FROM ALL THE CARDS AND LETTERS we’ve been inundated with here since we ran that piece on beef stew some time ago, Thursday I think it was, it’s clear that many of you felt we gave the beef stew short shrift.
A pal from Rochester Hills, Michigan writes, “Ted! How about a recipe for that beef stew you featured on your blog recently?”
What are you, an idiot? It was beef stew in a can. Open the can. There’s your recipe.
Still others wanted to know more about the story behind the beef stew, as well as the story behind it.
A new reader, Best-Penis@MaxGentlemen.com, chimes in with, “Click here for the only Male enlargement supplement that has been PROVEN in clinical trials to enlarge your penis – safely, quickly, and importantly – PERMANENTLY.”
Okay, okay – we get the picture! You want to know more about the beef stew!
…Well, you’re out of luck, because we’re moving forward, not stumbling backward. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be covering other products in delightful anachronistic package design.
In fact, here comes one right now – it’s a picture of a can of chili from the same company that made the beef stew! And it looks old too! But isn’t!
This can of Southgate Chili With Beans! looks like it’s from…the early 1970s.
Proof of Its Modernity: “Contains: Soy.”
Where You’d Expect to See It: Stockpiled in the cupboards of the camper for a series of quick, inexpensive dinners on our infamous family trip to Florida in 1973 that were never touched because there was no way in hell that Mom was going to be eating anything out of a can sitting at that uncomfortable, tiny table in the back of that “goddamn cramped, flimsy deathtrap on wheels” after careening down I-95 in it all day long.
Buy It Because: Brings back fond memories of our family trip to Florida in 1973.
They sell these at both the 99¢ Only store as well as its arch enemy, Dollar Tree. I saw them at Dollar Tree first, and they only had the beef stew, and now, a few months later, there’s a whole slew of Southgate canned foods.
I probably sound like some asshole loser hipster who posts embarrassingly fawning comments on “photo streams” of vintage grocery items on Flickr, but by Godfrey, I love the color scheme of this thing – the bright red below a band of rustic wood planks, and then over that, there’s “Southgate” in a slightly old Western-style typeface.
Actually, forget what I said earlier! Let’s stumble backwards momentarily and revisit the beef stew here, huh? That can looked delightfully more anachronistic because of the big thick letters spelling out beef stew that were slightly askew and toggled. Can we get an image of the label…?
I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong when you set your letters askew and slightly toggle them!
…Back to the chili! With Beans!
Speaking of which, if there’s one word that doesn’t need an exclamation point after it on a product label, it’s “Beans!” but damn it, they’ve gone and put one there and I – and now you – love them for it. Maybe it’s a sort of subtle punctuational hint at the uncontrollable gas you’ll be experiencing later. Marvelous! Marvelous!
Though credited on the can as manufactured by “SouthGate Foods,” it seems the true makers behind this delightfully anachronistically packaged repast is a company called Vietti Foods that have been making delicious things for you, and now me, to eat since 1898.
I really have no one to blame but myself for this blog’s lack of readers.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE since I indulged you, as well as myself, in that most unusual as well as rewarding of my hobbies: enjoying looking at products, mostly found at dollar stores, with delightfully anachronistic package design. Oh, it’s a harmless little lark, a simple distraction, really – marveling at contemporary products, yes!, currently on the market, in boxes or cans or bags that look like they’re right out of the Flickr “photo stream” of some asshole loser hipster who collects old grocery products, and wondering, oftimes aloud to myself, or to other shoppers nearby, “How in this day and age, I wonder, how in this day and age did the manufacturer of this particular box of soup mix (or jar of pickled beets or what have you) not look at their product’s label at some point over the last thirty-odd years and think ’Christ almighty, maybe it’s time we updated this packaging – why, we’ven’t done an overhaul on it since, what, 1967!’ But thank God above they haven’t, right?, because the result is spectacular – just spectacular!”
So anyway, here’s a can of beef stew that looks old.
