I decided to get a head start on Thanksgiving shopping this year. I am not sure if it's because we live in Alaska and the supply lines are longer and more complicated, but there always seem to be gaps on the shelves right where the stuff we need usually is if we wait until a few days before Thanksgiving.
I went on Thursday, a fully week ahead of the holiday right after I dropped Eli off at school. This is usually a peaceful and serene time to shop. At least as peaceful and serene as a grocery store can be. I walked in and noticed that there were only a few more people than I normally see at that time of morning, but the average-cart-load-per-shopper (ACLPS) index was easily twice the norm. Typically on weekday mornings people have a few things that they are pushing around in their mini carts. I rarely do big shopping on weekdays. Mostly it is supplementary milk, wine, bread, cereal and other parenting necessaries.
This morning was different. It was shopping game on. I wasn't the only one who thought that getting a head start might be a good idea. Almost everybody had a full cart and several people were doing the tandem push-one-pull-another thing. There are several food-heavy holidays, but Thanksgiving is the Queen-Mother of eating Holidays. Think about it. Christmas is kind of an eating holiday, but it's more like "celebrate the coming of our Savior, give presents then eat." Easter is similar except we are celebrating the rising of our Savior then eating. In both cases we are pretty much feeding the people that come over to celebrate the reason for the holiday. You could argue that giving thanks is the reason for Thanksgiving (hence the name) but the feast, in my opinion, is the method of giving thanks.
Thanksgiving has its own smell. Cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme and sage... especially sage... all come together to reach out to an olfactory collective memory that we connect with Thanksgiving. My olfactory memory was in jeopardy as I stood in front of the fresh herb section and looked at the gaping hole where sage should have been. Lots of rosemary. Tons of time. A conspicuous lack of sage. Showstopper. I swallowed my panic and tackled a store employee. I asked as calmly as I could when they would be getting more sage. He shrugged. "Maybe Monday or Tuesday," he said. "It's hard to keep. It is almost Thanksgiving, you know."
I stared at the young man. Newsflash. It's almost Thanksgiving. Thanks for the info. I looked at the display again and noticed that way in the back was a bag that was labeled "Turkey Herbs" or something similar and contained rosemary, thyme and... sage. I grabbed the last bag and clutched it to my chest... I felt slightly like Gollum as I placed Precious in my cart and headed toward the turkey aisle.
I turned the corner and immediately saw half a dozen assorted backsides sticking out of freezer cases with fogged up doors as people sorted through the frozen turkeys. One gentleman caught my attention because he would pick up a turkey by that web-net thingy they come in and carefully heft it with one hand while he stared vacantly into the distance at nothing in particular in complete concentration. I am not sure what he was doing... I mean they do print the weight on the tag. I watched as he went through several birds before he walked away with one.
I was dismayed to find that, once again, I was faced with a dilemma that I was sure I could avoid by shopping a week early... the turkey fit dilemma. You see, it seems every year our turkey size choices are limited to a turkey roughly the size of a grouse with gland problems at the one extreme or a turkey the size of an overweight ostrich on the other. There are rarely any turkeys in between. Even a week early my choices were limited to either end of the bell curve. Seriously, there were plenty of 12-14 pounders and a butt load of 23-25 pounders. I am a Butterball guy when it comes to turkeys. I looked through "Li'l Butterballs" and they all looked sad. I had my eye on a 25 pounder that just reeked of holiday cheer when I realized the coupon that promised a free turkey with a $150 purchase limited me to the store brand turkeys up to 20 pounds. I like Butterball turkeys but I am anything but dogmatic. It's a guideline not a hard-and-fast rule. The turkeyasaurus went back into the freezer and I managed to find a 20-pound store brand turkey. Still a little big for our purposes, but doable.
I went through the produce section and picked up sweet potatoes and white potatoes. I looked at some fresh veggies. They looked wonderful, but I wasn't fooled. It was too soon. I don't know if it is because of our distance from the places these things are grown, but fresh vegetables tend to reach us at the end of their usable life spans. Veggies from the store last in our fridge about two days before becoming icky. I would wait on the leafy greens or buy frozen. Yes, frozen -- don't judge.
I walked back toward housewares to get a meat thermometer when I noticed something red and heart-shaped on a shelf. Red? Heart-shaped? Seriously? A week away from Thanksgiving and we are taking a run at Valentine's Day. Isn't there a law or statute that prevents advertising for a holiday outside the present calendar year? I made a mental note to research it and call my Congressional representative if there wasn't. I took a closer look. I relaxed. It was a stuffed animal with a heart-shape on its tummy . . . it wasn't really a Valentine-themed toy. However it was wrapped in silver garland near a Christmas display. I guess you can never start too early.
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