Southern Seen – Short-changed by consumption changes
By: Larry McGehee
When I retired two years ago, my wife feared I would hang around the house, that she would have to fix lunch for me every day, and that I would insist on grocery shopping with her, as many couples our age seem to do.
The horror of my pushing a cart down those aisles she seldom enters and my loading cans and cartons she never buys was especially troubling to her.
Fortunately for both of us, I retained an office my old office hours on campus. But occasionally, I do venture into the grocery store—alone—mainly to marvel at the cornucopia of foods, an abundance that puts to shame the little shops I remember from my youth. Some things I find on my forays puzzle me:
• Why does coffee in what used to be three-pound cans now have 39
ounces instead of 48?
• Why does ice cream in what used to be half-gallon (2 quarts) cartons
now come in 1.75 quart cartons?
• Why do cake mixes come in different sized boxes than those called for in
the recipes my late mother left us?
• Why does vanilla pudding mix come in a different sized box that what my
trusty 50-year-old recipe for instant boiled custard calls for?
• On the other hand, why are there two-liter bottles (2 liters = 67.628045403686 ounces) of soda pop instead of half-gallon bottles (2 quarts=64 ounces)?
A hilarious video clip making the rounds lately is called “Jimmy Dean Complaint.” It is a voice-over recording of a call from a Texan to the 30-year-old sausage company, complaining that 16-ounce sausage packages are no longer being sold and that the 12-ounce packages (even with two dozen eggs) just aren’t enough to feed his family of three men (each over 200 pounds), his plump stock-girl wife, and his 13-year-old daughter. The disgruntled customer threatens to boycott until the one-pound sack returns.
As for me, my curiosity is up about the current size of packages of cheese, jars of jam, and boxes of cereal. And how many doughnuts are there these days in a dozen? My appetite for information needs whetting.
Two recent Southern Seen columns drew unusual mail. Here are the better of the responses:
Responding to a column about my wife’s appearance on Jeopardy in 1965, Rosanne of Charleston wrote:
I was a contestant on Jeopardy in 1969 for four shows with Art Fleming. I’d married young to an Air Force pilot and was the mother of seven small children. I’d gone to a girls’ business/ finishing school but had no college degree, and we never had the extra $s for me to do it. (In those days the military was woefully underpaid.) I took my $2,000 which seems paltry compared to today’s winnings and went on to Auburn U. (Bob was stationed in Montgomery), got my degree in 2 and a bit years, continued on with an M.A. plus, and retired some years back as a tenured assistant professor from The College of Charleston.
One of my sons appeared on the show, and Alex remarked on his “second generation” competition. He won $11,000 but it was not enough to beat the first place winner. Two of our girls have been on “Wheel” winning the wonderful sums of $81,000 (car, trips, $s) and $34,000 in cash. Evidently the apples don’t fall far from the tree! We’ve had other successful TV quiz show appearances, but now my grey hair slows up my response time…perhaps a show for senior citizens may come along.
I didn’t intend this to be a tome but did want to tell you that another son won a “King” scholarship to Wofford years ago. He wound up going to the Naval Academy and is an admiral today, but we were most appreciative to Wofford for helping a family with seven kids. Also, I think I’ll tuck away a can of corn in the pantry, should the need arise. The column about sweet potatoes drew many replies. One retired Methodist minister said that he couldn’t keep his mind on church some Sundays when he was a boy because he would be thinking about the sweet potato that was baking for him in his grandmother’s oven. A retired university chancellor wrote that he didn’t care for the column because it had failed to mention the 25-year-old Sweet Potato Festival in Darlington, SC (“Sweet Potato Capital of the World”). Retired local food services director Bill May (himself a Texan) sent this recipe for Yam Soufflé for 12:
3 cups – cooked mashed sweet potatoes (unseasoned)
1/2 cup – Orange juice (or Sherry)
1 1/4 cups – half-and-half
6 tablespoons – melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon each white pepper and ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon – salt
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
6 eggs, separated
Combine in the mixing bowl the mashed sweet potatoes, orange juice (or Sherry), half-and-half, butter, orange peel, pepper, nutmeg, salt, and sugar; beat until fluffy. This much can be done ahead and the mixture held at room temperature for several hours. Just before baking whip egg whites until they hold short, distinct, moist peaks, carefully fold into potato mixture.
Spoon into about 12 well buttered, individual soufflé dishes (about 5 oz. size) and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. (Or bake in a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish about 45 minutes.) Serve immediately.
Bill’s recipe looks pretty mouth-watering. Served with a 16-ounce package of Jimmy Dean sausage (if the company should start making those again), it ought to feed a family of four large adults and a 13-year-old daughter.
Larry McGehee, professor-emeritus at Wofford College, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in The Messenger 1.29.08