Seen in Town, The Inner Landscape

Late in the Evening

I went to Trader Joe's tonight.

This was my third visit to the new Portland store, or rather my second visit out of three attempts. The first time it was insanely rainy, and I eventually found a parking spot. It was around 4 in the afternoon, which is clearly not the time to go. Next I tried going after picking Lucy up from school, on a slightly rainy day, but we gave up because she had a lot of homework to do.

Tonight, after Church Council, I decided to swing by on my way home. I think I had the vague notion that I would pick up some kind of late night snack, since I have to take RA meds in the evening that require food to be eaten at the same time.

Pumpkin bread You would have thought a pumpkin farm had exploded at TJ's. Everywhere I looked, there was every kind of pumpkin: canned, waffle mix, soup, cheesecake, even pumpkin ice cream. I was looking for the pumpkin muffin mix I bought on my first trip, but I didn't find it. Instead I put some organic canned pumpkin in my basket, and a box of cinnamon coffee cake mix, and a carton of turkey broth.

A sign by the front door invited me to discuss fresh turkeys with the butcher, but all I found was a display, with no obvious place you could talk to a person. I looked at the fresh turkeys (we're looking for one that is all-natural, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they taste better) and wondered what's up with the brining? I don't even know why you brine a turkey. I hope someone will explain it. I found non-brined turkeys, too, but clearly in the TJ's world, brining is preferable. 

I wandered up and down the frozen aisle, but I didn't pick out anything there. It was getting later, and I had no idea what I wanted. 

The wine department at TJ's is HUGE. A big sign invited me to buy a FRUITY! DRINKABLE! Beaujolais Nouveau. Given that I tried to buy one last year and was too late, I put a bottle in my basket. It was not a Two Buck Chuck. (Is that what they call it?) I paid the also-not-so-high price of $8.99, which would not have happened at Whole Foods. They claimed it's perfect paired with turkey. We shall see. #1 Son will have to help me decide. 

There weren't very many people in the store, but one of them was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He seemed incongruous, wandering around just like me. I guess I think of TJ's as a place for people like me, but what do I mean? Mainstream liberals with a reasonable number of children who don't mind being touched by people of the opposite sex except when they do mind it? Clergy with graduate degrees who worked thirteen hours today and probably ought to be in bed by now? Short women who grew up in the South but transplanted to the Northeast and proved winter hardy?

(It's possible I'm having a little identity crisis. )

Once the rebbe and I were in the pastoral services office together at the hospital, and I forgot the rules he lives by, even though I knew them somewhere in the back of my mind. I was looking through the patient listing to find a church member. I looked on the denominational lists for Protestant and Congregational, and somewhere I found my person's name, and I wrote the room number on a piece of scrap paper from the basket on the desk, using a pen the hospital provided. He was standing not far from me in the little office, and I got up from the desk, to make the list available to him, and without thinking, I handed him the pen. He looked shocked, really appalled, and I got away as quickly as possible.

When I came back to the frozen aisle, I found him holding a carton of pumpkin ice cream, no doubt contemplating the apparent pumpkin explosion.

I moved to the other side of the frozen aisle, gingerly.

Then he sneezed, all over the ice cream compartment.

I never found a snack. I came home and had some cereal that was already on the shelf in my kitchen. 

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11 thoughts on “Late in the Evening”

  1. I can see your face as plain as if you were standing in front of me…after the sneeze! Should I be laughing so hard? Yep…after the third Thursday meeting tonight, I needed the chuckle!

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  2. (a) I did not know the Lubavitcher Rebbe was in Portland.
    (b) A guy whose name I forget, something like McPhee or McCoy, who’s supposed to be an expert, says don’t brine, because it will make your gravy too salty. (Others say no, but his idea seems logical to me.) He says, what you want to do is keep the turkey breast (which cooks faster) cold with ice packs (!!!) until you put it in the oven; this will slow down its roasting time, all parts will cook to the right temp and breast will remain juicy.
    (c)What about going to TJ’s on, say, Tuesday morning? I would like to go but hesitate to make the trip and have it not work out.

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  3. I learned about brining a couple of years ago. (And although there’s definitely a trendiness factor…our Amish friend Mary tells us she’s been brining chicken and turkeys for years.) It adds some extra flavor and tenderness to various meats. I don’t find that it makes the meat particularly salty either.
    Here’s the turkey-size version of the cider brine recipe we’ve used several times now: 8 cups apple cider; 2/3 cups kosher salt; 2/3 cup sugar; 1 cup chopped onion; 4 peeled/sliced garlic cloves; 1 cup chopped carrots; 2 bay leaves; 1 teaspoon black peppercorns; 4 cups cold water. Bring those ingredients to a boil; simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved; cool to room temperature; place in a large pan or pot or bag, add your turkey (rinsed and innards removed, of course) and refrigerate 12-15 hours, turning occasionally. Rinse the turkey thoroughly in cold water, inside and out, then proceed with your favorite roasting method. It really adds a flavor factor, we think.
    I’ve also made turkey the Martha Stewart way , basted with butter and white wine via a kind of cheesecloth shroud…it did come out looking and tasting wonderful, but my mother (who was not a fussy cook) thought the preparation was too much of a muchness…and of course the amount of butter involved would give most of our doctors conniption fits.;-)

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  4. Hysterical! Incidentally, I’ve heard that the pumpkin ice cream is really good. Although, I bet it tastes better without germs all over it.

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  5. Brining is good– it does really help with moistness and juiciness. Just check to be sure the brining mix doesn’t include MSG or other Bad Things, or make it yourself as LutheranChik suggests above. (That said, we never brine our turkey, which we buy from a lady who raises them here in Pownal. Her birds are lovely just the way they are!)
    P.S. A new take on the old washroom sign, based on the Rebbe’s sneeze: “Is your ice cream section breeding Lubavitchers?”

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  6. Who needs all the extra salt of brining?
    You’ll just have to go to TJ’s another day! Wish there was one closer to us than an hour away.
    Think the Rebbe thought twice about who handled the ice cream carton before he did?

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