I’m not a psychologist or anything, but I feel uniquely qualified after a recent shopping trip to characterize the following 5 stages of grief involved in holiday grocery shopping.
I was all set to make this chivda (which, by the way, is a fantastic Indian snack mix that you need a huge bowl of right now) after two trips to the Indian grocery store. The only ingredient I still needed was a box of golden raisins. ONE STUPID BOX OF GOLDEN RAISINS. Little did I know the wide range of emotions I was about to experience.
STAGE ONE: Denial.
Mike and I arrived at a Walmart that almost certainly exceeded its maximum occupancy. A sea of cars greeted us in the parking lot, followed by a sea of frustrated faces perched paradoxically above jingly Christmas sweaters inside the store.
We combed the aisles for raisins before finally locating them in the baking aisle and finding that the shelf had been — there’s really no other way to describe it — ransacked. Like, tiny ninja elves had climbed all over it and kicked packages around in a game of tiny ninja elf football. I glanced over the mess. No golden raisins in sight. Mike shrugged and, just like a man, offered, “Guess they don’t have any.”
I was obviously the more sane of the two of us. “THEY HAVE TO HAVE THEM,” I replied, shuffling through every single box. No golden raisins.
I argued with the reality staring me in the face: “ALL GROCERY STORES HAVE THEM.” I shuffled through every single box a second time.
As if perhaps this information would help, or as if Mike were, like me, continuing a deluded search through the shelves, I added, “THEY’RE LIKE RAISINS, BUT THEY’RE GOLDEN.” He stood behind me, hands in his pockets, letting the scene play out. I must have gone through the shelves five times in all, positive that at any moment, I was going to see that little yellow box peeking out at me from behind the dried cranberries. Mike backed a little farther away when I started talking to myself.
STAGE TWO: Anger / Delirium.
“SERIOUSLY, IN WHAT UNIVERSE DOES WALMART NOT HAVE A SINGLE BOX OF GOLDEN RAISINS? THERE’S THE SPOT ON THE SHELF THAT SAYS GOLDEN RAISINS! HOW COULD THEY BE SOLD OUT? NOBODY EVEN EATS GOLDEN RAISINS. WHAT THE CRAP!” I half-laughed, half-snorted in Mike’s arms. He patted my shoulder, uncertain of the appropriate response.
Finally, he tried, “Why don’t we go to a different store?” which only produced another round of angry grunting.
STAGE THREE: Bargaining.
As I combed through other aisles, thinking perhaps that the golden raisins were shelved with the canned fruit, or with the snacks, or with the holiday display, or with the toilet paper (I don’t know!), Mike tried another line of reasoning. “You know, with the time we’re spending here looking for them, we could already be at another store.”
“It’s not the time, it’s the inconvenience. I’d rather sit here for 2 more hours looking for these flippin’ raisins than check out, walk all the way back to the car, drive to another store, and repeat this whole process. I seriously will walk around until I find them. If I just walk around long enough, I have to find a box.”
STAGE FOUR: Depression.
After walking down all of the possible aisles three separate times, I stood morosely by the freezer section, watching Mike select turkey burgers. He debated over two brands while I moped. Who even cared which brand of turkey burgers? It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.
STAGE FIVE: Acceptance OR, if you’re me, CREATING AN ALTERNATE REALITY.
Normally this stage of grief is where you can finally accept your loss. There are no golden raisins, you’re still alive, the world will go on.
If you’re like me, though, this is not acceptable. There will be no acceptance! Not a bit of it!
I looked around and noticed the pallets being unloaded around the store. It was that unique time of night when the Walmart folks start stocking the shelves for the next day. Suddenly, I knew what I must do. “The pallets!” I shouted, taking off and leaving a confused Mike standing with a box of turkey burgers still in each hand.
Sure enough, a huge pallet of boxes stacked twice as tall as me sat by the baking aisle. I ran around it like a toddler around a Christmas tree until — GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH! — I saw the little Sun-Maid raisin box near the bottom. “Come help!” I yelled to Mike, who was walking up and only just now realizing how crazy I really was. He reluctantly started shifting boxes.
