1. Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design! The Update YOU Demanded!

    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.

    Posted by on October 29, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  2. Holy Crap, I Found Another Product with Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design!

    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.

    Posted by on October 27, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  3. An Exciting New Feature!

    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…

    …and stir.

    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.

    Posted by on October 25, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  4. Do You Think I Hate Target? The Answer Might Surprise You!

    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.

    Posted by on October 24, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  5. The Plan!

    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!

    Posted by on October 19, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  6. Back to Normal at the Supermarket!

    CONGRATULATIONS to the grocery workers at my local Ralphs supermarket for standing strong, not backing down, and seeing it through!

    I know it must have been a hellish time for you, not knowing how long all of this could go on for, but you did it: You managed to act courteous to your customers for, oh, a little over a week. I doff my hat to you, fine supermarket cashiers and stockers, bag boys and cart wranglers! Good job!

    You can now drop the professional, pleasant, well-mannered, friendly attitude and go right back to being your normally surly, inattentive, borderline rude selves. Since you won’t be striking, you no longer need the public on your side, so please, once again, completely ignore the fact that you work in the service industry. Treat your customers with the disregard, inattentiveness and disdain to which we’re accustomed from you, as you carry on your taxing, overwhelming careers of dragging my weekly stack of Michelina frozen Dollarsagna™ meals across that scanner while having a public anxiety attack about who gets to take their “fifteen” first.

    Still, for about a week, after what surely must have been a storewide mandate from the union steward, my goodness, I have to say that I felt – if only for those magical seven or eight days – I felt that you cared. I guess I was wrong.

    Now I hope you understand why I urinated in that football-shaped grill in that tailgate party-themed display of Pepsi products and Doritos.

    Posted by on September 20, 2011, 1:22 PM.

  7. A Step Backwards!

    JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO I told you how my local Finast supermarket had Goldfish brand baked snack crackers on sale for just a buck a bag, remember? Sure you do – why, who wouldn’t remember such a thing?

    Well, look, here’s something that doesn’t make much sense to me and now, neither to you. Take a gander at this bag of Pepperidge Farm fish-shaped snacks:

    Like you, I grew up knowing this variety as “Original,” probably.

    Now they’re called “Saltine.”  Isn’t that a step backwards?  I mean, “Saltine” sounds so plain and unappealing, right?  I would have figured they’d been called “Saltine” when they debuted on the market in 1928 (to cash in on the goldfish-swallowing mania then sweeping college campuses) and then later renamed “Original” to give ’em some caché.

    But no, they were called “Original” first, probably, and now they’re called “Saltine.” And, no, sorry – they didn’t debut in 1928 to cash in on the goldfish-swallowing mania; I don’t know where you got that from. The goldfish-swallowing mania (more of a craze, actually) didn’t sweep college campuses until 1939. I have no idea when Goldfish crackers were invented. Let’s say, oh, 1942 – no, 48!  1948! Sounds good.

    Anyway, you know what I love, and now, so do you?  Eating a bunch of Goldfish and in doing so building up all this Goldfish paste up between my cheek and gums and then taking a finger and dragging it along the inside of my mouth and prying off all that delicious thick slurry and then sucking it off my finger. You love it as much as I do, but is it really worth all those cankersores? Maybe if you washed your hands first – God knows where they’ve been.

    UPDATE:
    Well, it turns out they weren’t called “Original” originally, but “Lightly Salted.” At least they were in 1978, back when a bag would only set you back 59¢! This according to some photo I found on Flickr. Do I have time here to tell you how much I both love and hate Flickr – how I love it for the images, but hate it for the people…? Yes? No? What? My producer’s shaking his head no. Okay, I’ll save that one.

    We’ll be right back.

    Posted by on September 19, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  8. Yet Another Product with Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design!

    EVER SINCE I CAN REMEMBER, I’ve enjoyed looking at grocery items packaged in cans, boxes and bags that somehow seem like they’re from a bygone era.

    In fact, this little obsession of mine goes back so far that even as a strapping, ebullient boy I was fascinated with the anachronistic look of various grocery products when they were perfectly contemporary – yet I was so preternaturally forward-thinking that I envisioned how out of place they would be if for some inexplicable reason, decades later, they retained that same package design.

    I also visualized myself as an adult keeping a blog and writing at length about this, though of course at the time, I had no idea what a “blog” was. I presumed it to be either some sort of farmable swampland or a hybrid frog/animal that starts with “bl,” though what really confused me is why the hell I would be writing about package design when surely my marshfarm with its unholy crossbred amphibimammals would be much more interesting.

