Home cooks and caterers know any number of tricks to sidestepping grocery crowds on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. They may, for instance, make sure all the staples are stocked well before the week of gluttony. They might get their goods delivered. Or they'll shop early in the morning while shelves are freshly stocked. But my favorite, no-fail method to get in and out of a market in the shortest time possible around Thanksgiving is less obvious.
Shop where people don't celebrate Thanksgiving.
What the French toast? Who doesn't celebrate Turkey Day? That's downright anti-American...
Well, no. Not hardly.
In my rounds of San Diego food shopping, I hit several markets regularly that serve immigrant communities: Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, North African, Polish, German, Korean, Middle Eastern, and more. Turns out, around here, anyway, that recent immigrants simply haven't quite gotten the hang of Thanksgiving yet. Especially if the regular clientele's native language isn't English, German, or some other European tongue, the fourth Thursday of November is these markets is just...Thursday.
And what better time than a weekday to slip into a store, grab a few things you need, and get on your way quickly? Parking is no problem and crowds are practically non-existent. Produce and spices in particular can be very cheap. Who knows? You might be inspired to make something you hadn't considered before.
I've already got everything we need for tomorrow. There will be punch, pie, and a huge pot of short rib chili. Not traditional, but, then, I've never been a stickler for tradition.
Caveat: don't rely on this scheme at Christmastime. Even non-Christians come out in force to shop and eat for that one.