THE OTHER DAY I was enjoying a snack when the phone rang.
“Hullo,” I said between bites.
“What are you eating?” said a pal on the other end.
“Muscle shirt, 2(x)ist contour pouch boxer briefs, Sensifoot diabetic compression socks—”
“No, what are you eating?”
“Oh. Cheddar cheese pretzel Combos that I got at the 99¢ Only store,” I proudly replied. “Cheese-filled Combos – Combos really cheeses the hunger away!™”
“Oh, Jesus – I didn’t even know they made those anymore. The 99¢ Only store: Where forgotten food products go to die.”
So I told him to go to hell and hung up – but he brings up an interesting point: It’s not just food in delightfully anachronistic packaging that you’ll find at the 99¢ Only store, but also items that failed in the real marketplace and consequently no one wants.
Now before we go any further – I’d like to note that Combos are as popular as they’ve ever been and are still in production. Heck, you know as well as I do Combos are the official cheese-filled snack of NASCAR. But what of other food items at the 99¢ Only store?
Well, clearly it’s time to start a new feature on the ol’ blog, one that I’m sure to lose interest in or completely forget about probably after our initial offering here. But what an auspicious start, right?
I was going to call it “What’s Good at the 99¢ Only Store,” but then my attorney told me that that’s dangerously close to a popular blog about Trader Joe’s – which I hate as much as you do (the store, not the blog).
So then we thought about going with “What’s Been Recently Discontinued and Has Shown Up in Enormous Quantities at the 99¢ Only Store,” because as you know, I’m not one to shy away from lengthy blog post titles (I do, however, make a point to keep the actual posts short and to the point).
But it just didn’t have that zing. And zing is something you want in a blog post title.
So I talked with some of the creatives and they suggested “What’s About to Expire at the 99¢ Only Store” and I liked that one. It’s relevant, concise and as you’ll see, it’s exceedingly accurate.
But it didn’t fly with the focus group.
Now I’m not made of money so I did what everyone looking for quick and accurate market research does: I picked up a bunch of day laborers outside Home Depot and I ran the entire seminar in the back of my pickup for less than ninety bucks and a dozen bottles of tamarind Jarritos – and that price included the loading, unloading, and (mostly) careful stacking of sixteen sheets of drywall for the den renovation project we’re getting started on next week. (You don’t want to know what Young & Rubicam wanted to charge me and their price didn’t include manual labor!)
Anyway, my focus grupo (not a typo!) came up with the name – and I trust their input because as it turns out I see a lot of these same guys shopping at my local 99¢ Only store anyway. So without further adieu I present to you – drumroll please…
What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store
So let’s get started with our inaugural product, shall we?
Dreyer’s Slow Churned Rich & Creamy Chocolate Shake Mix
Cost: At two for 99¢ Only, I’d be a fool not to buy a couple of these.
Why They’re At The 99¢ Only Store:
Description: Pull off the lid…
…and you’re looking at what seems to be a pile of who-did-it-and-ran.
But it’s really just soft-serve ice cream masquerading as “frozen shake mix.” Anyway, what you’re supposed to do is take 1/3 cup of milk…
..pour it in…
But here’s our first problem. This soft-serve is frozen stiff and it’s not like mixing, say, eight heaping tablespoons of Strawberry Quik in a vintage Flintstones Welch’s jelly glass filled halfway with milk like you and I do for breakfast each morning. It’s tough going.
And secondly – there’s no room! If you want this crap to blend, you’re going to have to do some serious stirring, and like the classic dilemma of the lactating mother on Space Mountain during Disneyland’s Topless Days (third weekend in August), milk is going to get everywhere.
So what I had to do was leave the damn shake in the kitchen and try to forget about it for about ten minutes (no small feat, I assure you). But eventually I was able to get back to it (thank Christ) and the “shake mix” had melted enough to stir it – gently, gently!
Then I ate it. It was too thick to really drink, and even though the directions say “for a thinner shake, add more milk,” there’s no goddamn room!
