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'Tis the season to go shopping for lots of food

December 26, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

One of the few times I don't mind crowds all that much is the day or two right before Thanksgiving or Christmas. I like to watch people getting ready for their celebrations and seeing what they like to eat for the big meal.

No. 1 main dish for a Hagerstown Christmas, based on my informal survey? Ribs.

Of course I like grocery stores in general, from the heaping meat counters right down to the little advertisements they put in the shopping carts (to this day I can't walk into a grocery store from Bar Harbor to Breckenridge without thinking of Debbie Heckman).

I like grocery stores in general because I like food in general.

And right before Christmas, they are stocked to the gills and I am literally in hog heaven.

So I'm walking through the produce section with the Commodity Broker in High Heels and she's sending me off on little mini errands to procure everything from No. 2-grade red potatoes to hog bellies (all right, sausage).

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This frees me to just wander around while she has to manage the cart, which I find to be something of a bother.

Sometimes this causes an embarrassing moment. I was sent off for a package of chicken legs, so that's all I'm carrying and I hear this little tyke in a plaintiff voice say, "Daddy, that man's having drumsticks for Christmas," like I was some kind of homeless guy about to roast them over an open-flamed garbage barrel.

I whirled around and said, "Look you little toy-grubbing freak, these are what you call your horze derves, but then you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, because you have everything done for your sorry little ..."

Actually I didn't say anything. Maybe I'm getting soft, or maybe I was just too much in the Christmas spirit.

Like everyone else, we had a list a mile long. Andrea and I like lamb, and for young Alexa and some of our guests, who inexplicably don't like the taste of gamey meat, there was going to be fried chicken.

Parallel meals meant double everything and by the looks of it we weren't alone, judging by the mounded carts we were standing behind in the checkout line.

Call us romantics if you must, but Andrea and I treat grocery shopping like a date so it's no strain. But even so, by the end of this evening there were so many people that we were getting weary because it took us, and this is no exaggeration, 29 hours.

Finally, it was our turn in line and she's putting stuff on the belt. I tried to hand her something out of the cart, but made a failure of it. I handed her the oranges and she looked at me all horrified and stuff and said "Oh no, I'm not READY for that yet."

See, Andrea is like Martha Stewart, but more organized. She groups items into subject matters so, and I'm a little weak on the theory here, but I think so stuff will get bagged together and can be unloaded together and nothing gets crushed.

I don't have the heart to tell her, but I just throw it all on top of each other in the trunk anyway, so it's all sort of a wash.

Tired but happy, we were pushing the cart out the lot when she freezes. "I forgot the ice cream," she says.

She knows that I am like most guys, in that if there is no ice cream I don't want to live. But after what we had been through, there was no way I was going back into that human-and-produce cauldron.

I swallowed hard and blinked back tears. That's - OK, I said in choked voice. We can do ... we can do - without.

It was then she grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes under the cold stars. "No," she said. "I'll go back."

And by gosh, she did.

As Christmas gifts go, if that isn't the way to win a man's affections, I don't know what is. And I just know she's going to love the new set of tools that I got her.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or you may e-mail him at timr@herald-mail.com.

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