Overheard at the Harris-Teeter
I am the cook in the Munger house (my wife bakes, sometimes fiercely, but draws the line at producing normal foodstuffs. When asked why, she says, "I went to law school, AND got married. If you do those two things, you should NEVER have to cook.")
One of the big meals I cook is the Italian Catholic traditional (sort of, it's a Rhode Island/Philadelphia ItaloAmerican custom) "7 Fishes" dishes meal for Xmas eve. That's one of the fun things about being Catholic, you get to go through chains of reasoning like this:
1. The Xmas eve vigil requires no meat, but fish is fine.
2. In America, we can celebrate by having a "7 fishes" tradition (I've seen 12, also) of 7 "meatless" dishes. Light things like lobster with butter and shrimp scampi.
3. But, one also gets together for big extended family meals. So you need something that finnicky kids will eat. So you make meatballs, which contain both beef and pork.
4. But, it would be rude NOT to eat those wonderful meatballs, because the cook went to that trouble. So you have one or two, in ADDITION to the 7 dishes of fishes.
5. Then, even after the kids are big, and will eat fish just fine, you still make meatballs, because it is a tradition.
In other words, tradition grows to encompass the exact opposite* of the supposed tradition, without contradiction.
Anyway, in order to get all the stuff I need for two days of cooking, I got up at 7:30 am, got ready, had a cuppa, and then was at the Harris-Teeter grocery by 8:30.
And the freakin' parkin' lot was FULL, already. I had never seen this before, so I have to report it, like an anthropologist might.
1. The store was roughly gender balanced, an equal number of men and women. But nearly all of the shoppers (and the store was nearly full!) were female. Large, small, old, young; hunting and gathering like they have been since...well, since there was a since. And these women had LOADED their carts.
2. Nearly all the workers were men. And there three or four men in EVERY AISLE, trying desperately to stock things. AND THEY WERE LOSING GROUND! Women were taking vegetables, of all kinds, directly off the big trolleys that they bring produce in on from the trucks. Women were pushing the trollyes out of the way, and in some cases literally elbowing the stock-men out of the way.
3. I heard one woman ask why there were no green beans. Stock guy said more were coming, but it was hard because everyone wanted them for green bean casserole. She stared at him, and said: "You are out of it because everyone wants it? I thought you made money selling food." I could have kissed her; a rational person. Wouldn't have minded, actually, since she was also quite fit and attractive. The point is that she is absolutely right. They can't be out of something they KNOW people want a lot of, since the answer is "Stock more." An unexpected run on rutabegas, sure, that could happen. But how can you be out of green beans when you know why people want them at this time of year?
4. I heard one other great conversation, between two stock men, 20 feet apart. They were both probably 25. A sloshing sea of women was surging around these guys, pulling cans off the shelves and checking lists.
Guy 1: "I knew she was going to torture me for that."
Guy 2: "Did she?"
Guy 1: "Oh, you know it. First she says I have to leave, then she says, 'Oh, you really hurt me, you broke my heart. I have to think.' So, I had to listen to like two hours of this crap. Women are just nuts."
5. There was a guy doing an imitation (intentional, I think) of Patton, right behind the swinging doors where they were bringing in stock from the trucks. The guy (who I couldn't see, but could hear clearly when the doors swung open for a trolley, and could still hear a little when the doors were closed) was saying:
"Gentleman, today is war. And you are losing. They are driving you back, and you bunch of candy-asses are just taking it. Get out there! Get out there, and get that stock up, you bunch of maggots! You are the lamest excuses for stockers I have ever seen! You make me SICK!"
I think he was kidding, because all of the stockers coming out were openly laughing, and shaking their heads. But the war metaphor was a good one, although some of those women shoppers were more like pirates. They would waylay a trolley and plunder it before the stocker even knew he had been boarded.
Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!
*this word was left out of original post.