The verdict: It was okay. Hell, two for a buck – I’d get a couple more. But if you want to try them, better hurry – as you can see, they expired yesterday so they’ll only be at the 99¢ Only store for another year, year and a half at most.
Also: Speaking of Combos, according to their website, something called Buffalo Blue Cheese Pretzel Combos exists. My god, that combines four things you and I love – blue cheese, pretzels, Combos, and bison!
Why the hell don’t these delights show up at the 99¢ Only store? I asked my attorney to look into it but he’s more interested in trying to convince me to delete the Disneyland line.
IT OCCURS TO ME, from what you’ve read here, that you must think I hate Target.
I’ve complained – legitimately, I might add – about the ridiculously stingy amount of contact lens rewetting solution they sell in tiny, frustratingly hard-to-squeeze bottles.
More famously, I’ve been the lone voice of indignancy, a word I think I just coined, trying to whip the public into a frenzy over a potential* 2011 Halloween public relations nightmare – an offensive “Indian” (their word, not mine) costume, which does nothing but perpetuate the disgusting stereotype of Native Americans as vicious, violent warriors (and frankly, if I were of redskin heritage myself, I’d be on the warpath). Yet Target has managed to sidestep any bad publicity over this one by distracting the costume-buying public’s attention with some completely different, wholly manufactured “scandal” that I unfortunately did not come up with.
*There’s still time!
So, sure, you’d be forgiven if you thought I hate Target – but I don’t. And here’s why: They actually have some inexpensive groceries. Take for instance this peanut butter they used to sell.
It was $2.19 (cheap!) and came in a glass jar, and if you’re anything like my grandfather was, and you are, probably, you know glass jars are excellent for use in the garage for your miscellaneous nuts and bolts, your washers and what have you, kept conveniently out of the way because you nailed the lids to the bottom of a shelf, thank you Roy Doty and his marvelous Wordless Workshop!
Anyway, it was the old-fashioned kind of peanut butter, it was – the kind with all that rich, nourishing oil on the top that if you were lucky enough to be around when she opened the jar, Mom would pour into a Dixie riddle cup for you to nurse on while you watched 3-2-1- Contact. Well, you can just forget about that peanut butter, because they stopped selling it a few months ago and if anything, that should give us yet another reason to hate Target, but I don’t, and now neither should you.
Why? Because unlike Ralphs and Vons and Safeway and Kroger and First National and IGA, Target’s frozen vegetables still come in 1-pound bags and are reasonably priced. Meanwhile, Big Grocery sells them in measly 10 or 12 ounce bags but charges more for them. Yet who can blame them, really – the unions have those goddamn grocery stores by the balls!
Plus at Tarzshay, as you insist on calling it (clever, once, about thirty years ago), you can sneak a can of Spaghettios into one of the dressing rooms and feast on a quick lunch while trying on t-shirts with 70s and 80s “retro” images on them. Bring your own spoon, or just scoop ’em out of the can with your fingers like I do. Then come back next week and check the clearance rack for that “Mr. Turtle / Tootsie Pop” ringer tee, marked down to $4.28 from $12.99 just because of a few little tomato sauce stains.
YESTERDAY I DECIDED to treat myself to breakfast at McDonald’s.
Ted, I thought, It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s. I deserve a break today, sure. Besides, nobody can do it like McDonald’s can. They do it all for me, they do, and Christ almighty, I’m hungry.
I almost got the Big Breakfast (or as it’s called in the UK, “the Very Large Breakfast”) but that always seems like a good idea right up until you’ve actually ingested it and then you feel bloated for the next four to six hours; actual time may vary depending on your digestive system, metabolism, and rate of food passage and waste evacuation.
So I opted for the one that just comes with that dry, crumbly, disgusting biscuit (delicious with butter!), the hash brown, the sausage patty (or medallion, as you like to call it) and the wad of scrambled egg-protein (also great with butter and plenty of it – ask for a handful of extra pats!).
