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Nostalgic Christmas Shopping Part II: The Mall

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Originally posted (mostly) December 16, 2019

It’s time once again to reminisce about the days of Christmas Past when shopping entailed a trip downtown to visit the Five and Dimes and your local department stores. From the heyday of downtowns we transitioned first to the era of suburban malls, enclosed meccas of commerce featuring anchor stores, hot pretzels, cheap boutiques and endless parking lots.


That vignette too has morphed into Christmas Past as once great malls have become wastelands of obsolescence. Many now sit empty, awaiting a rebirth.

Somewhere along the line the wizards of marketing decided that people really wanted to be exposed to the winter elements as they did their Christmas shopping. Accordingly commerce complexes moved to even more suburban settings involving an endless collection of Big Box stores congregated around busy intersections, an infinite number of fast food outlets and even more expansive parking lots. This configuration remains a part of the Christmas Present shopping experience but the Big Box era is approaching its own sell-by-date as more and more of the brick and mortars fall by the wayside.  

One by one…

circuit city2

once mighty retailers fall: Sears, Kmart, Circuit City, Bed Bath and Beyond, Toys ‘R Us, etc., etc. – all gone or reduced to online entities.


People are quickly migrating to the convenience of a new Christmas Present model: shopping online and having the  Amazon elves deliver your Christmas gifts right to the front door; either yours or your recipient’s.

I’m guessing Christmas Future will bring something even more akin to virtual reality where money changes hands but the physical aspects of selecting, wrapping and delivering actual gifts will be replaced by an email notice and a computer generated image of things your friends and family imagine you’d like.

virtual-secret-santa-gift-ideasEvery time a bell rings someone gets an internet of things

So enjoy your 7 actual shopping days before Christmas while you still can: soon enough they too will become just another cultural anachronism.

And now, to make it a Christmas Recipe post, here’s the repeat of Raj’s family goulash recipe that always filled a huge pot on the stove on Christmas Eve all night long to welcome late arriving family or friends who just stopped by to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Mom’s Goulash

1 lb. bacon (find a good one that doesn’t have any “natural smoke flavor” added, butt is simply naturally smoked – Oscar Mayer is a decent choice)

3 lbs. ground beef or chuck

4-5 medium onions, chopped

3 large cans of good tomatoes with juice, squeezed by hand into chunks if whole ( or roughly pulsed)

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Salt, pepper to taste

1 lb.pkg. of noodles

Chop bacon into small pieces and cook until brown and crisp.

Remove bacon and – now this will scare some people, butt remember, the world is coming to an end anyway – cook the onions in ALL of the bacon grease. When lightly browned, add chopped celery and cook another 2-3 minutes. Place onion/celery mixture in a bowl and set aside.

Return pan to heat and brown the ground beef. Drain most of the fat (if you must) add salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, tomatoes with juice plus a cup of water, onion /celery mixture (including the bacon grease they cooked in), and reserved bacon pieces. Stir well and bring back to a simmer and let it cook while you prepare the noodles.

Cook noodles according to package directions (don’t forget the salt!). Drain and add immediately to goulash mixture . Stir to combine and continue simmering  pn a very low heat for about 30 minutes, adding a little extra water if it begins to stick.

You can eat it now if you must, and it will be delicious. Butt trust me on this: if you can make it a day ahead and rewarm it slowly the next day it’s even better!

Gump’s original recipe called for a cup of chopped green bell pepper, butt since nobody in  Raj’s family would eat them, they never once made it into the Christmas Eve pot. I leave it to your discretion, butt I can assure you that it is perfect without them.

Crusty bread, green salad: it’s a humble feast.

Let the feasting begin.


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