You can tell from my calm demeanor, list-less coat pockets and slow pace through the grocery store this week that I am NOT cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.
I have the distinct pleasure of helping my cousins out in the kitchen this year at my aunt and uncle's house in the Seattle-area. In exchange however, I will be forced to sit next to my two bickering kids while flying to and from Sea-Tac.
But back to the madhouse that is the supermarket on the days preceeding Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For grocery store veterans such as myself, the crowds at the market during holiday season are a study in demographics. You can tell by the dazed looks in some shoppers eyes that they are inexperienced in the art of major-meal making. And you can instantly tell who's just been sent there with a list --- a non-cooker who will likley spend the rest of the holiday consuming rather than creating.
However, even before the holiday grocery shopping season commenced - I've noticed a change in the crowd at the grocery store. There are a lot of new faces in there scanning the shelves and reading the boxes. And they are not just buying deli items or beer. These are home-cooking rookies - spoiled by years of restaurant dining and take-out - forced into the grocery store by recession. The last home-cooked meal many of these novices probably had was at mom and dads!
If you don't count McDonald's, Subway and other fast food places - the restaurant industry has been in a downward spiral for more than a year, as people cut back on dining out. Although millions of people have given up their daily lattes to save money -- they aren't giving up eating. So it stands to reason that more people are cooking at home -- despite the fact that food prices are skyrocketing as fast as the Dow is falling.
And as these newbies hit the grocery stores - they are at once overwhelmed by the choice they have in brands and looking to save cash. Which partially explains the spike in business for old familiar brands like Campbell's and Kraft, as well as increased sales in less expensive store-brand items.
This trend even prompted The NYTimes' Jane E. Brody to write a sort-of primer for the home-cooking neophytes - which includes the prediction that "you may just find that when the economic crisis eases, you're not even tempted to return to your old dependence on foods made by others."
I've not news for Ms. Brody: I've been home-cooking for my family for going on 12 years now -- and all I really want is a break! What Brody doesn't address is the boredom of coming up with a dinner idea 365 days a years...and the time it takes to shop for all those meals.
Which again, explains my calm demeanor and slow pace through the grocery store this week. For once - I'm NOT cooking dinner tomorrow night. And this Thanksgiving -- that's what I'm really thankful for.
Happy Turkey Day to you and yours!