Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Food Armistice Day

Ok, you foodie grinches, where were you hiding when we stopped by the St. Joseph HyVee tonight? You should have come down from your narrow insulated rarefied studios and pushed a cart. It was a zoo, a mob, a cacophony, a mishmash, a potpourri, a gumbo, a goulash, a shepherd's pie, an Irish stew. A bouillabaise? Nah, probably, being St. Joe, a buffet, a smorgasbord, would better fit the bill. There were folks loading up on pop, milk, still buying their fowl, still buying their whole dinner, judging by the number of (paper or plastic?) bags. There were folks stocking the produce aisle with carrots, apples, broccoli, any variety of greens. There was a helpful young man attempting to discern what cheese exactly the man-sent-to-the-store-with-a-list was supposed to bring home. A lady with just one pumpkin pie. Another lady with but two bags of frozen hash browns. A young man with a package of deli cheese and a pound of Greek olives from the bar. A man with a three year old in one arm and a red plastic basket in the other. A case of bumper carts at the canned goods end cap. No one, but no one in the frozen foods aisle. People buying nuts, grapes, bacon, egg nog, muffins, mushrooms, pickles, baguettes.....not exactly the bare necessities, but the stuff of which holidays are made. Everyone was busy, motivated, courteous if preoccupied, but primarily intent on the business of celebration.

What an amazing place this supermarket is! A typical store in a typical city with more choice than anyone needs to live well and eat better. Can anyone possibly need that many apples? All colors, organic and not, names unfamiliar, bagged or shined. Carrots with tops, carrots in bags, carrots baby, carrots pencil thin. A deli of cheeses at one end of the store; a dairy of cheeses on the opposite wall. Generic milk; boutique milk in cunning glass flasks.

I was there to pick up the grace notes of our holiday meal. I had my heart set on a table with two pottery bowls of green and black olives (one blue cheese stuffed, please) and some soft mild herbed cheese. How about some sesame crackers for that cheese? Oh, and wait, look at the size of the Holiday Seedless Grapes! My inviting table of tasty morsels has a good start. I needed the fixings for a broccoli salad, but splurged on two expensive dressings (olive oil based with blue cheese morsels suspended, an oriental ginger vinaigrette). Wouldn't impress a true gourmand, but will give me the private satisfaction of adding a fillip of extra care to my contribution to the table.

The operative mood overall was of bustling excitement and anticipation. No tussling over the last item on the shelf, ala the hottest gadget at Christmas, because this was a supermarket in the breadbasket of the U.S. at Thanksgiving, the very definition of beauty, bounty, and variety. The baguette was sliced and toasted for a peppered dip (a dab of chili to pep it up); apples became partners with ginger snaps for a pumpkin dip; the olives and cheeses did indeed find their way to a pottery bowls and platters. All these were warm ups for a kitchen steaming with pyrex dishes of yams and beans, glazed carrots and green rice. Snicker salad and deviled eggs. Biscuits, yeasty rolls, apple loaf. The crowning glories of cranberry stuffed pork loin, goose, and the impossibly named turduken, carved by their respective creators. Food for family, for company, for fun. Replicated in kitchens across our nation.

And just for this day, food for love. No food police, no food wars, no politics.

And, Lord knows, no calorie counters!!

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