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.