"I feel so removed from Christmas," a friend said to me at brunch the other day. With lights hoisted proudly above Harvard Square minutes after Thanksgiving turkey had been bought, and merchants popping their holiday music mixes into their store-wide cassette players, clearly the Great American Shopping Fest had begun.
The past two years have seen "practical" gifts in the midst of the recession, but this year, merchants are taking chances and presenting the public with a more whimsical selection, re-invigorating with zest the rampant commercialism and excess which powers the nation.
And whilst all this hoopla works itself into a frenzy around us, it's too easy to shrug it off; after all, who wants to battle the novelty-seekers, the sales-people, the challenge of reading the wishes of your closest friends and relatives? If you had $1,000, of course, you could buy almost anything in the Square that struck your fancy. With $1,000, you could gauge just how much the Square is willing to offer you. Walk into a store and ask them to spend $1,000 for you. What you get is the finest sampling that Harvard can offer.
So with that interesting premise (or is it trivial? Trivial but interesting? Trivial and uninteresting? If the latter, stop reading here. I myself was a bit ambivalent about the whole mess, until I started...), a research team and I went out into the field to uncover a snapshot of Harvard Square's offerings this holiday season.
EAT. DRINK. AND BE MERRY
For $1,000 appetizers, why not try 20 ounces of Beluga caviar (Table water crackers, $3 per box), or 98.33 ounces of fois gras pate with truffles, or prepare something for yourself with 20 French truffles ($50 per 1-oz. truffle). Wash it all down with the popular $700-per-bottle special-order Chateau Petrus 1985 (red), all from Cardullo's, 6 Brattle Street.
For something a bit heavier, what about 400 pounds of crunchy chicken salad, from Barsamian's in the Shops by Harvard Yard? At an average of 3.5 pounds per chicken, that's 114 chickens.
For dessert (because who gives an entree as a gift?), there's 500 chocolate truffles (1 year, 4 months, 13 days' worth if consumed one per day) from Sweet Stuff, in the Shops by Harvard Yard, or 33 Platinum gift-wrapped balatons of Neuhaus Belgian chocolates from Cardullo's. Or what about 557 Australian candy-dipped preserved two-inch diameter apricots (that's a string of apricots 93 feet long) from Crate and Barrel, 48 Brattle Street? If your gift recipient is a pre-med and keen on staying up late to study, $1,000 will get you 166.66 pounds of chocolate-covered espresso beans, from Barsamian's, 1030 Mass. Ave., or 409.5 gallons of caffeine-rich Coca-Cola from Star Market, 49 White Street. One thousand dollars buys 833.33 gallons of Poland Spring water from the same place. If you're not into all of this extravagance, bury your loved one in 252 and one-half pounds of Hershey's Kisses from Sweet Stuff.
WITH GIFTS OF GOLD. FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH
The gold market isn't what it used to be. After that $25 plunge in August, $1,000 will buy you about 2.65 troy ounces of it, about 6% more than the pre-August high, from the New York Stock Exchange. What about two 14-karat gold and opal necklaces, or one 14-K ruby or amethyst flower ring from Cambridge Artists Cooperative, 59a Church Street? Frankincense and myrrh have now been replaced by the more sophisticated scents; for $1,075, five ounces of Chanel No. 5 can be yours from the Coop, or alternately, 89 ounces of "Bistro" by Chantilly from Brook Pharmacy, 1740 Mass. Avenue.
For those holiday formal occasions, have a custom-made tuxedo crafted for you at Rizzo tailors on Church Street, starting at $1,495. But we couldn't find out how much Gap clothing $1,000 could buy. The Manager of the Gap told us, "The problem isn't the $1,000. Everything that goes into print about us has to be cleared through our corporate headquarters in San Bernardo."
TO YOUR HEALTH
Start that toast with 502.5 fluid ounces of ginseng tonic, or make your own with $1,000 worth of the root itself: depending on the type you buy, one grand gets you 10 pounds of American white ginseng root, or 8.5 pounds of American red ginseng root, or five pounds of Chinese ginseng kivin root at Harnett's, Church and Brattle Streets.
HOME AND HEARTH
The catalogue reads, "Add a fun and festive air to your holiday table. Our exclusive reindeer are handmade of iron. Set of two, $29.95." Why not add the weight of a small truck to your holiday table by buying an army of 66 iron reindeer? Or, for those who like the glitter of gold and the freshness of fruit, a collection of 200 pieces of gold-painted fruit? Or the gift that keeps on giving--50 years' worth of the Museum of Modern Art's 4-foot wide `Stendig' calendar. All from Crate and Brattle, 48 Brattle Street.
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