Tupperware Love Affair

The dog ate my favorite Tupperware bowl.  Several times a week I reached for it – the biggest one Tupperware made – but it wasn’t there anymore and it hadn’t been there for years.  I had a sense memory of it and kept reaching for an imaginary replacement.  That bowl could do everything.

It was bigger than a breadbox, bigger than any of my cupboards, which is why it lived on top of the fridge.  Then we got our sheepdog, Emily, who destroyed it. She ate my beloved Tupperware Jadeite Fix N Mix Bowl. My fault for putting leftovers on the patio for her in that bowl.  She never outgrew the chewing stage, and how much of a challenge was a plastic bowl when this dog could chew a corner off the house?

I’m not the only person who’s a little bit crazy about my favorite Tupperware.  My mother threatened to make my brother and me sign a contract before we could take home leftovers in one of her prized pieces.

So decades after Emily ate my bowl I still hadn’t replaced it, and one day I spotted a duplicate in a thrift shop.  This one isn’t the greenish color, but it’s identical in every other way.  It’s now on top of my fridge where it belongs and when it’s not working, it holds bags of chips and snacks.

One Christmas, I wanted to get my granddaughter her own giant Tupperware bowl and fill it with cookie cutters, but when I glanced at the catalogs I found they’d changed.  I didn’t wait to see if they were better, I just determined to find an old one.  There they are on ebay under “vintage.”  I bid on one in the original color and I lost, bid and lost, bid and lost, grew weary of the chase and finally gave up and overpaid in a “buy it now” column” and got one of the original Tupperware bowls in a mustard color.

Now my daughter and her daughter have their own behemoth bowl that doesn’t fit into any of the cupboards in their city apartment.  They’ll thank me later. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Trader Joes – Finally!

Our little town is one of a string of small towns in this part of Northern California that together have finally come up with the magic formula to cause a Trader Joe’s to open  nearby.  That statement, of course, has nothing to do with the way these deals really happen.   There was intense lobbying from both sides and parking studies and all kinds of rigmarole involved, but we TJ’s fans don’t care, just so the danged store opens as planned in August. 

A friend of mine worked in development for a nearby city that pined for its own Trader Joe’s.  The board she reported to kept asking her, “Can’t you get us a Trader Joe’s?” and since she’d tried many times, she knew the answer, which was “We don’t fit their expansion profile.” 

Yet many in my community didn’t want the store, complained about what it will do to traffic patterns, etc.  While checking online to find the actual opening date, I encountered a website loaded with comments for and against TJ’s coming to this area, with some commenters asking, “What’s the big deal?  It’s  just another grocery store.”

Answers are plentiful at a TJ’s fan site.  Yes, here’s a grocery store with its own fan site, devoted solely to loving all things Trader Joe’s.

I don’t know why I feel the way I do about them. When I lived near one of the stores in Southern California, I wasn’t there every week, and it’s true they don’t always have the same things in stock trip after trip.  If that’s what you require from your grocery store, you and TJ’s may not be a match.   

A shopping trip to Trader’s is much more of a grab bag (awful wordplay – I apologize) where we make a list based on ads (their Fearless Flyer and their radio ads are fun) or our particular needs, and then end up wandering the aisles finding cleverly packaged, well-displayed stuff we never knew we wanted.  Yes, it’s the way many grocery stores entice us, but with TJ’s distinctly, deceptively laid-back spirit.

While all the comments online about our new store aren’t positive, many of them express the same kind of odd loyalty I feel toward this company.  Without blinders, with full knowledge that much of their success is in the marketing of their “brand”  (and their store brands) still I have never been disappointed with their merchandise and certainly not with the entire shopping experience. 

Parking?  That’s another subject for another time. The opening of a Trader’s will turn a too-small lot into an exercise in patience.

But for now, I’m glad they’ve overcome all hurdles tossed at them and I’m happy the welcome mat is out.   I’ll be in one of those cars looking for a parking spot.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Weather-watching obsession – does this make me an ol’ coot?

Watching the weather is a favorite hobby of mine.  I don’t generally get my weather reports from television, but I might as well be one of those people we see in comedies, who fixate on the Weather Channel and sit there for hours, soaking up data about places they’ve never been, never intend to go, and if they did go there, they wouldn’t know anyone. Those people are portrayed as coots. (One definition of  a coot:   simple-minded.)  A weather fanatic will say to no one in particular,  “I knew it.  I knew that system was gonna come in early.”  

Except for not watching the Weather Channel (tornadoes and hurricanes are exceptions that demand TV coverage) I may be one of those people.

I check the Weather Channel’s website several times a day for places where friends and relatives live.  Every trip for me begins with www.weather.com where I can fill in the name of any city and see what’s predicted for the next ten days. 

It might be an inherited trait, since my country born-and-bred father had a set of weather instruments on the back porch and glanced at them  several times a day, always remarking out loud on what he saw there.  He often disputed what the dials told him, and he was always right.  He could feel changes in his bones. 