It was good!
What’s more, I didn’t realize they’re doing that stupid Monopoly thing again. Unlike you, I don’t eat at McDonald’s every goddamn day. It’s more of a “treat” for me. Special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, and the like.
And the signage (industry term) in the store told me that “1 in 4 wins” a prize. I liked those odds. I liked it even more when I used my greasy fingers to pry up the game pieces from my hash brown sleeve (industry term) and saw this:
Feel free to use these images to counterfeit as many more of them as you’d like – I’ll have redeemed it by the time you read this, so I don’t care what the hell you do, and I can’t be held accountable nor responsible for what visitors to my blo–
…Wait! This just in: My attorney tells me to tell you to not do that; and also that I was “just kidding” of course.
Anyway, here’s the plan:
1 in 4 wins, right? Well, when I redeem the Quarter Pounder ticket, I’ll be saving so much cash I’d be a fool not to order enough product to afford me at least four more pull-tabs. I think they’ve glued them to, what, the huge soft drinks and the extra large fries…? So it’s like getting them for free, practically, while eating food I can feel good about. Because of the money I’m saving on the sandwich. (Not a typo. In quick-serve restaurant parlance, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is considered a “sandwich.”)
So each time I go in, I’m all but assured to win more food. I’ve finally legally beaten the system: I can keep this up forever or until the game is scheduled to end (10/24/11) or while supplies last, whichever comes first.
On a related note: If you have stamps 327 and/or 328, please let me know – I’m very interested in acquiring them from you and am willing to pay the postage for you to send them my way. I promised my Eileen a day at the spa so I’d be out of her hair and she could have the house to herself for a few hours. I’m so sure you guys are going to come through for me on this that I’ve already stopped shaving my back and rubbing my ringworm cream into my chest in anticipation of letting someone else doing it for me for a change. Don’t let me down!
YOU KNOW my wife Irene’s love for small, out of the way bed-and-breakfasts. Well, nothing’s too good for my Renie so I decided – completely on a whim! – to surprise her last week and take her to one of the smallest, out-of-the-way-est B&Bs I could find – the Kenwood Glade Inn, in rustic Hill, Virginia. And, okay, I stumbled across someone on Craigslist who was hoping to get some money back on a bed & breakfast Groupon he couldn’t use before it expired. …He didn’t get much.
I have to admit that I had a bit of an ulterior motive for bringing her there. As the bumper stickers famously state, “Virginia Is For Spiders” and I don’t have to tell you, early October is peak spider-viewing time. We’re both avid arachnaphiles, sure, and the small hamlet of Hill claims to have more spiders per square acre than any other region in the state. Brother, I believe it.
As you’ll see, we were not disappointed.
Above is the black and yellow garden spider. One of the smaller ones we saw, its abdomen was only about the size of a Mini Cooper. This orb web spinner’s distinctive vertical zigzag design just below its front legs is believed by arachnologists to make the web more visible to low-flying planes that might otherwise get snared in its web (the cause of 85% of small aircraft fatalities in Virginia).
Speaking of airplanes, here’s a daddy longlegs as seen from above when we were flying into Roanoke.
A mid-sized “Daddy,” we estimated the length from the tip of its longer legs to its powerful, waiting jaws was probably a little less than a quarter mile. It was spotted on the striated flatlands of an abandoned strip mine just out of town. While popularly known as daddy longlegs, they’re also called harvestmen because they literally “harvest men” (and women and children) and eat them.
Other species we were enchanted by included the black widow (spotted along a retaining wall up on Mill Mountain just below the Roanoke Star where she’d dart out to snatch distracted tourists as they looked up at the landmark. We understand the framework for the star is in fact her web.), various jumping spiders (Seen in the woods, these magnificent creatures can overtake a deer running at top speed in a single leap.), a nursery web spider (so-called because of its habit of spiriting away infants from their cribs), and of course, the ubiquitous wolf spider, which, as its name implies hunts in packs. We ate at the nearby and highly-rated Field View Tavern on more than one occasion and were surprised and delighted when a few “wolves” appeared from the darkness during the main course to add some excitement to a delicious meal. (By the way, be sure to make a point to visit the downstairs at the Tavern where you’ll see dozens of trophy spiders, vanquished by a local bowhunter, literally scattered throughout – though be careful: Rumor has it, this lower level still houses at least a few active “dens.”)
