The holidays are well behind us, and I do mean well.
2012 will go down in history as the year of the Great Butter Crisis.
It began when we learned that an old friend from Arizona, a great lover of lobster — trapped in a life just about as far from the lobsters as you can possibly get — would visit us for Thanksgiving. Great lobster enthusiasts ourselves, we determined that our Thanksgiving dinner would feature turkey of the sea: six big lobsters from Captain Joe’s, on the dock in Gloucester. We like to get lobsters from Joe’s because it’s fun to buy them off the boats, but of course you can get lobsters just about anywhere these days. There was such a glut of lobsters this season that prices sank to near-record lows, and lobster tanks were appearing everywhere from Market Basket to Toys R Us. When the Y complained to the Board of Selectmen that their water bill had mysteriously shot up, I immediately suspected them of secretly operating a hidden lobster tank connected underground to the swimming pool. No charges have yet been filed.
So I procured the doomed animals on the day before Thanksgiving, and stuck them in a big plastic bag in the fridge — which I’m sure for a lobster is like a small vacation villa in an exotic faraway location. Come cooking time on Thanksgiving Day, we pulled them out, snipped their rubber bracelets, and without a single qualm, boiled them blazing red.
But then, of course, with lobsters, you need butter.
Discovering on Thanksgiving Day that you need butter can be marriage-threatening. Recriminations abound. Spouses may momentarily forget their manners. And someone — in this case, the husband — has to go find some butter.
Mumbling bad words, I drove an entire eight tenths of a mile to the Cumberland Farms convenience store on Route 1, and stalked straight back to the dairy section.
There was no butter.
It was Thanksgiving Day, of course, and lots of people were using butter.
There was margarine, but in our household, buying margarine would be more marriage-threatening than forgetting to buy butter.
So I headed down Linebrook Road to the Central Street Cumby’s.
As the employees watched me heading for the dairy case, they seemed to shrivel a bit, in exhaustion and despair.
There was no butter there, either. “People have been coming in for butter all day long,” one worker said. Then she tried to brighten a bit: “We’re going to get some on Monday!”
It was for moments like this that someone invented the word Grrrrr.
I was not about to traipse all the way to the Topsfield Cumby’s only to discover they had no butter. Growling to myself, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and tracked down their phone number.
“Do you have any butter?”
I heard what surely sounded like the hysterical laughter of the insane.
“Sir, we not only have no butter, we have no heavy cream, no whipped cream, no milk, no Half & Half, and yes, we have no bananas.” You know when a Cumby’s manager quotes a 1922 show tune, he is close to, or possibly already over, the edge.
So — bottom line — what we managed to achieve here in Ipswich, on Thanksgiving Day 2012, was a kind of perfect storm: the deadly coming-together of high-fat diet and poor planning. I for one intend to see to it that nothing like the Great Butter Crisis happens again — and not by any change of diet. Butter will appear on every Brendel family grocery list, no matter how much we already have on hand. If necessary, we will store the excess outside in the snow. God did not intend lobsters to be eaten with margarine, nor to appear in court records as grounds for divorce.