Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 12/10/2023

We start with someone picking a fight. 

I didn’t know any of this about oil. I always thought I was a bad cook, but it turns out I’m just an ignorant one. 

We have a number of reactions. The first: “People use olive oil when they cook steak?”

To which someone responds: “only if they want to absolutely destroy the flavor of a steak that brought its own fatty oils to the party.”

Others explain that there are oils beyond olive, such as avocado and peanut. One says, “If you’re not using a whole stick of butter are you even trying”

And why buy olive oil? As one commenter says, “Oh, you aren’t pressing your own olives? 🙄 peasants”

I’m learning so much culinary science through people’s snide comments. It turns out that different oils have different smoke points, and extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point. That explains why I set the fire alarm off every time I open my oven or fry an egg. 

Others give suggestions about where to get the good stuff. One person says, “Try the roastery. They have build olive oil. Bring you own bottle too And turmeric balsamic vinegar.” Only a newb would shop at Thriftway. 

Some of us are offended that the commenter assumed we’re all bad cooks based solely on what our grocery store carries. I mean, our grocery store has a whole row with piñatas overhead, but that doesn’t mean we’re all blindfolded and swinging bats around. And it only carries the small bottle of foot fungus cream, which assumes that none of us have a chronic case of athlete’s foot that we picked up in college. 

Another person comments, “While you feel you need to educate us on the various types of olive oil, it’s not necessary for you to judge us on our cooking. If this is how you enter a new community, please feel free to move back to where you came from.”

To which someone adds, “Let me guess… you moved here from Bellevue.” Yes, because Bellevue is known for its olive oil.

Since we’re seen as backwoods yokels, we decide to own it. We have these comments. “True Islanders cook exclusively with lard.” To which someone says, “pfft! Leftover bacon grease silly 😏” And another: “Ya we are just a bunch of backwoods okies that cook with skunk grease! Whatever.” 

And lastly, “When I light trash fires to stay warm in the cold, I only use oils certified by the North American Olive Oil Association.”

After this diversion, we get back to being offended pretty quickly. Someone says, “There are a LOT of great home cooks on this island. Light Olive Oil still solidifies in the fridge too so it’s not great for marinades. You’re welcome for the additional totally unsolicited info ~”

To this people ask, “you refrigerate olive oil..?” I leave mine out on the counter, where it leaves a little ring of grease everywhere I place it down. 

But then we learn something sinister: “Lol most olive oil is counterfeit. Do you know which ones are legit? There are 2 at Thriftway!”  Okay, what is counterfeit olive oil? What is it made of? Is it just corn oil? Petroleum? And how do you know which ones are legit? Is there, like, a sticker on the bottle? 

The thread goes on so long that we devolve into an argument about masks. The gist of the argument is that refusing to wear a mask because you have read and misunderstood one study makes you a free thinker, whereas thinking masks should be made mandatory means your mind is a shallow vessel filled only with state propaganda. Apparently, only certain thoughts are free, and others are programmed by nefarious forces. The good news is that you can easily figure out who the true free thinkers are because they always come to the same conclusions.

We get back on the topic of olive oil, which we somehow haven’t exhausted. I am a very opinionated person, but I didn’t know it was possible for this many opinions about olive oil to exist. One person says, “Personally if there isn’t a harvest date in this year I’m not purchasing it. If there is no harvest date listed on the bottle I’m not purchasing it.” They must struggle to find acceptable olive oil every January. 

Someone who is presumably wearing a tinfoil hat says, “You are buying counterfeit olive oil. Most olive oil is made with rancid seed oils. Research it .”  Rancid seed? What is rancid seed?

I checked Snopes and it turns out some extra virgin olive oil doesn’t really qualify to be called extra virgin, but it is still made of olives. It’s just that the olives are slutty.  

Some positive things come out of this endless slog into the culture war around olive oil. We share recipes on the thread, such as how to perfectly brown a steak, or how to pre-cook mushrooms before you put them on pizza. This is all useful information that I want to believe I will use someday, but I’m probably just fooling myself. I mean, I read this thread while eating the leftover half of a Subway sandwich my daughter had left on the table four hours earlier and  which I’d heated it up in the toaster, leading to the bun being burnt but the cheese remaining cold. 

