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Sisters' shopping habits fuel friendly family feud

You never know your sisters till you travel together. Well into our golden years, we share good history tended by gentle, loving parents. We worked hard in school, shared the same clothes and traded insults over the kitchen sink doing the supper dishes. Even as kids, we always got along.

Now we gather for lunch, family picnics, weddings, funerals and in each others' homes. It's warm and comforting to be together, remeshing the steel threads that blend our lives.

Still, vacationing together, supermarkets become a friendly battlefield, crystallizing some personality differences. Who knew! Sister No. 1 -- the Chicago Sister -- and Sister No. 3 -- the Pittsburgh Sister -- learned that Sisters No. 2 and 4 -- the Buffalo Sisters -- can't pass a supermarket without buying food. A lot of food. Too much food for a six-day stay in a resort town overrun with restaurants.

"What! No split pea soup? No tuna fish? No crusty Italian bread? This is a vacation?" That was Sisters 2 and 4, in unison.

"Don't let them out of the car! They'll buy stuff." That was No. 1. "They never saw a food store they didn't like." That was me, No. 3.

Like toddlers enchanted by Disney World, these two vacation in the supermarkets of Ft. Myers Beach, happy to skulk the aisles, avoiding our urgings to "quit buying!" in their own determination to do otherwise.

Twice our "banker" stalked the store's hinterlands for "one more thing" as we three stood waiting with the checkout clerk to pay our bill. Once, we left only steps before the store's staff anxiously awaiting our departure to close.

It became laughable. All the comforts of home draped the counter tops of our condo, one burdened with five kinds of bread. The refrigerator offered enough options to open a curbside luncheonette.

Certainly we'd all thrown favorites into the shopping cart, but where Fran and Cam (1 and 3) preferred playing close to the line, having enough on hand to stave off hunger, but not so much we'd need a garage sale upon departure, Marie and Renie (2 and 4) regard home and vacation all-inclusively. If they could've stuffed Ted's Hot Dog Stand in a suitcase, life would've been perfect.

As it was, they packed frozen shrimp and eggplant Parmesan, undoubtedly causing some wonder among TSI checkers. We imagined them saying: "Buffalonians!"

Famed for restaurants and snow, the city is also known for a food-loving populace, and these two sisters joyously dedicate themselves to the cause.

But yes, we all benefited. We dined on Marie's delicious lentil soup and Italian bread, split pea pasta and olive bread; also Renie's tuna salad and multigrain bread with sauteed zucchini; and my marinated cucumbers.

We had cheese sandwiches on whole wheat, and peanut butter with jelly on dinner rolls. For toast, there was rye, or Asiago cheese bread. There were Greek and Sicilian olives, two kinds of cheese, two of pepperoni, way too many snacks, wine, Bloody Marys, soft drinks and lots and lots of water.

The water exacerbated things. It was purchased in gallons. When the gallons were empty, we'd stop at a supermarket and, if lucky, found the refilling machines outside the store -- because if they were inside, we'd lose Nos. 2 and 4 to another round of tripping through the aisles!

Sisters. Ya gotta love 'em. I do.

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