The Wide Angle: Celebrating the day of Cowboys on a field

Published 6:31 am Saturday, November 24, 2018

Let’s call Thanksgiving what it is — a reason to make leftovers.

This thought occurred to me as we were out doing our own shopping in preparation for Dallas Cowboys Football Day.

This is my fourth year hosting family and I’ve become fairly good at putting a pretty tasty meal together, if I do say so myself. In fact I’ve become so streamline that I’m thinking about imposing on others that they refer to me as Chef Eric throughout the day.

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A book and Food Network show are surely on the horizon.

Something else I noticed was that Thanksgiving shopping can be a study into human behavior

The first thing I noticed was apparently this is a holiday within its own right as everybody decided that Sunday was Thanksgiving Shopping Day, easily figured out by glancing at other people’s carts as they rolled by. Most every cart we saw was crammed packed with holiday food stuffs: Turkey, stuffing, relish trays, gravy, cranberry sauce, so on and so forth.

As the food detective I am, I started looking at these carts as cases to be solved. How were these people celebrating Thanksgiving?

There were two camps I recognized and the first clue to the first camp was a look into my own cart. Sure, I’m taking a grand step this year in trying a new stuffing recipe. A bold step and admission because my favorite side dish at Thanksgiving is stuffing, but everything else in our cart was the common stuff of the holiday meal.

Not much changes as far as food goes in my family, mostly because our family is fairly mundane when it comes to things such as this. I’ve been eating the same meal for many, many, many years. Not that this is a criticism really. I could have changed it at any time, but chose to continue on with the family tradition of sameness.

So it wasn’t so much the nature of the items in our cart as it was the nature of the arrangement of said items. There was no real organization other than to find an empty spot in which to put something — much like my dour-thinking teenage self, or at least the misconception of my life at that point.

Of course this lack of organization had more to do with getting in and out as soon as possible, a goal I adopted pretty quickly upon seeing the amount of cars in the parking lot. Still, it says a lot about my organization in general. I’ll start the day off writing out the menu and how I’m going to progress through the preparation, but as the day progresses there’s every reason to believe the words, “I need a medic over here!” or, “you think FEMA covers this?” will be shouted out loud.

The kitchen will look like a complete disaster without a college student washing dishes for gas money to be found, which means at some point I’ll have to wash them myself with some help from family. Throw into this hot disaster of a holiday meal two cats who will smell the food and try to interject their meows of suffering and mistreatment every time we don’t give them something and you have a holiday to remember. Or forget. Kind of depends how much you value the day.

This stands in stark contrast I imagine to the other kind of shopper I observed during the trip. In particular there was one individual who set my pondering a stirring. Her cart was stacked to the wire-rimmed top with a buffet of holiday goodies, but that was no different than everybody else. What was different was the amazing organization this person had as each and every item had its assigned space in the cart.

It was leveled off, squared, rounded only where it should have been.

It was a monument to culinary planning on the order of magnitude that reaffirmed my believe in humans building the pyramids — no matter what you tell me Giorgio A. Tsoukalos’ hair.

I was awestruck and had to fight back the urge to ask her how she achieved such a feat. I couldn’t stop staring at this person’s immaculate stacking of cranberry sauce in perfect symmetry with the square boxes of chicken broth and then comparing it to my swirling storm of culinary chaos.

I felt like less of a human being if I’m to be perfectly honest. Here was this masterpiece of planning, walking confidently down the aisle, knowing exactly what the next target was. Meanwhile here we were, staring around like a lost pair of vacationers in a country where nobody spoke English.

It made me wonder what the meal was like at their house. I bet there wasn’t a pot or pan sitting anyplace other than its prescribed spot in the kitchen, while at our house there’s every possibility I find a gravy boat sitting by the TV.

Luckily, I only have to do this once a year. Because, let’s be perfectly clear, if I had to do Christmas as well, I’m pretty sure McDonald’s or Burger King is on the buffet table.

You know, while I talked about this, another thought occurred to me.  Banner morning — Ttwo whole thoughts.

I should have taken these deductive reasoning skills to Black Friday, though I’m not entirely sure I want to go that far down the rabbit hole of human behavior. No, better I retire from the detective business now.

To wrap it up, to my 19 readers (I think I picked another one up at some point, but I’m waiting for the official recount) and anybody else who is reading this while waiting for a hair cut, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that the rest of your holiday season is packed with fun, family and no gravy boats by the TV .