” I added. “If you put it in the cheese section, no one would find it.”

He smiled. And I smiled. And I found it. And paid for it. And went home as happy as Lewis and Clark returning from an expedition.

“Did you get everything?” my wife asked as I barrelled through the back door, all bags and biscuits.

“Sure did,” I said, then added slyly, “It’s easy when you know things like they put the ricotta cheese over by the eggs.”

“Second shelf,” she said without looking up. “In that corner near the cottage cheese and sour cream.”

“Of course it is,” I said softly.