It was still pitch black outside, and a balmy 27 degrees when I left the house at 6am to head down to the Lancaster Farmer’s Market. It’s the annual Day Before Thanksgiving pilgrimage… I braced myself – not for the cold, but for the scene I knew I was about to encounter.

Generally, I don’t like huge crowds. Oh, there are times when it can be fun, but, as I get older – and crankier – I prefer a little less chaos, and those fun times are fewer and farther apart. You will never see me in a mall at Christmastime, and unless there is absolutely no getting around it and I have to have ‘it’ right now, I eschew lines, as well. Except today.

It was 6:10am when I walked into the market, and it was already packed. People were 6 deep at the counter where I was to pick up the turkey. And people 7 deep behind the counter matching turkeys to the right customers. It was a model of chaotic efficiency – you’d think they had done this before! And while most people were in a jovial mood, there were a few who had their cranky pants on really tight. One woman was just plain rude to the poor girl helping her, and the kid was getting flustered. Transaction finally completed, the woman turned to leave, and I stuck my tongue out at her as she walked away – which brought a huge grin to the girl. She visibly relaxed – and was on to the next – friendly – customer. Empathy is a strong emotion.

With my 31.58 pound turkey, and 2 pounds of chicken livers in hand, it was out to the car. No sense trying to shop in a crowd carrying 34 extra pounds… Then it was back in and on to the produce. Well, actually, for a cup of coffee. Armed with my coffee, I hit my favorite produce stand. People were queuing up for this and that, but I just stood back staring. Too much stuff! I already have my menu in place, but… those fresh peas are calling to me… the Brussels’ Sprouts are tiny and compact, the lettuces are gorgeous and glistening… and the vibrant colors of everything on display. Purple and green cauliflower! I’m feeling overwhelmed!

I take a deep breath and move in. Potatoes, green onions, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes… heck, I have to get some of those colored cauliflowers – not sure what I’ll do with them, yet, but I need them! I could rewrite the whole menu and go vegetarian. There’s just so much I could do with all of this! But I start thinking of refrigerator space – or lack thereof – and settle for the things I really need. Reality sucks.

Another trip out to the car. Potatoes are heavy.

Then in line for baguettes. The bakery is really teeming with people – both in line and behind the counter. I make my way up and there’s a kid all of 15 – without a clue what to do. My luck I draw him. Oh well. I ask for 2 baguettes and 2 whole wheat Portuguese rolls. He seems confused, and I point to the French (in his defense, they do have three different baguettes) but the Portuguese rolls throw him completely. He picks up a multiseed roll, and I say no, the WW Portuguese, a bit farther down. “Oh, the sourdough?” “No… the whole wheat Portuguese.” “oh. These? “That’s it.” “Four, right?” “Yes, four will be fine.” Why argue…..

Armed with the breads, I walk amongst the throngs, looking at all the great foods on display, getting ideas for things to make at home.

Looking at all the wonderful stuff, I wonder for a moment why I make so much stuff when I could just buy it already done. The reason, of course, is because I LIKE making it. That’s there’s a feeling of satisfaction knowing that *I* made that – even if it comes out slightly less-than-perfect.

I don’t mind taking shortcuts here and there, but Thanksgiving isn’t about shortcuts – it’s about traditions. And one of my favorite traditions is walking through that crowded market at 6:00am the day before Thanksgiving – and thinking about all the great things that can be made with all that great food!

And now… on to the kitchen. There’s work to be done!