FINALLY! The long-awaited day when Crisp Kringles – crunchy rice in delicious Palmer chocolate with that unique soap flavor – are marked half off, and in some cases, reduced up to 60%!
It’s off to Walgreens for me, and, oh man, I need to go! Look at the time!
I hope I can still get a good spot in line.
I wonder if they’re handing out wristbands this year.
EVERY family has its own Christmas traditions, some time-honored and serious, others light-hearted and goofy. We Parsnips are no different.
However, this is the third year in a row where one of us has ended up on a [never-private-enough] emergency room bed while the rest of us, bedecked in our goofiest Christmas sweaters, is left trying to explain to the attending physician how a popcorn ball still wrapped in green cellophane got where it did.
So perhaps this is one annual (not a typo!) tradition that we’ll be retiring this year. Maybe the ol’ air cannon is best used outdoors to launch corn dogs and individual spare ribs at the family reunion each August.
This does not necessarily preclude us from using Pop-Pop’s x-ray of the mishap for next year’s holiday card.
I THINK I WAS as disappointed as you were when I heard the other day that our favorite fast food chain, Chick-fil-A – with their whimsical cow mascots begging for their very lives and that amazingly extensive self-serve bar of little sauce packets – was under fire for mocking two Asian customers by printing offensive names on their order receipts.
The company insisted this was “simply a case of immaturity, failed judgment and human error” on the part of an individual employee who was quickly fired.
Seems fair. Especially considering that Kevin Lee, the fellow who posted the receipt photo on Tumblr wrote “… I don’t think the horrible mistake on the part of one individual is reason enough to launch a witch hunt…There’s no way the person who hired this woman would have been able to know she’d do something so stupid.”
But was it an isolated incident? As you know, I’m an inveterate receipt saver, and decided – just for fun! – I’ll take a look at one of my old receipts.
I was stunned at what I found – stunned! – and I don’t know how I missed it at the time. I can only presume that my mind was preoccupied with those delicious waffle potato fries of theirs to care about anything else. (I crossed out the team member’s name because I think it’s best to just put this all behind us and move on.)
It sucks when ignorant people make snap judgments about one’s presumed ethnicity based on looks and the way the fabric of one’s Sansabelt gabardine twill flat-front trousers drape across the loins.
I’m Slovak, not Romanian.
Allens Inc. Quality Vegetables: The Undisputed Masters of Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design!
AS YOU’RE WELL AWARE by now, I’m always on the lookout for anachronistic package design. Some have suggested that my fascination with packages that look old but aren’t may indicate a mild form of OCD, perhaps itself a symptom of autism brought on when I was inoculated as an infant for rinderpest. (Growing up in the isolated rural farming community of Greenwich, Connecticut, my pediatrician was also our livestock veterinarian, and I suspect he got his syringes mixed up. In further support of this theory is the fact that none of our cattle ever contracted rubella.)
Yet others, myself among them, have noted that this may just be an easy way to come up with content that, according to my preoccupation with checking Google Analytics every night at 12:01 a.m., less than six people on average worldwide will be reading anyway.
Anyway, here’s a can of spinach that looks like it’s from the late 1940s. But it’s not!
It totally looks exactly like it’s more than half a century old, right? And before you challenge me with “Well, how do you know it’s not?” I’ll tell you that I know it’s not because its label feature a UPC code, a recycle symbol, a website URL, a banner reading “Low Sodium” and microwave directions! Did they have any of those things back then? Did anyone care about salt in the late 1940s? No, of course not. I win.
This can of cut leaf spinach, destined eventually for some sort of glorious spinach/mayonnaise/artichoke dip that I’ll no doubt end up eating like soup once I run out of pita chips, is from the good men and women at Allens. They’ve been packing vegetables that we’ve all been enjoying since 1926.
What’s neat is they’ve got a very modern, up-to-date website, yet most (sadly, not all) of their brands (and I counted seventeen different names they sell their wares under!) feature labels that look like they were designed fifty or sixty years ago.
Isn’t that awesome?!
Look at their delightfully anachronistic East Texas Fair brand of canned blackeyed peas, field peas (I have no idea either) and lima beans:
How amazing is that? The logo for this brand looks like the title card for a 1947 Walter Lantz Cartune. I don’t know which one, but it just has that look. You know what I mean.
