Jewish World Review July 14, 2000 / 11 Tamuz, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHILE IN THE SUPERMARKET recently, it occurred to me that I don’t buy most of the things they sell in there. Oh, I buy my share of food, all right, but given the variety of items they stock, I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s available. I guess I do what most of us do, tend to get the same old reliables week after week -- you know, the things I like to eat. Looking around at all the products that I DON’T buy, however, I’m amazed that there are people who DO buy those things and actually eat them.
There must be ninety-seven thousand different kinds of cold cereal. Well, dozens and dozens, anyway. I’m not exactly a big cereal eater, but I will have a bowl every now and then, usually when I don’t know what else I feel like eating. I know it sounds boring, but of the dozens of choices on the shelf, my wife and I still gravitate to the same two brands that we’ve been eating for years. She likes raisin bran, I like Grape-Nuts. Once in a great while we’ll try something else, but not often. Mostly we buy what we know we like.
But SOMEBODY is eating the other stuff. Somebody is eating “Barley Cinnamon Oat Crisps” and “Golden Shredded Mini Wheats” and “Honey Dipped Rice Waffles” and “Apple-flavored Corn Frosties.” Most cereal brands are designed strictly for children. It’s a pretty safe bet that any cereal box with a cartoon character or a celebrity on it is aimed at kids. And notice how many brands use the words “chocolate,” and “frosted” in their name. I guarantee that if they came out with a cereal called “Sugar Frosted Chocolate Iced Monster Fudgie Flakes” it would be a major hit.
There are an awful lot of puzzling canned foods on the supermarket shelves including several canned “mystery meat” products that seem to have been around forever. The most famous one, of course, is Hormel Spam. First introduced in 1937, this stuff has lately undergone a complete PR image makeover. You can now get Spam in other flavors besides the original (whatever the heck that would be). They also have Spam Lite for the health conscious. You can even go to its web site, where you can read up on the history of Spam -- yessir, all the information about the stuff that you’ve always wondered about. Then, of course, there’s the Spam fan club. And don’t forget the Spam gift catalog from which you may order any number of wonderful Spam merchandise items. Just the thing for that hard to please woman or man in your life. I’m not kidding, folks. All of this is true.
The Ingredients listed on the Spam label, in case you were wondering, are pork with ham and flavorings and preservatives. Which part of the pig the pork comes from is anybody’s guess. I have my own suspicions, but I’ll keep them to myself.
The main rival to Spam (I would assume after dog food) is Armour Treet -- another canned mystery meat. Treet’s ingredients include chicken/pork along with the usual preservatives and flavorings. I assume that “chicken/pork” are two separate animals, but then again in the canned and processed meat business one can never be quite sure what these people are capable of.
After Spam and Treet you’ve got your Deviled Ham spread and other assorted chicken, meat, fish, and basicly anything else that can be chopped, ground and minced into a paste.
If you aren’t salivating yet, just wait ... I’ve saved the best for last. The hands down winner of the most enigmatic food product found in the supermarket goes to ... (we need a drum roll here) ... Libby’s Potted Meat Product. Did someone say, “what in the world is that?”
I’m glad you asked. Here are the exact ingredients as they appear on the label: “Mechanically separated chicken, partially defatted cooked pork fatty tissue, beef tripe, partially defatted cooked beef fatty tissue, artificial flavorings and preservatives. Mmm-um! Man, that’s good eatin’!
These canned food products are not even all that cheap to buy -- for about the same price you could buy a package of bologna or a couple of cans of soup or something. Which makes me think that whoever is buying and eating this stuff is doing so because they really, really like it. That’s scary. But it also tells us something else --- people will swallow almost anything if it is neatly packaged and cleverly promoted.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.
07/07/00: In Your Face Advertising