A Walmart stocker, who probably hated people like me with every ounce of her being, asked, “Do you need any help?”
“Oh, no, I’m sorry. I just need a box of golden raisins. Is this okay?” I asked, still frantically shoving boxes around to get to the Sun-Maid box. I pulled off the top and pulled out the prize — that beautiful yellow box! The stocker nodded and walked off, clearly avoiding saying any of the things she probably wanted to say to me. Mike and I neatly stacked the boxes back as penance.
I looked up after our wonderful adventure to find Mike shaking his head incredulously. “I told you I was going to get them,” I said, grinning. “And you do realize that this is the worst kind of reinforcement for me.” Glowing with triumph, I walked out of Walmart (after paying, duh), feeling like the hero of my new reality.
* * *
Annnnd then, lucky for Mike, I got home and burned the entire first batch of chivda — and all my beautiful golden raisins with it. I have learned two lessons: one, Mike is a saint. Two, reality bites.
Spiced Crispies (Chivda, or Indian snack mix)
Recipe by: adapted from kimberlite8, inspired by Poppy
Yield: about 3 1/2 cups of snack mix
Chivda is a common Indian snack mix (think of it as Indian Chex Mix!) also called Bombay Mix in the U.K. This version salty-sweet mix is a flavor explosion, to say the least: it combines sultry curry leaves and toasted spices with toasted nuts and golden raisins. You’ll be addicted in no time. I provided substitutes for the few Indian ingredients you need, but it’s really worth it to pop over to an Indian grocery if you have one — especially for curry leaves and sev. The whole recipe is super quick — about 20 minutes, flat — so prepare your mise-en-place ahead of time (have everything set out.)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
3/4 teaspoons poppy seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons corn syrup
3/4 teaspoons dry mango powder*
1/2 scant teaspoon kosher salt
heaping 1/4 cup roasted, salted cashews
heaping 1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
2 cups puffed rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup sev**
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/8 cup golden raisins
about 2-3 fresh curry leaves, chopped finely***
* Dry mango powder can be found at an Indian grocery. You should be able to substitute using a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, but I haven’t tried that.
** Sev are crunchy “noodles” made from chickpea flour and can be found at an Indian grocery. You could also substitute chow mein noodles or small pretzels, but sev is seriously so good.
*** Curry leaves are also found in an Indian grocery and add such a great flavor, texture, and color to the finished product. If you can’t find them, I think you could add about 1/8 teaspoon of curry powder in with the red pepper and turmeric, though I haven’t tried this.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, place cashews, pecans, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, puffed rice cereal, and sev. Next to this bowl, set two big spoons sprayed with cooking spray.
This is a recipe where you want to have a great mise-en-place before you begin, because cooking goes quickly! Prepare three prep bowls: prep bowl #1 with mustard seed, fennel seed, poppy seed, and cumin seed; prep bowl #2 with ground red pepper and turmeric; and prep bowl #3 with corn syrup, dry mango powder, and salt. In a large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat until it shimmers (test with a cumin seed — it should bubble very slightly when dropped in). When oil is ready, add all the seeds from prep bowl #1 and let them begin to sizzle for about 30 seconds, stirring occasionally. Add in the red pepper and turmeric in prep bowl #2 and let the mixture continue to sizzle for another 30 seconds or so, stirring occasionally, until spices are lightly toasted and fragrant. Add mango powder, salt, and corn syrup from prep bowl #3 and let cook until corn syrup is bubbly, about 30 more seconds. Pour this mixture all over the puffed rice cereal mixture in the large bowl and use your sprayed spoons to toss and mix it gently until well-coated.
Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet, breaking up any large clumps gently, and bake for 12-15 minutes, tossing every few minutes and sprinkling the 1/2 teaspoon sugar on halfway through, until nuts are toasted. Once removed from the oven, pour the mixture back into the large bowl and toss with golden raisins and chopped curry leaves. Serve hot or room temperature. Store, fully cooled, in an airtight container.