I have long been confused by the name and the concept of Black Friday. I don’t remember such a day during my youth, and now that I am in my oldth, the reference is everywhere this time of year.
In tracking down the origin of the title "Black Friday," I note where Philadelphia in the early '60s is credited as Ground Zero for the name, which refers to the period and the particular day when some retailers actually move into the “black” on their ledger sheets. They start making money instead of the way it was going.
Seems there are rumors and myths that this was the day (right after Thanksgiving), back in early America, when large slave sales were traditionally held. Not so, at least as far as the term "Black Friday" is concerned. The day was not defined as such until just before 1961, long after the abolishment of slavery, and the place was Philadelphia, not exactly where a lot of slave exchanges were centered. The term entered more common parlance outside of Philly in the mid-1970s.
Black Friday, thanks to the media, marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. It is also the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Recently, with the advent of 24-hour on-line shopping services, the crush of humanity at the malls and big box stores has lessened slightly. But only slightly. For some reason unfathomable to most sane citizens and every male I know, the lure to strike out on the day when everyone is going crazy on the streets, in parking lots and at cash registers, all escape common sense explanations.
In the interest of public service, and because I know many of you will be heading to the stores despite my entreaties to spend your time in more productive ways – such as patronizing bars and restaurants with good friends – here are a few suggestions that can make your life easier while still accomplishing the “gotta buy a gift” call of the wild. More thoughts and hints will be coming in subsequent weeks but please consider this a starting point. No need to thank me now.
Decanters – Really a good gift, especially for young folks just getting a start on their wine journey. Decanting wines makes a huge difference in the resulting aromas and flavors. Young wines have to “open” up to achieve their potential and there is no better way than to turn the bottle upside down and let the wine splash around into a decanter. An easy step for both reds and whites.
Corkscrews – Yes, screw caps are here to stay; but corkscrews, a good one, will never become useless. Forego the battery operated “where the hell can I store this thing” apparatus. A more than $20 slender waiter’s corkscrew with a decent knife and a good grip will last just about forever. Efficiency without the flash. The most utilitarian wine gift you can bestow on anyone.
Glasses – The Maps Glass from theuncommongreen.com features an etched map of New Orleans – or other towns – on a coffee mug, Mason jar, wine glass, stemware or a beer pint glass. Very cool to hold your town in your hand while enjoying an adult beverage or a cup of coffee. Most items around $12.50.
Drinking Jacket – Now that the weather has turned cooler, this heavy 80/20 cotton/polyester garment is particularly useful. Loads of hidden pockets perfectly designed to hold bottles, glasses, accessories, complete with a bottle opener on the zipper. Pockets are designed to keep cans cool and features a sunglass holder, flask pocket, phone, money, and wallet pocket, lined hood, all in all a perfect companion on outdoor outings. With Carnival parades just around the corner, you are going to put this to good use. On sale right now with a bonus, free bottle opener hat. Who doesn’t need one of those?
John Besh "Besh Big Easy" – Chef Besh has gathered 101 recipes here, which are easy and the instructions are to the point. Here are suggestions for the dinner table, a quick lunch and hearty fare at the camp. Besh is a talented culinary genius in love with his hometown and a desire to share. It does not come any better than that. Under $25, soft-cover, at Octavia, Kitchen Witch, Garden District at The Rink, Maple Street and other local book stores or on Amazon.
Poppy Tooker: "The Tujague’s Cookbook", "Creole Recipes and Lore in the New Orleans Grand Tradition" – Tooker brings her bright, bouncy style to the story of New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant, complete with explanations of the ghosts (which she swears helped her write the book), the origins of the grasshopper (a New Orleans original cocktail which keeps getting left off of a listings of drinks invented here), an understanding of a photograph hanging on Tujague’s walls of a beautiful young woman (who, it turns out, is actually a guy), and a full report on the historic and impressive bar-back (framing one of the most historic bars in the entire city). A must-have edition for any collection of Crescent City volumes. $35 at all the local book stores noted above, as well as at Amazon.
"Essential Emeril: Favorite Recipes and Hard-Won Wisdom From My Life in the Kitchen" – He was ours before he belonged to the Food Network, but this beloved citizen of New Orleans has spread the gospel of our town far and wide. This most recent volume is his most personal and generous volume to date – of which there are 18 published, going back to 1993. Emeril has opened more than a dozen restaurants and starred in countless television programs, but his first love is cooking for his neighbors in New Orleans. Under $30, hardcover, at all the local book stores noted above, as well as at Amazon.
Okay, there you are, a beginning to resolving your holiday crises of gifting. I don’t think any of these items will end up being re-gifted. But if some do become a pass-along, I hope I’m in the line. Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for a stress-free Black Friday.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com.