And now look at this collection I’ve amassed of some of their other labels. Even their licensed Popeye brand looks like it came right off the shelf of a 1950s corner market. Again, folks: These are all canned goods currently available on grocery shelves across this great country of ours for you to buy! Not decades ago! Today! These exist today!
And don’t even get me started on the stunning label on that can of Alma cut green beans. Good lord, I want that as my wall paper in every single room of this house.
And now a personal message to the wonderful people of Allens Inc. – don’t you dare change a thing. Your canned vegetables with delightfully anachronistic package design are, well, a delight. The six or so people worldwide who visit this blog on any given day will back me up on this.
WHEN I SAY “Smashbar” you think of that trendy bar in Silverlake, crowded wall to wall with hipster douchebags all reeking of clove cigarettes and sweat, right? No, no – wait. “Smashbar” – they’re that late 90s band that had that song “All Star” that’s been a staple of movie trailers since “Walking on Sunshine” overslept and missed the audition. Or, no, “Smashbar:” that overpriced line of cosmetics that you bought a Groupon for, figuring your girlfriend would be thrilled…but she didn’t redeem it and now you’re out forty bucks. Or maybe “Smashbar” is that studio near La Brea in Hollywood where you worked as a caterer for the wrap party for that Lifetime TV movie last summer and met Richard Karn from Home Improvement and Richard Thomas from The Waltons. No! No, wait – “Smashbar” is that so-called all-in-one website development software you paid $59 for and downloaded from Smith-Micro but never used and completely forgot about until now. Nope? Oh, of course – “Smashbar” – it’s the thick steel pipe that runs across the top of your Jeep Wrangler so even if you fly off a cliff careening down PCH drunk as Mel Gibson, you’ll still be able to walk away from the crash and hide among the rocks until you sober up.
Wrong, sir! Wrong!
You couldn’t be more wrong, but that certainly hasn’t kept you from trying!
No, this is Smashbar…
…and by Godfrey, it’s today’s What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store Item of the Week today.
For 99¢ Only, you get a box of eight of these snack bars. Each is just 90 calories, has no high fructose corn syrup and is a good source of fiber and calcium – but don’t let that scare you off, pal: like me, you’ll be eating four or five of these in one sitting. They’re just that good!
What are these things? As the back of the box says, they’re “lots of GREAT tasting ingredients…SMASHED TOGETHER!”
“Specifics?” you demand with arched eyebrows, indicating dubiousness yet betraying mild interest.
I’ll specifics you! Pretzels! Berries! Oat cereal! Chocolate! That specific enough for you?
I saw these at the 99¢ Only Store last week and I wisely thought to myself, “Hm, these things look good. I’d be smart to pick up two boxes.”
Then I get home and try one, they turn out to be the best purchase I’ve made at the 99¢ Only Store since they had all that high-end but about-to-expire personal lubricant two years ago. And like an idiot, I only bought two goddamn boxes! I should have bought like ten! Ah, the classic 99¢ Only Store shopper’s remorse. You and I, we know it all too well. Actually, I guess the true “classic 99¢ Only Store shopper’s remorse” comes about six hours after eating anything with dairy in it from their refrigerated case.
I’m kidding! I’m sure this stuff is wonderful.
Back to Smashbar: Like me, you’re wondering how such a fantastic new product from the good people at Quaker Oats ended up in the grocery landfill that is the 99¢ Only store.
Here’s my theory: Whoever designed the package thought it might be fun to have a side panel featuring a cut-out arrow so you can see the product inside.
But what they didn’t count on was the ongoing de-evolution of society where thieving shoppers have no qualms about sneaking out a Smashbar when no one’s looking, putting the box back on the shelf…and then whoever eventually buys the package gets seven bars instead of eight, probably! See?
Anyway, all that cut into supermarkets’ bottom line and Big Grocery was having none of that! None of it! “Off to the 99¢ Only Store with you,” they ordered, probably! But Quaker taking a bath on this one is where you and I benefit; that is, if you’re able to find any of these at all, and if I’m able to find more. And brother, if I can find more, don’t expect me to leave any on the shelves for you. You’ve been warned.
As to the variety, all they had was “Pretzel Berry,” but that was good enough for me, although it does bring up some bitter memories. (As you know, “Pretzelberry” was also the name of the boutique smoothie business I was trying to start up last year for which that stupid loan officer from Wells-Fargo foolishly OK’d a small business loan and now I’m still into them for $27K of that thirty grand. I’d be like Genarro Freaking Sbarro by now, franchising these places left and right, sure, if only I’d found a supplier that offered straws wide enough to accommodate the pretzel chunks.)
