A Cynics Trip to The Grocery Store or veni, vidi, eram victum


Pardon the bad Latin it’s been 40 years since Mr. Angerer’s class in high school.  I was trying to say I came, I saw, and I was conquered.

I went to the grocery store Saturday which of course has recently been re-arranged for marketing reasons, so nothing is where it has always been except the toilet paper which still takes up the same space on the shelf but not on the roller at home.

Because  I awoke with my cynical/sarcasm gene fully activated I noticed several things at the store which quite frankly just don’t seem to make much sense. When I say I awoke with my CS gene fully active It was in overdrive to the point that I wrote  three separate letters to the editor on three different articles before 6 AM and that is out of a Saturday paper that is sadly is now only about 20 pages long when just a few years ago it was closer to 40 not counting ads.

So I,  opinionated and beset by a continual vague uncomfortable feeling that now seems to follow me everywhere headed out for the grocery store. The feeling of which I speak is the feeling that our world is spinning out of control on a tundra of hopelessly frozen brains with  sea cucumbers at the wheel and sea slugs manning the waiting tow trucks. Seemingly it seems that nothing is as it seems anymore even at the grocery store.

I guess this is more cynical than sarcastic but has anyone else noticed that the Salvation Army Kettles are now manned, womanned, personned (note my spell checker will allow manned, but not womanned or personned.. signs of  evil  hidden bias are everywhere)whatever, by children instead of business-men or the homeless. I  listened in as the father who was watching over the three children at the kettle gave them their bells and their instructions on how to do maximum monetary damage to incoming and outgoing customers. On the way in they were told to , ” make eye contact early, pick someone when they get out of their car and watch them “with a hopeful expression” all the way from the parking lot to the curb and then say Merry Christmas(after all it is the Salvation Army)  before they get too close to you so that they have time before they get to you to feel guilty and to get out money.  On the way out it was suggested that they ask if the homeward bound shoppers had any change from their shopping that they would be billing to donate to the hungry and less fortunate.

As an ex 8th grade teacher I am pretty immune to guilt inducement but these kids were good. Not as good as the magazine salesman I encountered when I was in college that had me believing that I was spitting on the flag, hated mothers, apple pie, and was probably a child abuser if I didn’t buy at least one subscription.   This morning because I am not totally immune and  I didn’t want to feel like a cad(egads I just used “cad” and even worse “egads”  how old have I become) I succumbed and put some money in the kettle on the way in, but on the way out in a truly cowardly fashion I was carefull to not make eye contact with anyone, dodged sideways out of the door and walked very  fast, having learned a valuable lesson on the way in. Next time I go to the store I will need to remember to turn off my hearing aids before I get out of  the car.

In the store itself the dairy section was most troubling.  I first noticed that there was sour cream that was no-fat! Not low-fat, no-fat and right next to it on the shelf was a carton of no-fat Half and Half.  How do they do that…. one of them,  sour cream even has cream in the name but it is apparently made without cream because cream is fat!  And no-fat  half and half  which I know used to be made of half cream and half whole milk must now be made of something entirely different.. I didn’t look to see what the two halves were in the half and half  but next time I will, Possibly both halves are skim milk. (marketing language is wonderful)

Then there was the corn syrup that had a big splashing attention grabbing ad on the front that said , “No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Huh? It’s corn syrup but it’s not high fructose corn syrup.  What does High fructose corn syrup look like or act like. I can’t get the “low” fructose stuff out of the bottle or off the spoon as it is.  Is there a special way to move high fructose corn syrup.  When will someone start selling high maltose or high galactose corn syrup and will that be a target of what I take to be  one of the strangest marketing campaigns in history as from what I understand fructose is fructose no matter where it comes from.

Close to the “low fructose” corn syrup there  was a homey looking crockery appearing jug labeled “Maple Syrup” that,  it turns out did have high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar some preservatives and some maple flavoring but no maple syrup.

I also pondered the idea not original to me that Catsup or Ketchup is man’s most perfect food. I checked the display and discovered 7 different brands of ketchup but they were all still just  catsup.  Contrast this with the mustard display that had 15 or 20 different flavor varieties. Brown, Yellow,Grey,wine, horseradish you name it mustard seed has been cross-bred with it and yet catsup over the years  has retained its   pure-bred status. Apparently because over hundreds of years no one has yet successfully mass marketed a flavor alternative or messed with the original recipe very much.  So I believe it should replace milk or is it eggs as “Natures most perfect food.”

I started counting things that advertised , No High fructose corn syrup or No-fat  and at the end of two aisles I had 12 No High fructoses and 7 no-fats. I believe that the one common denominator on all of the foods that I counted  was that none had ever had high fructose corn syrup or fat in them to begin with.  Jello for example advertises that it has no fat, interesting that they don’t mention horse hooves.

