1. National Thrift Store Throw-These-Things-Out Week: April 16-20!

    ABOUT A DECADE AGO, I started noticing a disturbing trend around the holidays. You’re smart; you probably did too.

    Numerous retailers – I’ve seen this everywhere from Target to J.C. Pennys, Kohls to Walmart, and then eventually closeout places like Ross and Big Lots  – began offering a particular type of item which apparently carried the caché of class and sophistication yet was mass-marketed in stores’ last-minute holiday gift sections alongside shelves of shrink-wrapped samplers of cheese, sausage and jam, the perennial Chia Pets and strange, oversized Scrabble- and Oreo-themed ceramic mugs with packets of gourmet hot chocolate and/or sundae “fixin’s.” Whew! That was one torturously long sentence but it had to be said!

    Of course what I’m referring to are those decorative bottles of olive oil and/or vinegar packed with artfully arranged peas, lemon slices, beans, onions and of course peppers – whole or sliced.

    Curiously, the gift-buying public embraced these things. Each year, at Christmas, more and more recipients added them to their kitchen counters. Oh, perhaps you didn’t have a high-end granite or marble counter top, maybe you were living in some crappy one-bedroom apartment in Mar Vista with a chipped and scratched Formica counter, but put one of these babies next to your George Foreman Grill and suddenly you’re a gourmet chef and your kitchen belongs in “Martha Stewart Living.”

    After half a dozen years of wiping the dust off these vessels that were supposed to be decorative as well as consumable, their owners started realizing that they’re never actually going to use something that’s sat out on their counter for so long and is starting to show its age – the ring of peperoncini strips just starting to disintegrate adding to that layer of sediment and mystery twigs, leaves and other flotsam at the bottom.

    Thus began the steady exodus of these glass jugs from folks’ homes which continues to this day. Since these full bottles were still arguably decorative, since the layered vegetables are still mostly intact, because the classy red wax seal at the top has never been broken and the contents are completely unused and since it had been received as a gift, few have felt comfortable doing what they should be doing: throwing them the hell out. In the trash!

    And so they started appearing on the shelves of our nations’ thrift stores. Disturbing?  Oh, my, yes.

    Even more disturbing, more frightening is the realization that when thrift stores receive these as donations, they don’t refuse them or throw them out, either! The thrifts put them on the shelves despite the fact that they wouldn’t (or in some cases couldn’t legally) offer other donated food items.

    There these things sit, and each month, more and more and more appear…and nobody buys them. Not only are they up to a decade (or more) old, in addition to their contents beginning a slow deterioration towards cloudy amorphousness like a jar of unopened pork tidbits recovered from the wreck of the Andrea Doria, on top of all that, most of these bottles of vinegar and olive oil are products of China!

    If that’s not enough of a reason to throw them out, nothing is! I don’t know about you, but since that whole baby formula debacle in China a few years ago, I haven’t exactly felt all that comfortable feeding my baby China-grown olives and jalapeños suspended in garlic-infused vinegar. Attention Child Protective Services: Don’t worry, only nourishing American-made vinegar goes in our little Blythe’s Evenflo.

    So while this does of course function as one of our delightfully informative “Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week” posts…

    …Goodwill is not alone in their poor judgment here. Like you, I’m finding these in every thrift store I go to.

    See, these glass receptacles of flavored cooking fluids aren’t likely to be purchased on the secondary market by anyone – not even by the irritating Etsy and Retro-vation set. You can’t “repurpose” bottles of rancid olive oil into something jackasses in thick-framed nerd glasses and Betty Page bangs will embrace. These aren’t old vinyl LPs, brother!

    Plus there’s no reason to stockpile this crap for thirty years in the hope that hipsters of the future will pay high prices for them to create a vintage 2010s kitchen in 2050 – these low-grade vegetables marinated in what amounts to Chinese formaldehyde will be nothing but discolored mush by then. Mush I tell you!

    That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to declare this week National Thrift Store Throw These Things The Hell Out Week.

    And so I’m trusting that all my, what?, six regulars will help make this a reality, even if you personally have to go into every Goodwill, every Salvation Army, every little-old-lady-run church thrift store within a few hundred miles of your house, and heave these demon bottles off the shelves and down onto the floor yourself, in a coast-to-coast explosion of broken glass, capers, garlic cloves and extra-slippery Grade unrefined olive oil! Also, my attorney has immediately cautioned me to tell you to not under any circumstances do what I just wrote!

    So I guess I’m left to appeal directly to the people taking donations at these secondhand stores: For the love of God, good cooking, uncluttered counter tops and non-tacky kitchen décor, please, thrift stores of America – throw these things the hell out as they come in! And throw out the ones your store already has now!

    And while you’re at it, throw out these absurd amalgams of popcorn, rice and dried beans…

    …and the bath oils…

    all the bath oils!

    And get rid of the artisan spice blends in economy quantities…

    and the bottled sugar, cinnamon and syrups…

    …Away with the dried pasta…

    …and for the love of Christ, whatever unholy thing this is…? Burn it!

    Get rid of it all!

    Thank you.

    Well, I think I’ve done my part here for thrift store shoppers and employees alike. And what better way to reward myself for a job well done than by finally cracking open that old store stock jar of Koogle I scored on eBay a few weeks ago and treating myself to a true epicurean delight – a taste sensation I last enjoyed before Kraft discontinued making it back when I was in kindergarten. Like you, I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.

    And between you and me, I’m not even going to bother with bread. A rare treat like this should be enjoyed straight from the jar by spoon or finger  so that no other conflicting tastes might taint its delicate flavor.

    Posted by on April 16, 2012, 12:01 AM.

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