Since the outside of our bed-and-breakfast was studded with countless enormous egg sacs, we couldn’t resist taking home a few of these beachball-sized souvenirs. Unfortunately, a slight change in cabin pressure on the plane home must have somehow sped up the incubation process resulting in an early mass hatching and, well, we’re particularly grateful Samuel L. Jackson happened to be on our flight.
YOU PROBABLY READ in the newspaper that my better half and I were called away unexpectedly last week to speak at a symposium on flair horseshoeing at HoofCon 2011. Demetrios and I decided it was the least we could do for our mentor, the legendary Frank “Hoofpick” Purdy after his beloved Mr. Magoo was spooked by Frank’s ringtone* and kicked the anvil, sending three red hot Capewell #5 bridle-path nails right into his mouth. Ol’ Hoofpick’s going to be fine – don’t worry, he managed to spit them right out – but it’s going to be another week and a half before the blistering and swelling on his tongue goes down enough to allow him to speak coherently. (Right now it sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of a deaf person, which of course is hilarious, but would likely begin to lose its appeal after fifteen minutes behind a lectern. Either that or it would just kill, and then who wants to follow that? It would be like having to go on right after Buddy Hackett tells his forehead-penis story.)
Considering it was me calling him that day, attending in his stead was the least we could do. As you know, Demetri and I had been staying away from the Con for the last few years after we submitted what we still feel should have been the winning suggestion for HoofCon 2008’s theme. (“Where the Shoes Are” – and Demetri knows Connie Francis’ manager so we’re sure we could have gotten her to attend and sing. I even wrote new lyrics to the song.) But oh no, convention chairhole Mark Lautraub went with the lame “Forging Our Future” which of course sucked. (Gee, a pun involving “forge” for a farrier’s convention – didn’t see that coming.) Since Lautraub dropped dead of a heart attack in April there was really no reason for us not to attend. And here of course I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his family. He was a great man. He was a great man.
Anyway, we quickly packed up our rasps, performance clinchers, our tearaway black leather smithing aprons (Thanks again to Jim at Custom Leather & Rubber Fabrication in Palm Desert!), pritchels (10″ and 12″), iron nippers, a fantastic collection of glow sticks (including colors you wouldn’t believe possible through chemiluminescence) and driving hammers (Anvils were thankfully provided this year – something the incompetent Lautraub was somehow never able to facilitate in his lifetime.) and headed to the airport. Demetri joked that getting through security was going to be harder than when we flew to Las Vegas in May for the fetish ball. I figured it might be smoother since I wasn’t wearing my ballgag on this trip; or at least a wash since we were carrying virtually all the same equipment.
…Now what was my point?
Oh, yes – first of all, the update: Say what you will against Walmart, but by Godfrey, their in-house brand, Equate, still offers rewetting drops in the generous 0.5 oz size. Sure, it’s not as much as what CVS used to sell, but it’s better than what those assholes at Target are selling now – and I got a two-pack (that’s 1.0 ounce!) for $4.35.
And an apology: The Ted Parsnips Web Design Team was supposed to run Ted Parsnips: The Best of the Early 90s in my absence, but as usual, I get back and see nothing’s done and the whole department looks like they had a weeklong pizza party / rubber band war. Hope they still have the number for Little Caesars handy, because once I check the balance in the petty cash till, there may be some nerds looking for new jobs.
*#1 Rule of Farriery, and it’s the first thing they teach you in school or as an apprentice: Leave your cell phone turned off, in the truck, on vibrate, or for God’ sake, never use ABBA as a ringtone. Christ, the piano swipe that opens “Dancing Queen” could startle a Budweiser Clydesdale, let alone a skittish 1,100 pound quarterhorse.