I also noticed that margarine was labeled as  having no ” trans fat,” no “hydrogenated oils.” and “no cholesterol” so far so good but then printed right there on the label with the other unholy triumvirate of fats it says , “Gluten Free.” When did either margarine or butter ever have Gluten in it maybe they were talking about the cardboard box or the paper that wraps the sticks.

Stop it, Stop it NOW!

And whats the deal with “Sea Salt”  where do they think regular salt comes from?  Oh it’s the same stuff only older I look forward to a marketing ploy in the future  that says “Aged and Seasoned Sea Salt”

On to the drug department where I discovered the toothpaste revolution.  I had no idea that our mouths were so needy.   And the display of whitening strips/products was huge.  Who needs  ’em , wouldn’t it be cheaper to just gargle with a little diluted Clorox, same ingredients same effect and then you could recycle the Clorox by spitting it  into the washing machine to give your gym socks that wintery fresh whiteness and aroma.  I’m not even going to mention what I think of the acid erosion marketing that we are being subjected to right now that indicates that even vegetarians have to worry about the healthful foods they eat. TV ads never lie and I have seen that fruits and vegetables will destroy your teeth if you don’t buy Concreto Toothpaste and use it at least 4 times a day to  save your mouth from  an acid erosion catastrophe.  While leaving the drug department I noticed a pack of razor blades for a Mach 4 razor. There are people alive today who bought groceries for  a family of four for a week for less money than that package of razor blades.

On to the bottled water My father was  clearly non-plused by the idea of selling water. When bottled water first became popular he said ” Who wouldn’t give you a drink of water if you were thirsty,” sadly the truth is that now many won’t.  My biggest beef with bottled water is the bottles themselves.  The companies have become aware that they are skating on thin ice with their demographic and the environmental impact of the plastic involved in the bottles so in order to counter act a bad image they have made their bottle walls so thin that you can’t possibly open them without spilling that precious commodity on the ground where it probably becomes pollution because it has been in contact with chemicals in the bottle.  Some people spend money in some markets for water that was taken from the same municipal water system that sends water to their homes.  I’m going to skip my thoughts on flavored water, vitamin water, sport water, carbonated water, and my favorite new kind where they add minerals back into the water after processing it to remove them to give it that natural taste.  Like Calvin Klein said, ” it takes makeup to look natural. ”

On the way out of the store I noticed the cafe was advertising several specials.   Almost all grocery store serve food now. Do you ever wonder how that happened? Why did grocery stores go into the prepared food business and when did it happen? Most restaurants don’t sell groceries but almost all grocery stores have restaurants.   A cynic might note that grocery stores started having restaurants just about the same time that the federal government starting requiring “sell by” or “use by” dates on foods.

My wife will attest that I pay no attention to dates on food and empirical evidence would seem to indicate that your nose or at least my nose is as good as a date stamp because I am still alive and clearly remember watching my mother slicing mold off bacon, cheese, and  bread or regularly performing the nose test on many items before we ate them, so draw your own conclusions.

Some may be thinking aha I knew it all the time, all that bad food caused  , “brain damage,”  but I don’t think so because I was almost in the upper half of my high school graduating class,I knows the rest of them was really smart and I gone to college too.

Next week I’ll go to a hardware store and try to figure out how one screw eye that weighs about as much as a pin-feather  can possibly cost 39 cents and McDonalds can give away a talking toy with a battery that was manufactured and packaged in China, shipped across the ocean on a ship, handled numerous times by highly paid employees and then hauled across the country in a truck all for the purpose, according to the current news, of driving our children into life of  obesity through the evil medium of happy meals.

Which leads to another possible essay with a nod to McCarthy on Happy Meals as a communist plot to destroy us from within.

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About safrisri

I was a school teacher until retirement. I have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. Now I'm the guy sitting on the porch with an opinion on everything.
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One Response to A Cynics Trip to The Grocery Store or veni, vidi, eram victum

  1. HaLin says:

    I am a few decades younger to you but many of my friends seem to think I exhibit a level of grumpiness they associate with people advanced in years. Whereas I see humour in grumpiness, they see grumpiness in humour. Glad to see that you are a similar bent. I was nodding all the way to the bottom of the post! 🙂

    The water thing gets to me, all the time. ‘Crustacean gobbledygook slowly formed over several thousand years at the foothills of the (insert your favourite mountain range)…. gobbledygook gobbledygook’, says the bottle of water. But they remind me, gravely, of a ‘use by’ date… I prefer opening the tap, filling a glass and downing it….I’m alive and writing. I suppose people took to buying bottled water because it seems cool (uh…I drink only Evian’).

    Enjoyable read!

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