Walking through the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving can be a little traumatic. As someone who does not work the traditional schedule, I often feel as though my turf has been invaded come holiday season by a strange breed of beings, ones who don’t encounter the spaces where I make my weekday rounds. I realize that grocery stores are public domains; these people have a right to be there. But can someone just please explain to me why it is that, when this time of year is upon us, common decency flies out the window? As I meandered through Publix yesterday, gathering up the last of my Thanksgiving ingredients (a very short list: two 12-oz bags of fresh cranberries, unsalted butter, and cornstarch, all for the purpose of making this pie), I found my energy entirely zapped by the constant, unapologetic, stop-and-go of the crowd of seemingly puzzled patrons and their cluttered shopping carts.
The entire experience of the constant crowding, the interruptive traffic, and the difficulty I had maneuvering my sweet, little hatchback through the packed parking lot, was so exhausting that I actually craved a quiet headspace upon reaching the confines of my apartment, ingredients in tow. I started to wonder how such a simple endeavor could seemingly defeat me. I pride myself on my strength, physical and otherwise; can a shopping trip really be that devastating, even if its aftermath was momentary?
It got me to thinking about the reasons behind our errands this time of year; we’re often out and about in an effort to attend and adhere to traditions, most of which are socially motivated. Bottom line: whether we feel obligated to or not, we participate in holiday festivities because we are tied to people in the world. And sometimes we love those people, even if it’s because we have to. Whenever that load gets tiresome, I am reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it in tact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
It kind of puts it into perspective that, even if it isn’t toward me, most of us are vulnerable in some way to somebody. And maybe we’re all out gathering food and presents and making pies because of that. Maybe those brief, overwhelming moments we encounter from our collision with the external world are just a side effect of putting ourselves out there.
In that sense, I like to think we all have an aspect to our personalities that resonates with the most under-appreciated dish at the table on Thanksgiving: the cranberries. We buy a can of jiggly, red stuff in an effort to prioritize other aspects of the feast…and it flies completely under the radar. Poor cranberries put themselves out there, and they get shot down. We neglect what might be the easiest thing to prepare, and we inevitably face disappointment. Meanwhile, cranberries can taste absolutely, astoundingly amazing if given a brief nod of acknowledgement. This year, we have chutney on our plates. Infused with fragrant orange zest, tangy golden raisins, and tart cherries, the cranberries shine with a vibrancy that can only be explained by the obvious ingredients to which Mr. Lewis alluded: vulnerability and tenderness.
One Year: Brown Sugar Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce
Two Years: Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables
Three Years: Sweet Turkey Chili with Corn, Kidney Beans, and Kale
Citrusy Cranberry Chutney with Golden Raisins and Tart Cherries
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
juice of half an orange
1 tsp orange zest
pinch of cloves
pinch of ginger
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup golden raisins
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring to combine. Cranberries will begin to pop and break open as they heat; once this has begun, continue cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing the cranberries gently with a fork. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.