Christmas Eve: Fighting for a Roast at Costco!
Today, two days before Christmas, I had the unenviable task of securing the absolute best five, six or seven rib standing beef roast from Costco. In years past I have used dry aged beef, wet aged beef-both from sources that were $20+ per pound. Costco, at $7.99 per pound for choice beef is a wonderful alternative.
An alternative that is known...by many.
Late this morning I tried to time my visit to Costco: two hours after opening, two days before Christmas. My theory was they would just be putting out the many slabs/sides of beef that would complete their allocation for the day. I thought there would be racks of beef, trays of four, five, six and seven rib roasts-all waiting for me to pick one. I also thought that if I could time this right I would be there at exactly the time when I would have the absolute best selection of beef.
The Costco in Fairfax, Virginia opened at ten o'clock. At, eleven thirty I smugly, confidantly walked in the door. I knew what I wanted and I knew where I was going to get it. The meat counter. Ground zero for all serious cooks in the one million populated Fairfax County, Virginia. Inching my way through security at the front of the building, fighting off literal hordes of cart wielding venom on the way back, bruised and seemingly battered I found myself at the meat case. THE meat case which featured standing rib roasts: three rib, four rib, five rib and more. I had fought my way, I thought at the optimal time, to where I would fight for my family's Christmas dinner: at the meat case at Costco!
Several others thought/felt differently. One woman, a rather Rubenesque character who seemed to horde beef, had allocated three four rib roasts for herself, slinging them in her cart. Another, a rather beefy tattooed man (whose path I did not want to cross) had his own four and five rib roasts in his cart. The patriarch of the cases though was a diminuitive Italian grandmother (whom I am sure that countless children and grandchildren loved and cherished) who seemingly selflessly fought her way through the mob in front of the case to appropriate her own. She was fearless. Aggressive, determined and, for my own objectives, knowledgeable since she wanted every single cut that I did. She also had a leather skirt on. I should have known better.
I have known grandmothers like this: fearless, determined, opinionated and, more than likely a seriously good cook who knew what she wanted to put on the plate.
My competition for that piece of meat.
"But I saw it first." The one hundred and five pound, five foot two inch tall assertive Granny pleaded to me. The evil me who lusted for the same meat.
"But it was mine-I had my hand on it, I was looking, inspecting it," I lied. In truth, like everyone else at the meat case in Costco we were all trying to pick out three or four slabs of beef to choose from, ultimately picking one for the "absolute best" of our Christmas Dinner.
She just happened to want mine. She also had three in her cart to choose from.
With seven or eight other grandmothers/mothers/aunts and children hovering around us we negotiated: who would get this particular side of beef. And, in truth, neither she or I knew if it would be the one that we would finally choose. We both knew that it was good enough to make our final cut-please excuse the expression.
She was inflexible. She wouldn't bend, she wouldn't yield, she wouldn't compromise. Obviously, to me, she was not a business person who was use to negotiation. For this meat, it was her way or the highway. I had no choice.
But, because of my own selfish ways and knowing no other (!), I held my ground for the meat which we both coveted.
At some point a butcher walked out from behind the many mirrors than line the Costco cases. He was smiling: he had watched us argue from behind and he had his own opinion: I was out of order. This was a grandmother! Didn't I have any respect? It was Christmas! If I was a decent human being then I should not have any hesitation to let her have her slab of standing rib roast. And, to spite me, he noted that she was there first.
What could I do?
She picked up the roast, groaning, leaning over at its twelve pound weight. But she was triumphant. She had won the meat.
I, a failure at claiming ground at Costco's meat case, sloughed off with my chin drooping vaguely wondering where my Christmas dinner was going to come from.
Granny had beaten me. At Costco. It really was my loss-how would I explain this to my family? They trusted me, certainly to outwit any grandmother who was audacious, bold enough-had enough balls to challenge me at Costco.
But she did. And she won. At Costco. I was beaten-badly-by a grandmother at the meat case on the night before Christmas Eve.
My sympathies. I had to Costco yesterday for my father. No lines at the meat counter - picked up a huge roast and some stew meat. However, the day after Thanksgiving there apparently were police called over fistfights for the cheap turkeys. I was there two days after Thanksgiving and saw turkeys being put out and fought over, but not to that extent (Something like 10 cents a lb). A little old lady by me was agahst and didn;t want to get into the crowds (Very good idea!). I took her over to the butcher counter and waved until I was seen. I pointed out the mess at the frozen turkeys and said that the nice little old lady was not up to getting in the fight and knowing my temper, it would be best if I didn;t as well. The nice guy brought out three turkeys for her and two for me. Which caused another ruckus with me informing one woman that I have never hit a lady but there were a few b**ches I've floored.
Sounds very similar to the scene at the Sam's Club rotisserie chicken counter every day at 3pm - when the chickens come off the rotisserie, are packed in their plastic carriers and put out on the heated shelves for the masses to hoarde.
Experienced customers grab 10 at a time and then proceed to carefully inspect each bird to ensure the exact correct proportions of skin, meat and crispiness. This practice, of course, creates all sorts of rage and hostility among waiting customers who weren't as quick on the draw or aren't as skilled in this arena. I've seen it get so bad where they actually had to do "crowd control".
This scene often serves as a cheap form of entertainment for me.
About a decade ago here in L.A., the battle at Costco was for the roast chickens when they put them out. A big crowd, mostly comprised of women who were NOT going to be denied, in a mosh pit around a stand where too few chickens were about to be stocked. With each person knowing there were going to be too few to go around, and the next batch wouldn't come out for at least an hour or two when the whole skirmish would repeat itself. I understand that scouts from the Ultimate Fighting Championship would wait to sign up the victors as they went through the checkout lines!
Very funny post. I just came from picking up some prawns for Christmas Eve dinner at a Costco outside of Chicago. Not much food shopping going on, actually: it was booze and presents. I think the riots were going to start when they tried to close up 15 minutes after I checked out: people were still streaming in.
Yes, I know this even from the very ethnic neighborhood in which I live. The Grannys always win. I've even been shoved a few times at the butcher....
Don't you wonder what the heck these people were going to do with all those hunks of meat? Cooking for 100, or donating them to a soup kitchen (doubtful), or just taking them away to leisurely choose among them, and put the others back eventually?