Yesterday after writing a long rant about how much better I am than people who shop on Black Friday, I went shopping. Hooray for being full of inconsistencies and flaws! And shit!
And day-old stuffing. Mmm, it’s even better the next day.
I went to a local thrift shop where I spent a good hour wandering the aisles and bought approximately twenty pounds of Christmas Decorations. Oh man. It was awesome.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Ew, gross! Used Christmas Decorations!” Unless you happen to know me personally, in which case you’re thinking, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Don’t worry, I scrubbed them free of any residual cheer when I got home.
Anyhoo, I did this shopping because my family is coming down for Christmas, so I am officially hosting my first Christmas Family Gathering. It is a new milestone for me, and I wanted to make sure to commemorate it with several fake pine garlands, a couple of candles shaped like pine-cones, and a whole mess of other decorations and ornaments.
In the car on the way home I grooved along to Christmas carols on the radio. It was seventy degrees in Garner, North Carolina yesterday, but in my heart I was baking cookies and stomping snow off my boots. My boots I wear in my heart.
Whither came this sudden burst of schmaltzy sentimentality? I wondered. But deep down I knew it had been there all along, just waiting for the right moment to burst forth and make me purchase a candelabra decorated with fake holly leaves.
When I was growing up, We had an entire closet filled with Christmas decorations (and that is no small thing for an apartment, where closet space is heartbreakingly limited). Decorating for Christmas was a day-long project that I began looking forward to as soon as we remembered to discard our rotting jack-o-lanterns.
When decorating commenced, we also began listening to Christmas music, which I loved. I’m talking Sinatra, Roger Williams, Vince Guaraldi, John Denver & the Muppets (come on. You know the album), Nat King Cole…A Chipmunk Christmas. I loved it all. It made me feel all warm and cheer-y inside. I loved the way the livingroom looked when it was fully decorated– complete with Annalee Dolls and a wooden nativity set that appeared to include a superfluous fourth King, which puzzled us anew each year…who was that extra guy? He looked too nice to be a shepherd. Maybe he was someone’s random brother-in-law who turned up for a free meal and some myrrh? Anyway, our apartment felt like a different place.
I guess that’s the part I like about the holidays; whatever holiday you celebrate– the fact that for a short period of time, everything feels a little different, a little more festive. You need that sometimes– an excuse to simmer cinnimon and cloves on the stove to make the house feel warm and delicious, and to light candles and maybe buy a damn poinsettia. An excuse to listen to tinkly piano music all day long, just because you can. Particularly in the winter, when everything outside is dreary, and all the trees look dead, it’s nice to have an excuse to party, and bake, and eat, and drink.
Christmas, you enabler.
Brian and I have a lot of differences, but fortunately we have similar feelings about food—particularly when it comes to buying it.
We both looooove grocery shopping. Wandering through the aisles together trying to remember if we already have that kind of mustard or not; campaigning for and against certain salad dressings, and debating whether we can really continue eating chicken twice a week, or whether I might go crazy if I have to eat another chicken taco. We’ve grown respectful of each other’s strange food proclivities. I look the other way when he grabs a box of soluble protein powder; he shrugs when I add a box of SpongeBob and Friends macaroni and cheese to the cart. But it’s shaped like SpongeBob! And his friends!
If there’s something we eat regularly, we tend to stock up on it. I think we like knowing that if there is a hurricane, we will have the ability to reinforce the windows with bacon. We like knowing that behind that jar of pasta sauce in the pantry is an army of other jars of pasta sauce. There is something comforting about a well-stocked kitchen.
Indeed, Brian’s Costco membership has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘stock up’. Costco does not kid around when it comes to economy sized offerings. It’s a little intimidating, even now. I ventured into my first Costco a couple of years ago when we started dating, and it was a disorienting experience. It was like that Super Mario 3 World where everything is giant. At every turn there were cracker boxes that shared my sweater size. Huge bags of almonds stared me down; I picked up a bottle of juice and realized, too late, that I should have lifted with my knees. I felt like a hungry garden gnome. I know that buying in bulk is more cost effective and saves on packaging, but it’s also not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted. “I like pickles,” I found myself saying, “but do I like ten pounds of pickles?” Fortunately, Brian eats in bulk. The idea of buying block of cheese that I could hide behind became less frightening once I discovered that it was usually gone in a week or two.
I particularly like to stock up on random foods. I tend to see meal preparation as food roulette, and the more filled your pantry is with strange odds and ends, the higher the chances are that you can piece together a meal without having to send out for grocery reinforcements. The last time I went shopping, I picked up a bag of dried split peas, so that one day when I am struck with the urge to make split-pea soup, I will recall with a thrill that I already have the main ingredient. I know that’s probably not normal.
When I was growing up, Mom would make huge shopping trips once a month or so, and have the groceries delivered to our apartment. We walked to the grocery stores in our NYC neighborhood, so what you couldn’t carry home yourself had to be delivered. To this day, grocery shopping with a car that you can put all of your groceries in instead of carrying them home fills me with delight. Anyway, as a kid, when those dozen or so shopping bags arrived, it always felt like Food Christmas. My younger sister and I would prance around digging through the shopping bags, ostensibly to help put things away, but really, we were looking for Keebler Elf cookies.
My problem right now is that I need to cut back on those two-faced little ‘one-stop’ trips to the supermarket by myself. You may know the ones I’m talking about. Where you think, ‘Oh, I need milk, and eggs. I’ll just run in.’ and you come out twenty minutes later with milk, and chocolate chips, and a giant bottle of wine, and a breath-freshening bone for the dog. You just spent twenty dollars more than you had planned, and you forgot eggs.
Those are the trips I need to avoid, and yet, they are often the most fun trips. It feels like I’m just dropping by the supermarket to check in; just seeing what’s new and kicky in the world of food I like to eat. What could be the harm in that? In this economy, with my state of employment (or lack thereof), they’re probably not the best trips to make.
I am working on making a list before I go shopping, and just sticking to that list once I’m in the store. Ideally I will be too embarrassed (or will forget) to add things like, ‘day-old bakery donuts’ and ‘scrubbing-bubbles-shaped nightlight’ (what? It made me happy) to the list, and then I’ll be tricked out of picking those items up along the way. I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meantime, I need to go pick up some day-old bakery donuts.