In the end, someone says, “Finally. I’ve been waiting to ask someone who knows food: what brand of frozen pizza pairs best with Hawaiian Punch ™?” Ok, I know this one, It’s Digiorno. 

And since we’re ragging on Thriftways olive oil stock, let’s also complain about their music. We have this post: 

The first response is: “Boomers aging out…” I guess that means Thriftway plays the music they think will resonate most with the bulk of their shoppers, people such as myself, who are middle-aged and stopping every other day for a frozen pizza and chicken strips. And I will admit it, I like Taylor Swift. People who grew up with Cat Stevens now need to recognize that they are passing the torch of popular culture onto those of us that are younger, and that their taste in music isn’t definitive of great art, but just what resonated with them at the time they were young and emotionally impressionable. 

As one young person says of the Taylor Swift playlist, “I’ll take that over multiple times per day of “Younnnnnnng girl, you better runnnnnnnn girl” 🤮” 

For real though, I’m so unobservant that despite shopping at Thriftway for ten years, I never noticed they play music there. I just tune it out and focus on my grocery list. 

Some people like the music. One says, “I heard Devo “Whip It” just now. There are many broadcast stations on our rock. Of all of them, a grocery store is best.” 

However another says, “Hotel California! So many times a day,” which does sound like hell. But a commenter assures them that Hotel California too will fade with time. They say, “Don’t worry, they’ll scrap all that for Christmas music really soon” 

I know I said I’m unobservant, but I do notice when Christmas music plays because it brings out a profound irritation in me. Most Christmas songs are bad. They’re children’s songs. Why do people get so excited that for a month of every year they get to hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman on a loop? It’s like, what if every July the radio played Old McDonald Had a Farm for a month straight and we all said how much we loved it because it reminded us of the summertimes of our youth? That would be insane. And yet every December, we collectively lose our minds over a child who wants two front teeth for Christmas so they can whistle. Whistling is annoying! Do not give that child any extra teeth! 

So, I would like to thank Thriftway for not playing Christmas music. I don’t care if your olive oil is fake and/or rancid, so long as you don’t play Let It Snow. 

Now that I’m done yelling about my personal bugbears, I’ll get back to the topic at hand. One person says, “Maybe the Thriftway DJ has a multi faceted music taste and is trying to appeal to a wider range of customers☺️” I love the idea that Thriftway has a DJ whose whole job is to read the vibe of the room and play the music that will get people bopping their heads as they contemplate which ginger ale brand to buy. 

Another comment: “The “Thriftway DJ” is a bot. I wear headphones when I go in there to drown out that garbage with some good jazz, or samba, on my phone.” I totally get it. I bring my own food to the grocery store and eat it there to show them how my taste is better than theirs. 

Local experts chime in. One says, “I work at Thriftway and currently have a running record of hearing Tiny Dancer by Elton John 4 times in one shift. The music needs a revamp.” Another says, “during my shift I get to hear the Starship and Journey 🤦🏻‍♀️” And another, “When I worked there they had Sirius radio and a manager would pick the station. So you are at the whim of whoever’s in charge when you’re in there!” 

A friend has just informed me that some years ago, there used to be live music at Thriftway. One of the workers would bring their electric keyboard into the store and play in the bread aisle. This needs to be brought back, so long as they don’t block me from reaching the $1.99 store-brand wheat bread. 

We have this anecdote from a local activist who, for a time anyway, made all our lives a little better. They say, “Many, many years ago when driven to distraction by then played ‘elevator `music.’ I protested to management and asked if one day of the week they would play classical music, and told them I would shop vigorously on that day. To my surprise, for a couple of years they did, and I loved grocery shopping on Wednesday. Not sure why they stopped. Probably, somebody complained 😉

We have this philosophical musing: “I’ve never figured out why stores bother playing any music. No matter what it is, it’s going to annoy a significant number of people. What’s wrong with silence? Are the managers afraid folks will be able to hear their own thoughts?”

 Someone gives us the reason, “Cmon, ‘Cruel Summer’ comes on, I’m going absolutely nuts in the bread aisle.” Yes, the sound of Taylor Swift’s melodious voice will sooth us and take our minds off the sad fact that all the olive oils have too low a smoke point. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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