P&C Supermarket manager Larry Lash helped Norwich’s Mary Rose Biviano and Mary Kruger select a turkey for Thanksgiving Day early Wednesday morning.
Cranberry sauce has always been a staple of American Holiday meals, but not much else. In most homes it only shows up today on Thanksgiving, and then again just over a month from now. However, given its limited dinner appearances, how cranberry sauce presents itself – either homemade fresh or in a pre-formed log from the can – is an issue that is very important and particular to some people. After further analysis, it can be argued that one’s sauce preference is more than just the motivation of taste buds, it’s a reflection of true character.
Norwich resident Christopher Greeley is known at home and in the workplace as a fun-loving cut-up, yet also as an honest and outspoken advocate who is not afraid to speak his mind. His feelings on cranberry sauce are no different.
“I couldn’t really give you a serious answer,” Greeley said with initial laughter, quickly changing his tone given the seriousness of the question. “I think the chunks (fresh sauce) are gross. I prefer the jelly (can).”
Fellow Norwich resident Noreen Button, who has a differing view, said her cranberry stance is simply about following her heart, an answer she couldn’t fully explain in words.
“I like it fresh,” said Button. “I don’t know why, I just do.”
Button isn’t alone. P&C Store Manager Larry Lash said a freshness craze has become a sought after benchmark by American consumers – a benchmark that is quickly running down one of the more infamous and long-riding outlaws on the pre-made frontier, the round and ringed cranberry bandit.
“Cranberry out of the can is currently more popular,” said Lash. “The fresh cranberries and dried ‘craisins’ are cutting into the market. Eventually they will overtake the can.”
However indicative of human nature, the cranberry sauce decision is not black and white. P&C shopper Sal Mirabito acknowledges that he likes both the homemade and canned sauces, but said he sticks to cooking his own to uphold a family tradition.
“Other people probably like the other way because it’s easier to slide it out of a can,” Mirabito speculated.
The P&C store manager agreed. “Definitely because it’s easier,” said Lash.
Jim Hogan of Norwich would argue that choosing the can is not a show of laziness, but a demonstration of control over one’s own journey through life – an exercise of free will.
“I like to slice it out of the can,” said Hogan. “You can take whatever size portion you want. I like that.”
For other rugged individualists like Millie Mercurio, owner and sole operator of the legendary Millie’s Diner in Norwich, by choosing not to decide, she still has made a choice. According to her, shunning all kinds of cranberry sauce is better than conforming to one side or the other, just because someone tells her to.
“I don’t like cranberries,” said Mercurio. After immediately being informed by one of her customers that cranberries are good for her health, Mercurio curtly responded, “I don’t care if they are or not.”
Prior to 1912, the cranberry concoction had always been cooked at home over fires and stoves. Just before World War I, Ocean Spray decided to can the sauce for the public, saving them time and effort they could use somewhere else. It became another product of the industrial and mechanized age.
But could there be a little magic coming from that cold and stoic machine world?
Many of the people who prefer the can, say that its shape – although they don’t know why – plays a role in their affinity for the fruited holiday side-dish.
City of Norwich Mayor Joseph Maiurano tells a bittersweet tale of his experiences during the evolution of cranberry sauce. It’s a story of lost time in both the past and present, bound by youthful ignorance, regret and unanswered prayers. “My mother boiled up the cranberries with orange peels and everything else, and it really bit back at you,” Maiurano said, recalling the robust sauce his mother made from scratch while he was growing up. “I hated it.”
Maiurano confessed that now, as he’s gotten older and his taste buds have matured, he longs for the days when the homemade sauce was abundant.
“Now I don’t have it anymore,” he said. “I drop it out of the can and slice it.”
But like any good leader, Maiurano does not live in the past, and tries to make the best out of the resources he does have.
“But I kind of like that (the can) – and I don’t know why.”
Maiurano said that cranberry sauce, like everything else, becomes a part of our lives for good or bad, and it helps define who we are, and what we will be.
“It’s a taste that will always be in my memory,” he said. “Along with all the good times, and the things you take for granted.”