Anyway, these Smashbars are delicious. Even better if you do like I do and head out into the garage, unplug the dryer, plug in your Star Manufacturing Co. restaurant grade humidified pretzel oven, and pop one in for twelve minutes. If you have such an oven. (And if you want one, I’ve got six, hardly used, $1200 each or best offer.)
Hey, go for it.
Well, thank God they’re finally gone. There’s been no room in the fridge and I think we’re all a little tired of seeing those things sitting on the counter for the last five days.
WELL NOW I’ve seen everything!
Oh, sure they’ve been putting “born on” dates on beer since 1996. And prior to that they’d added “use before” dates to packages of batteries. But this – ho ho, brother – this takes the cake!
I guess my question – now that my stupor and amazement has subsided – is how do they stamp them without breaking them? If stamping best-by dates on eggs were my job, I’d probably end up smashing every egg that rolled down the chute, and before long my ink pad and my rubber stamp would be a runny mess. Also, I’d get bored quickly, feign carpal tunnel syndrome, and go on permanent disability while secretly bowling every day. Unions made this nation great!
Getting back to the matter at hand, I think it’s safe to say they’ve finally developed the chicken that can freshness-date an egg as it passes through her cloaca.
But how does her cloaca know how long the egg will be good for?
ONCE AGAIN, I found a food product with delightfully anachronistic package design at the 99¢ Only store. What is it with me and these things? God only knows. (I brought it up at group last week but Dr. Aaronson told me it wasn’t germane to our goal and asked me not to mention it again. I keyed his Mercedes.)
As you know, I get all sweaty and excited when I see some sort of food product, nearly always at the 99¢ Only store, whose package design belies its very…existence in the year that it currently…is. Do you follow?
Take for instance the specific item I’m going on about this time. It’s a can of Libby’s Spaghetti & Meatballs. In tomato sauce.
The thing is, it doesn’t look like a food product you’d see here in 2011, right? I’m not talking about the actual food inside, but the way the label is designed. It looks like it’s much older. Right? It’s not just me, right? Okay.
Now you’re thinking to yourself, “What an idiot – he shops at the 99¢ Only store for God’s sake, where all they have is garbage – clearly this disgusting product is decades old, he’ll get sick eating it, and then maybe he’ll learn his lesson already.”
But no! That’s just it! It’s a current product!
And yet the color scheme, the typeface, everything screams, I dunno, the mid-1970s!
“But how do you know it’s not from the mid-1970s?” you sneer derisively.
Ready for this? Because in the mid-1970s, back then, Libby’s had a contemporary logo! Remember?
By the way, thanks to http://trade.mar.cx/ where I found that.
Now, most of the delightfully anachronistic package design foods we’ve visited over the past months have labels that we must presume have endured for years and were never updated. Libby’s, however, is unique on account of it was updated, and now it looks dated. Not terribly dated, but dated nonetheless.
And here’s something else: Libby’s meat products, like these delicious spaghetti and meatballs – and brother, they were great! – are from the good people at ConAgra Foods. But Libby’s vegetable products, like your gourmet tiny early June peas, your whole kernel succotash and the like comes to you from the good folks at Seneca Foods.
Confused? Don’t worry. You’re the only one who read this far.
AS YOU KNOW, I’ve been shopping at the 99¢ Only store since back when you and everyone else made fun of me for shopping at the 99¢ Only store. And also because my pants only came down to about three inches above my ankles. That’s the disadvantage of hand-me-downs and having an older sister who’s so short.
And now who’s laughing? Me, because you shop there now, too, as does everyone else. Don’t deny it. Oh, sure, you drive waaay out to the one in Simi Valley figuring no one you know will see you there, and then you bump into Gretchen from your daughter’s “Hoofprints” riding class and you make up some bullshit excuse like, “Oh, I came out here because the Jo-Ann’s next door has a much better selection of print flannels, and since I was here anyway, and Sarah needed some posterboard for her science fair project, I figured I might as well run in.”
Yeah, you’re fooling no one, especially since you’ve got a shopping cart full of cheap Argentinian breakfast cereal and White Rain shampoo. But then, so does she, plus she’s got a package of Julie maxipads. Believe me, brother, or in this case, sister, you’ve got the upper hand here; she’s telling no one who she saw slumming it.
Where the hell was I?
