Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Eating in the 1960s, Modern Style

Good news and bad news for me Monday night and Tuesday: I finally found the place on the almost impossible-to-navigate Arizona DES web site that tells whether my unemployment has been paid out. Yup. $240 was paid on October 1. The bad news? It was paid into a debit card account, and to date I have not received the card. But you know, groceries can't be put off while bureaucracy grinds along. So late Tuesday afternoon, while the dogs waited anxiously for their trip to the dog park, I went shopping.

Not my usual purchases.

Way back in the very early days of my first blog, Musings from Mâvarin, I wrote about wanting to go "shopping in the 1960s." I was talking about how great it would be to hop in a time machine and pay 1960s prices for mint-condition midcentury modern furniture, early Marvel comics and every doll, toy, etc. I ever had or wanted. (I'm not sure I owned up to that last part in the actual entry.) I was thinking about that premise today as I shopped, because I wasn't going for the foods I usually buy. In essence, I was trying to go grocery shopping in the 1960s.

The idea actually came from a little snippet in Time magazine:

U.S. Cheap Food Gets a Boost As the economy tanks, companies that specialize in inexpensive food products see an opportunity: [...]

OH, YEAAHH! Kool-Aid's most recent TV ad ended with the tagline "Delivering more smiles per gallon." Second-quarter sales were up, which "speaks to the value that Kool-Aid represents," says a spokeswoman.

MMM, MMM, GOOD A new Campbell's Soup and Kraft Singles marketing campaign is coming soon, with the slogan "Warm hearts without stretching budgets." Campbell's stock rose on Sept. 29 as the Dow Jones dropped 778 points.

Kool-Aid and cereal and Campbell's soup, and presumably Kraft Dinner (as we called it) and Chef Boyardee. Sounds like 1960s food to me! When I was a kid, my mom served a lot of Kraft Dinner and canned Franco American Spaghetti, part of the convention that a "balanced" meal should include a meat, a vegetable and a starch. The vegetable was seldom fresh, unless it was a salad made primarily from iceberg lettuce. Cooked vegetables invariably were purchased either canned or in the form of a small, frozen, cardboard-wrapped brick. And oh, yeah: lunch was Campbell's soup and a bologna, salami or ham sandwich, usually with one slice of Oscar Meyer lunchmeat.

Now, these food selections by my parents stem partly from the fact that options were more limited back then. Produce wasn't trucked in from distant countries, just from Florida. Frozen dinners were from Swanson (the original "TV Dinners" and Hungry-Man upgrades) and Banquet, period. I don't remember seeing natural style peanut butter until college, or yogurt, or microwavable anything; things like designer coffee and Chunky Monkey ice cream arrived even later. We've also lost a few options over the years (Koogle, anyone? How about Crispy Critters?), but overall the choices are wider and better and potentially healthier.

And more expensive. In light of that Time piece, I'm realizing that my parents, both children of the Depression, were probably economizing with all those canned goods. Well, fair enough. With cash flow slowed to a trickle here at Casa Blocher, I need to economize, too. So I went around Safeway deliberately looking for cheap foods, using those childhood memories as my guide. I will never again buy canned peas, but I did buy Kraft Dinner and Campbell's Chunky Soups (introduced in the 1970s, actually), and Oscar Meyer lunchmeats.

Of course, you can't really shop in the 1960s, not even for groceries. Even if I could stand mushy peas and Wonder Bread, I couldn't walk out with a cart full of groceries for $20, as my dad used to do most weeks. Put it this way: buying the soda that was on sale and other bargains using by Safeway card netted me a "savings" of $15.00.

And of course, I didn't carry it all home in sturdy brown paper bags.

It's well past 7:00 AM as I'm finishing this entry, even more of an all-nighter than has been my habit these past few weeks. You know why, don't you? After the grocery shopping, I did take the dogs out, and was late for the debate on tv. I watched the second half with my laptop actually in my lap for once, and then MSNBC commentary shows while updating the Round Robin links on my sidebar. I found it impossible to concentrate on the debate while making dinner and messing around on the computer, and even during the rerun of the debate my attention wandered at times. After watching it and the political postgame shows, I designed this:

I also caught up on the Twitter feed, which took all night. I've been following the huffingtonpost, nprpolitics, tpmmedia, politifact and other tweats, most of it include links to articles. I end up reading most of the articles, and that takes a while.

7:35 AM. Can I go to bed now?



Debbie said...

Love the button :)

Martha said...

Your memories of 60's food is right on target, I'm remember eating the same stuff, ugh! Sorry you have to resort to 60's food - glad no paper bags were harmed in anyway! Nighty night! :-)