Can I Get a Sample of Fall

First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript October 3, 2014

It’s officially Fall. I dragged my heels (just a bit) but it happened anyway. So I will embrace the hearty mums and pumpkins and clothing in shades of falling leaves. The good news is that it’s about to get stunning around here. There is no place I’d rather walk Blue Ears than the roads of Boxford in October.
The bad news is that the business of life is Full On. All the glint and ease of summer is gone. We are in grind-it-out mode here at Casa Baird. There is homework and practices and music lessons and clubs and . . . meals.

At the end of doing every single thing, every single day, there still needs to be a meal. In early September I could get by with the occasional dinner of mostly fresh picked corn with some chicken throw nearby. But now, pull out the crockpots, because it won’t let up till June when children can survive again on sand and ice cream.

Yes, I menu plan. Yes, I pick through my mountain of cookbooks looking for new and fun recipes. But still . . . does it really have to happen ever 24 hours?? Chicken or turkey? Turkey or chicken? They both have feathers and cluck. Do I care more than that? I do not. And when I am most exasperated, it’s possible that I make impulsive, poor choices and should, under no circumstances, go to a place where there are multiple foods to taste and consider for dinner ideas.

Naturally this is when I gravitate to Costco.
The sample tables propel me to new heights of self-delusion. They could offer me tree bark and I’d believe it would make a great dinner option. In fact, they basically did.

It was a sample of beef jerky with a nice zingy rub on it. My younger daughter and I chewed (and chewed and chewed) and agreed we’d never been more satisfied by any piece of food ever.

The sample guy nodded, “It’s full of protein that fills up those hungry bellies at school, plus no peanut concerns.”

It was like the gates to Lunch Heaven had opened. No peanuts? Full bellies? Protein? What better way to model healthy eating to my daughters than dried up beef dipped in salt? I grabbed a two-pound double pack. Beef jerky forever!!
And then while standing in the checkout line I starred in my cart.
What was in the giant black industrial strength bag that looked like a truck commercial in edible form?

I held up the bag I now recognized as the beef jerky. “I’m not sure this is such a great snack.”

There was a mom in the line next to me. “It’s not.”
I felt a little foggy. “But it’s protein . . .”

The mom looked at me cautiously. “You can give them a cheese stick, or an apple with peanut butter. You don’t really want that at home.”

Whoa. Tough love.

But I felt reality wash back over me and I laughingly put the beef jerky on a nearby shelf. “Whew! Just last week I resisted buying a bulk bag of specialty plums that normally ship directly to Asia, but Costco had special permission to sell them – I mean what a steal!! They were so yummy and I could have made plum . . you know, plum . . .” I trailed off. What would I have done with a multiple pounds of specialty plums? Chicken and plums? Turkey and plums?

I may have four cases of seaweed chips in my pantry as I type, (I’ll let you, Regular Reader, decide if that could possibly be true), but I can still pull it together. Rest assured, every 24 hours I produce a meal.

So, here we go, buckle up. The corn mazes are open, the Topsfield Fair is starting, the trees are magical, because we are all Full On. But even I know that I need to enjoy this now – like a good sample – before it’s gone.