Something about working out in the fields as a boy and his own deep respect for nature had permanently tuned him in to the time for sowing and the time for reaping. His instincts often did not agree with the calendar. He’d wake up and announce that he was going out to our vegetable garden. “I better go pull up the radishes and the collards before the sun hits ’em again.”   And this while rain was still falling.   He knew when a big change was coming.

I don’t have the knack he did for predicting imminent change, but I’m always hopeful about it. Our problems may stick around, but at least we can count on the weather to change.  When my diagnosis is boredom,  just watching the weather offers promise. 

One reason I love  my part of Northern California (and envy New Englanders)  is that the weather plays tricks on the forecasters.  Mother and Father Nature send along surprises  for us several times a month.  We’ll get rain when the sky was clear a minute ago.  Big winds arrive high up in the treetops, when the lower limbs don’t even know it yet.   Fog rolls in and out, but not always on the schedule we expect.  I’m disappointed when the fog fails to appear.  Like the redwood trees in the back yard, I rely on absorbing fog through my pores.  

I like being surprised by the weather.  Keeping the family’s weather-watching tradition alive  (my brother does this too) the first thing I do when the day arrives is go see what the weather is like outside, and I do it again before sleeping.  It seems I’ve been making my own notations out loud to no one in particular, without realizing it.   (Another definition of “coot” might be “predictable.”)

I haven’t been a grandmother all that long and sometimes I forget a small person is nearby. They’re always listening, aren’t they?  One recent morning while I was visiting at her house, I opened the drapes and stood there for a minute with my coffee cup.  From the little girl who’d snuck up behind me I heard, 

“Hammy, you forgot to say ‘It’s a beautiful day.'”

Generations of weather-watchers later, we’ve added one more.

Ó Anita Garner

Children at funerals

What is the advantage in taking young children to funerals?  In my humble opinion, their presence exposes them to indelible images that may later prove even harder to deal with.

I was raised in the Deep South during the 1950’s and our culture of dealing with death and the departed included the family’s insistence on an open casket if at all possible.  Coffin lids were closed only in cases of extreme disfigurement.  After the service at the home of family members or in the church social hall where casseroles were consumed, much was made over how the deceased appeared in death.  “Didn’t she look good?  And words meant to be a comfort – “They did such a good job with his hair, didn’t they?  Looked just like he did last week.”

Funerals were loud affairs with sobbing and moans mixed in among the amens and exhortations from the preacher.  Demonstrations of grief were many and varied.  Eulogists offered proclamations about the virtues of the departed while singers invariably waved handkerchiefs around – using them to mop sweat during humid summer events  or to dab tears away when the singer knew the departed, and sometimes a handkerchief was merely one more dramatic device. 

Good music at our funerals was a matter of pride and if a home congregation didn’t boast singers of the right caliber, a call went out to find someone who could offer the best interpretation of the songs the family chose.  A funeral was quite a show and I guess our people considered them a healthy way to get it all out, because folks would respond to a wail with, “That’s right!  Let it go, sister!”

Children attended these services.  I was a child myself when my preacher-father required me to sing at funerals.  Very soon (I started singing at funerals at the age of 9) I learned to avert my eyes because gazing on a coffin, even when I’d never met the departed, was disconcerting.

Some people today believe that taking children to funerals provides “closure” or at least a step toward that desired condition.  I believe nothing can provide closure to a fatherless or motherless child.  Of course many parent-less children grow up to thrive and even devote resources to championing help for other children without parents.

But all of this is to say that I wouldn’t voluntarily open up a discussion with a young child based on the theme, “He’s gone and he’s never coming back.”  Those discussions will come soon enough and will likely last a lifetime.

Ó Anita Garner

Food Network Changes

I’m not so fond of Food Network’s new direction.  The other day I sat down to watch a cake decorating show, but this one turned into a show about engineering. Could the bakers/designers duplicate (in cake) a favorite car?   On the next show, they built a replica of a DJ’s sound board.    

I like the cooking process so much that I’ll watch enthralled while someone makes a sandwich, but I don’t want to watch cooks building structures out of food.

Food Network used to be a comforting, homey background that could be left on in a room while I did other things.  When a recipe caught my eye, I’d  stop and watch.   Then a couple of DVRs came into my life and now I tape all the shows I really want to see and I notice I’m taping fewer from Food Network. 

Some of their changes are interesting, but the new shows that involve odd/bizarre  foods or non-foods lose me immediately.

The last time I sat down with a cup of coffee to visit with Food Network in real time, there were competitions going on for most of the day. I’m not an Iron Chef fan.  I’m also not a fan of any of the shows where cooks work against the clock, get critiqued and then eliminated.  The shows where  Food Network chooses their own “new stars?”  I’d rather be left out of those decisions.  Cooking as a sport doesn’t grab me.

I like shows where the dishes are named and then prepared and then tasted and the host is personable.  Favorites are Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and Paula Deen (when she cooks – not when she hosts parties) Nigella Lawson (all of her shows so far) and a few others where the love of food and the cooking of food are stressed.   Emeril is now cut back, Bobby Flay spends more time with food “challenges” and where’s Mario?  Food preparation is giving way to food-as-adventure and competitions and chefs serving as travel hosts.  

Dear Food Network, here’s what I like best:  Cooking.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009