    Knowing this, it came as no surprise to anyone in my family when I was blessed with precocious puberty, though it wasn’t without its drawbacks. I recently bumped into my kindergarten teacher who confessed to me while it was handy having me around to rearrange the heavier classroom furniture, she was happy to advance me on to the first grade at the end of the year (She found the chest hair that peeked out of the collar of my striped Zoom rugby shirt “disconcerting.”) – this despite the fact that I had a lot of trouble differentiating lowercase p and q. I still think if she had bothered to sqend a little more time with me, I might have turned out puite differently.

    Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.  This is what you came here for:

    This box of Nabisco Grahams looks like it’s from…the late 1960s.
    Proof of Its Modernity: “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP” on side panel.
    Where You’d Expect to See It: On Miss Gibson’s desk – for snack.
    Buy It Because: “NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP”

    I got these in the 99¢ Only store – no surprise there. What’s startling is that they were really good and I wish I bought ten boxes. (Too late! They’re gone!)

    Like you, I prefer my graham crackers to be liberally coated in cinnamon and brown sugar. But as a nude graham cracker goes, these are the best I’ve had. How did they end up in the 99¢ Only store? It’s a mystery. The bigger question is why Nabisco decided to give this the bright, bold package design look of the late 1960s. Am I complaining? No!

    …Well, a little bit, but only because I just read the other side of the box and it turns out they were made in Mexico. Well, that clears up the first mystery, anyway.

    Posted by on September 10, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  9. It Was So Hot Here Yesterday…

    IT WAS SO HOT here yesterday…

    How hot was it?

    It was so hot here yesterday, that our cat, Mr. Whiskers, got sick and puked on the patio table where it attracted a fly or two.

    And the bad part is the gardeners just came the day before, so this is just going to have to sit here until next Tuesday, stinking up the whole backyard. I was hoping to barbecue this weekend.

     

    However…this just might keep the little buggers away from the potato salad.

    Posted by on September 8, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  10. Another Product From The Dollar Store With Delightfully Anachronistic Packaging That You’ll Want To Know About!

    Like you, I’ve got this weird thing for food items I find at the dollar store that feature package design that looks very dated! So you’re not alone!

    Today’s offering is a can of German potato salad.  Yes, you heard me right (if you’re enjoying this web page with some sort of text-to-speech software) – a can of German potato salad!

    Take a look!

    This can of READ German Potato Salad looks like it’s from…the mid-1970s.

    Proof of Its Modernity: Website listed on back. I visited it and saw this:

    Want information on how to create delicious, nutritional meals using READ products? Sign up to become part of our new “online community.”

    They put “online community” in quotes! That’s Zooey Deschanel-level adorable! Awww!

    Where You’d Expect to See It: On the workbench, empty and holding loose nuts and bolts in Grandpa’s garage.

    Buy It Because: According to the label you can “Enjoy [it] hot or cold!”

    I’m no longer defining just what it is that makes a package’s design look so dated because I’d be pointing out the obvious. There’s no reason to note the specific typefaces, photos, and colors that make each product appear old – you’re as big a fan of anachronistic package design as I am so you see it as well as I do. That’s why you and me get along so well, sure.

    READ German Potato Salad comes to us from the local Dollar Tree. Last night I ate it. It was good. Tangy, it was. Tangy. It did give the cat gas, so just bear that in mind if you let her lick the bowl when you’re through.

    Anyway, this can cost me a dollar, and I did buy it for the blog, so if you want to send me a dollar, I think that’s fair. Also the READ German Potato Salad people can send me more of this stuff for free or maybe some money for giving it a nice plug. Whaddaya say? I’m happy to get the ol’ Ted Parsnips Web Design Team back to work and have them put a banner on top that reads something like “READ German Potato Salad presents The Ted Parsnips Hour.” That’s assuming that every time you come here, you spend around an hour, which I think is a pretty fair assumption.

    Now for a few thousand dollars less, we could do “The Ted Parsnips Hour, brought to you by READ German Potato Salad – the tangy German potato salad!” with the product name below mine. But I would hold up the can every few minutes while I write these posts.

    Anyway, READ German potato salad people, my attorney will be in touch to hammer out the details. Let’s get this thing rolling.

    Posted by on August 25, 2011, 9:00 AM.

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