Life is punctuated by a series of enlightening, unexpected, and occasionally puzzling before-and-after moments. Some of the triggering experiences are universal—graduating, moving out, getting your first job—while others are… well, rather specific.
For us, there’s a before and after my in-laws’ Costco membership
Before Costco, my in-laws used to come over most weekends and fill our fridge with containers of rice-and-meat meals, dumplings and spring rolls plus special foods for Chinese holidays. It was kind of cute, often delicious and occasionally annoying because we were perfectly able to cook and we usually had leftovers already. But hey, parents, right? In all fairness, we didn’t have time to make Feng’s mum’s northeastern specialties from scratch and if my mum lived close enough to bring me a homemade quiche, I would accept it gratefully.
Then, at one point, my in-laws moved to a suburb of Ottawa and bought a Costco membership. They no longer bring homemade food, they dump giant boxes, cartons and jars of stuff we don’t need and don’t like at our place.
Stepping into the kitchen started to feel as if we had tasted some of the “drink me” Alice in Wonderland potion. Surely, we must have shrunk overnight, because familiar products had suddenly been replaced with a super-sized version we didn’t know existed. Open the fridge—the fancy 500 ml Crofter’s organic strawberry spread jar is now an E.D. Smith 1-litre raspberry jar! Gone is Mark’s 200 g Breton Veggie Bites cracker box, look under the table for a brand-new 1.35-kilo carton of 18 packs of Ritz crackers. Exit imported Nutella, enter two 1-kilo jars of Kirkland Signature Hazelnut Spread.
Obviously, we told my in-laws to stop. “We can’t eat that much food!” we argued. “Also, I kind of like buying stuff I actually enjoy,” I muttered to myself.
“But it’s cheap! You might use it!”
“But we won’t! It’s wasteful!”
At no point in life have I ever craved a mega-pack of 32 Babybel—and I’m French. Maybe it doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective, but I like to buy manageable quantities. We don’t live in Nunavut, there are four supermarkets within walking distance. I like fresh food. I like variety—I don’t want to “work” on the same cookie box for six months.
I get it, Costco has a fan base. Bigger families need bigger quantities—a former co-worker of mine swore by it because she had four perpetually starving teens at home. But we’re not running a hostel in the basement, just the three of us can’t handle Costco supersized life. And neither can my in-lawn who must weigh a combined 200 lbs, which is partially why they unload supplies on us.
And this is how the stalker entered in our life.
Meet the 2-kilo Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter jar.
Last year, the day we came back from France, it was waiting for us on top of the fridge. “You must be hungry after this long transatlantic trip,” it seemed to say. “Have a nice, soft PB&J sandwich. Go ahead, open me!”
Except this is totally not what we did. We stared at the jar in disbelief. “Peanut butter? Why?”
We’re not the kind of household where PB&J, the quintessential North American sandwich, is comfort food. We like peanuts—just not on bread.
Every culture has a favourite spread—Vegemite in Australia, Marmite in the UK, dulce de leche in South America, butter, cheese or Nutella in France… Each of them is an acquired taste and neither France nor China taught us how to enjoy peanut butter. We never tried to get Mark addicted to it either because of the school peanut ban. These days, putting a PB&J sandwich in your kid’s lunchbox would be like lighting up a cigarette in an office meeting room.
The jar stayed on top of the fridge until Christmas. We gave it to the food bank before we left for Brazil.
When we came back from the trip, the jar was back on top of the fridge. “Wait… did I dream the part where we dropped it off at Loblaws?” I asked Feng.
“Nope. Apparently, my parents bought a new one. I guess it makes sense from their perspective… they must have thought we finished the previous one.”
“Shall we keep this one forever as a decoy, then?”
“I’ll talk to them.”
A few weeks later, Feng proudly announced, “progress was being made.”
“With your parents?”
“No, with the peanut butter. I decided to eat the whole jar by myself. Look!”
Half of it was gone.
“Are you serious? That’s crazy!”
“Yeah, I’m kidding,” he confirmed. “My parents stopped by and I forced my dad to bring home half of it in a Tupperware.”
“Oh, great idea! Maybe they’ll get the message this time.”
Weeks went by, zero peanut butter was eaten and I started wondering when it would be polite to ask my in-laws to please, take the jar away…
… until a few days ago.
“It’s back,” Feng announced unceremoniously.
“It regenerated. I was moving stuff and I noticed we had a new, unopened jar. My parents must have brought a new one when I was away this afternoon.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
He was right.
If you like peanut butter, please, give me a call. I’ll make you a sandwich. Or two. I can even supply you for a year.