OH, SURE, we’ve all read stories over the past few years, probably, about product downsizing.
It started with, what, ice cream, right? It came in half-gallons from our birth to about seven years ago, downsized to 1.75 quarts, and now to 1.5 quarts. Then yogurt, or as you like to spell it, yoghurt, from eight ounces to six ounces (or if you’re an idiot who buys those Yoplait Whips, four ounces, three of which are air).*
And now canned tuna, potato chips, toilet paper(!), peanut butter – and the list goes on, probably. And the thing is, like you, I’d be willing to pay a few pennies more for the old size! We’re not unreasonable, you and I! We understand prices go up!
But Big Grocery has decided to emasculate us by literally shrinking the size of our package, laughing at us, and acting like it’s the same old amount while charging the same price…and then eventually raising the price anyway! Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining! How would that fool me anyway? Look, I’m no meteorologist, but I seriously doubt the existence of a type of storm cloud so low-lying that its precipitation hits my leg and nothing higher. If you’re going to piss on me and tell me it’s raining, you need to stand on a stepladder and urinate on my head, and blindfold me so I don’t see you doing it. But I’m not into that anymore – not since that whole hepatitis scare last year. My God, the people I had to track down and call.
Anyway, it’s bad enough they shrink our jars of mayonnaise, our bags of ginger snaps, our cartons of orange juice, our packages of Kraft American cheese – but for God’s sake, man, leave our eye care products alone!
You heard me, Big Eye Care! Stay the hell away from our rewetting drops!
Look at this!
My old bottle of rewetting drops is on the right. Yes, I should have put it on the left when I took the photo, but I wasn’t thinking. I was too angry!
My new bottle is on the left! Notice any difference? Oh ho ho, brother, you bet you do!
It went from 2/3 ounces – 20 generous milliliters…to a stingy, niggardly, penurious, gee-can-you-spare-it 0.27 ounces! A measly 8 milliliters!
Also, it seems I stopped buying them at CVS and began buying them at Target.
But according to CVS’s website, they’ve shrunk their size, too. Not as drastically – now you get half an ounce, or 15 milliliters. It’s still downsizing. And for the record, the last bottle I bought before this bottle at Target was the same size as the CVS bottle! Are you following all this?
My point is, Jesus, we’re talking about a trace amount of liquid to begin with. I tinkle in my pants more than 20 milliliters when I laugh watching “Reba” on Lifetime – and that’s not nearly enough to really soak through and be visible (or obvious) nor smell (unless I’ve just had asparagus).
So the eye people, they’ve looked at that tiny amount of eye solution – 20 milliliters – and decided “Oh, that’s too much. These rubes will pay the same price for less than half that amount – you watch! And most of them are probably so goddamn blind to begin with they can’t read the tiny print on the bottle anyway! They’ll never know.”
They’ll know now, brother. They’ll know.
Oh, and on top of that, the new, tiny bottle is made of the same thickness of plastic as the old, bigger bottle, but of course it’s now shorter, squatter, more compact and that much harder to squeeze.
So because of the size of these minuscule vials, the money I’m throwing away on rewetting drops – anywhere from $3.50 to $4.75 each time! – is starting to add up a lot faster: I’m now buying them once every ten months rather than once every two years. Frankly, it’s beginning to make more economical sense for me to just get laser eye surgery and kiss my contact lenses goodbye once and for all. And then Target Brands, and CVS Brands, and all the major eye care companies are going to be happy that they downsized.
Because then, ladies and gentlemen…? Then I’m going to tell them all they can stick their little bottles up their ass!
*By the way, Yoplait people: Christ almighty, those Yoplait Whips are good! How about you send me a big wad of free coupons for them, especially for chocolate mousse and orange creme? Nothing’s written in stone on this blog, if you know what I mean.