Oh yes! Here’s the thing: The 99¢ Only store is a game-changer now. What does that mean? Well, really, it’s just a hyphenated buzzword that you can plug in just about anywhere, and everyone does, but what I mean specifically is that Big Food finally realized that normal people, people like you and I, have begun shopping at the 99¢ Only store, sure. The 99¢ Only store: It’s not just for poor people anymore!™ So they realized this, and what they’ve started to do, see, is package their products in smaller sizes so they can be sold for a buck! Which pisses you and me off because we’re really not getting the deals we used to, but, aah, whaddayagonnado, right? …Well, at least I’m not getting the deals I used to, because I shopped here before you did, back before it was “cool.” Before the 99¢ Only store sold out, man.
So about these Duncan Hines Snack Size Brownies, Chewy Fudge variety: “Makes 12 Brownies” the box says. Okay, that’s my first problem. Technically, it makes one big brownie. But it’s a smaller one big brownie than if you bought a box at your regular grocery store. See, that’s what they’re doing – they know people like you are shopping at the 99¢ Only store now, so while you may not bother picking up a box of brownie mix at A&P or Grand Union or your precious “Wegmans” because it’s too expensive, you see it at the 99¢ Only store, and like idiots, like sheep, you decide “Ooh, boy! Brownie mix – name brand brownie mix! – here at the 99¢ Only store! I’ll pick up a box here and really stick it to the man!” Like idiots you people do this, not realizing they’ve shrunken the package down specifically for the 99¢ Only store. You’re not saving a dime!
Anyway, I know a bargain when I see one so I snatched this thing up right away! Jesus, this is Duncan Hines brownie mix! This isn’t some off-brand crap! This is the real deal! And for a buck?! Of course I bought it!
But once I got home and began the brownie-making process, I saw there was a second problem: The directions. (Or “instructions” for you East Coasters. Sheesh.)
“Here it comes,” I hear you saying. “Here’s the part where Ted bitches about the fact that Duncan Hines hates America because they’ve decided to print the directions in English and Spanish!”
No. Well, yes. I mean, yes, they’re in English and Spanish and, yes, it’s ridiculously short-sighted on the part of the Duncan Hines people because study after study after study shows (citation needed) that people who don’t bother to learn English can never succeed in this great country of ours, thus the Duncan Hines people are saying, “Sure, go ahead, don’t bother to learn English, we don’t care, we’ll still reward you with a plate of delicious, warm browñeros.” [Or, technically, a single browñero grande.]
But no, my problem is not with the Spanish directions! After all, this feature is called “What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store,” right? My problem is this:
Okay, do you see that asterisk after “coated pans”…?
Yeah, well, there’s no corresponding asterisk, no footnote, if you will, ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE PACKAGE!
325˚F for dark or coated pans…and then what?! I defy you to locate another asterisk on the entire box! You won’t find one – not even on the Spanish side! We’re left hanging, you and I. There’s evidently something they wanted us to be aware of, but then the goddamn technical writer who comes up with the copy for these boxes decided “Hell with it, lunch time! Buffalo Wild Wings? I’m in!” and that was that. He never got back to it – and pity the poor Spanish-only readers, who didn’t even know about this asterisktastrophe! Or maybe they were the lucky ones – unable (or unwilling) to read English, they were never faced with the anxiety, the disquietude, even, of a dangling asterisk.
Well, as it happened, I used a coated pan and my one big brownie turned out great. Hell, it’s a brownie – how can it not be great, right? (Though it wasn’t nearly as thick as they appear on the package.) I was going to call Duncan Hines’ toll-free number and find out what was supposed to be on the other side of that missing asterisk, but my phone bill’s high enough as it is.
So, in short, What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store? Duncan Hines Snack Size Brownies.*
GEE, I can’t imagine how such an appealing flavor of baby food ever ended up at the 99¢ Only store.
If there’s two things babies love, it’s whole wheat pasta and parmesan cheese. Ah, that the baby food people had only figured this out when you and I were infants, right?
Okay, seriously: outside of, I don’t know, Italian babies I guess, what normal baby in its right mind is going to eat something like this and not puke it up on your shoulder within six minutes? I don’t know if Beech-Nut likes being #2, but I’ll tell you one thing: they keep putting crap like this on grocery shelves, and they’ll never overtake Friskies’ market share.
Speaking of which, it’s time for little Emily’s din-din. Oh, and she crawls like the dickens when she hears that can opener!