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Chef Laura: Nouveau traditions -- Small biz Saturday



When Applejack Wine and Spirits opens their doors today, cases of 2013’s Beaujolais Nouveau will be, as we say in the retail world, “Stacked high and ready to fly!”  Although this French red wine has been around since 1937, the tradition of releasing the inaugural bottles on the third Thursday of November only goes back to 1985.  

As far as traditions go, this one is pretty nouveau. For instance, consider Thanksgiving; according to a cracked rock near my parents’ home, this holiday has been going on for 392 years, give or take. 

Right around when Beaujolais Nouveau AOC (France’s agricultural seal of approval) was established, President FDR started tinkering with the official date of Thanksgiving.  He hoped this would pacify vocal retailers who complained that the Christmas shopping window was too short. 

Something’s never change – like accepting change – so for two years, the country bickered back and forth over the proper day to celebrate the Pilgrims’ feast.  In 1941 it was decided that the fourth Thursday of November would be reserved for gorging on pumpkin pie and Cool Whip.

Establishing this day naturally lead to another holiday of sorts: Black Friday.  In the 1960’s the Philadelphia police department coined this sinister name as a negative term.  They battled the heavy downtown traffic that would clog up Market Street from City Hall to that other famous cracked landmark, the Liberty Bell.

To kickoff the holiday shopping frenzy on a cheerier note, savvy retailers in the 1980’s urged employees to celebrate Black Friday as a day when they turned a profit.  Approaching the end of most stores’ fiscal year, this was a perfect time to get Back in Black – even Angus Young would agree.  Besides, calling it something like “FAT” (Friday After Thanksgiving) sounded even more depressing.

Unless you’ve been in a self-induced food coma the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that Black Friday has crept into Thanksgiving night.  Somewhere between saying “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub” and avoiding dish-washing duties, families cram into their SUV’s with Walmart’s promise to “Save Money. Live Better.” on the brain.

Big Box chains and mega malls can afford selling a few loss leaders to entice vulnerable tryptophan-induced shoppers into their trap of consumption.  While the pack of lemmings tramples each other to score a 60” TV for approximately $11 per inch, they also impulsively pick up some other high profit margin items, like clothing and candy.

I like a good deal as much as the next person, but I’ll be damned if this chef is going to abandon poultry in the TDZ (Temperature Danger Zone) in exchange for a deep discount on electronics.  While folks are out shopping, I carefully wrap and refrigerate leftovers.  While others helicopter a Terrible Towel overhead (in hopes that this will somehow help the Steelers secure a victory), I steal away to the kitchen to dry my grandmother’s silverware with a towel.

I’m not anti-business, nor anti-football (insert mandatory “Go Broncos!” here); I just prefer to refrain from the consumer chaos on Thursday/Friday.  Instead, I save my money for the latest “holiday”: Small Business Saturday

Started in 2010, SBS is a new tradition that encourages consumers to patron their local independent stores along Main Street.  By way of full disclosure, American Express founded this movement.  Despite big business’s involvement, I’m still a fan, and here’s why.

5 Reasons to Shop Small

  1.  “Yes, in MY backyard” - Keeps money in your community. 
  2. Bottomless Hot Apple Cider – Brick and mortars have fun and memorable events to lure shoppers inside like book-signings or complimentary festive beverages.
  3. You won’t die - I haven’t heard of anyone getting stampeded on SBS.  It’s a peaceful family-friendly day and some stores have treats for the kiddos.
  4. Quaint = higher property value - Supports a diversity of businesses within your town, which creates character and a unique culture.
  5. Walk about – leave the gas-guzzler at home and stroll to your neighborhood shops and Mom & Pop’s.

Just like when FDR changed the date of Thanksgiving, the tradition of Small Business Saturday will take a few years to catch on.  A week from tomorrow, I will nourish and hydrate in preparation for SBS.  While folks are violently grabbing the latest version of Call of Duty, I will be enjoying “FAT” by washing down a delicious turkey sandwich with a big glass of Beaujolais Nouveau.

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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