A Brand New Day

When I was growing up, my mother was fierce and feisty about her particular brands. It was brand loyalty to the thousandth degree. Only I didn’t realize it then. It just was.

In our house, we only used Bounty paper towels to wipe up. Our spaghetti dinners were made with Ronzoni and Ragu. Our PB and Js were made with Skippy and Smuckers. Tide cleaned our clothes and Charmin cleaned our bottoms. Electrolux (along with my mother) sucked up the dirt. Tuna was Bumble Bee, cookies were Chips Ahoy or Oreos. We drank Coke or 7-Up and my dad concocted his nightly Greyhound cocktail with Smirnoff and Tropicana grapefruit. We were Welch’s grape juice people, Marcus Dairy milk drinkers and Pepperridge Farm bread eaters.

There were literally NO exceptions. No sale, coupon or low introductory price could keep my mother from her brands. Though on a few occasions after we beat her down, we did get Wonder bread PB and Js for a field trip. (I think the bread is still stuck to the roof of my mouth. Ick.) We stayed that way even on the occasions when my dad went shopping alone. He had to hightail it back to the store for the “right” thing.

I know my mother was just a little bit frustrated by the commercials on tv that had us clamoring for whatever new item (say Frankenberry or that PBandJ all mixed together thing) hit the stores. She stuck to her guns and alas, we never got them. Unless we went to a friend’s house. I remember tasting my first Little Debbie snack at a friend’s. I was in heaven. (We were Hostess snack people and that little girl on the package of the competitor over at Julia’s house made me want to try them all. Yeah.)

I did still love to accompany my mother on grocery trips. (Even in high school. Whatever. Geek.) There was no big super sized supermarket for her. She was loyal as a Beagle to her neighborhood independent grocer. So much so that when we entered the store, the store manager greeted her and we were allowed to go into the back to the butcher’s department so she could pick out her cut. I remember always being just a little grossed out by the bloody apron on the butcher, a superbly friendly man named Nick whose sweet smile seemed to make up for the fact that he was usually wielding a knife.

Even though the store is not there anymore, it’s now a CVS, I can still remember the aisles and see in my mind’s eye where things were on the shelves. Because we only picked certain brands, it was easy.

And so my mother’s four little apples really didn’t fall far from the tree. As younger adults, out on our own, we all pretty much stayed loyal to the brands we knew growing up. My sisters became unwilling participants in a forced brand choice when they went to California. Some brands just aren’t available west of the Mississippi and they had to take what they could get. My one sister still has my mother send an occassional box of Devil Dogs because she can’t get them out there in LA LA land.

Now for me, sure I was the product of my mother’s choices, too when I first headed out on my own. I stocked my apartment with the same brands as I had growing up (when I had money that wasn’t being used for more important things like wine and beer.)

But then I came to realize that there were so many choices out there, and most were easier on the wallet than the ones I was used to. So I ventured out. And now, well, it’s a free for all when it comes to brands I use. I think my mom just might be appalled looking into my pantry.

Sorry Mom. I eat Jif now. I still like Smuckers, but your grandkids’ butts are cleaned with generic t.p. and the stains on their clothes are treated with whatever detergent is cheapest. And the pasta in that yummy lasagna you ate? It was the Stop n’ Shop brand on sale for 88 cents. Though if Ronzoni was cheaper, I’d be sure to buy that. Just for you. (Ok, just cause it’s cheaper.)

I know that brand loyalty was certainly (at least for my mom) a sign of the times. I think many housewives had the same mind to stick with the brands they knew and loved. Companies loved them back for it. There are still die hard fans of some thing or another who never waiver, I am sure. (Mac or PC anyone?) I wonder how many still do. I think in our economic situation, you sort of take what you can get. Or there’s a buyout, and well then you have no choice if you want something in particular.

I suppose I could go on, but there really was a reason for the subject of this particular blog post.  I swear.

Here it is.

With the cooling weather around here, I had a hankering for a roasted chicken with some root veggies. So I got the chicken (on sale), the cheapest carrots and a loose red onion and sweet potato (or yam, not sure), buttered (Stop &Shop brand)  and garlicked the skin, sprinkled some IGA store brand coriander over the top and BAM! Into the oven it went. I dreamed of how good it would taste as the smell of fall wafted through my house.

When it was done, I had a ton of liquid in the pan in which to make gravy. Roast chicken needs gravy, no?

I turned the burners on, stirred the pan drippings and reached for my cornstarch. I knew it was cornstarch by the familiar Argo name I remember my mother used when I was a kid. So I diluted it with chicken broth and poured it in the pan.

It bubbled a little. And I said Hmm. Oh well. I stirred and stirred and well, it just didn’t smell like the gravy I was used to. But, hey. It will be fine.

So the rest of dinner was ready and I was cleaning up as I brought my gravy to a boil. I took my little container of Argo and happened to glance just a little closer. It was not cornstarch at all. It was Argo baking powder. Who the hell buys Argo baking powder anyway? I guess it was me. It was probably on sale.

The cornstarch, I came to realize later, was in the little white and yellow box in the pantry, a Stop n Shop brand I bought on the cheap.

Yup. I got tripped up by the old brand thing, now didn’t I?

I think my mom is probably laughing at me, drinking her cup of Lipton tea as she pats her own box of Argo cornstarch.

It’s okay. My gravy was never as good as hers anyway.

3 thoughts on “A Brand New Day

  1. So funny Maria! I walked OUT of Stop-n-Shop last week when they didn’t have my beloved ricotta cheese Pollyo! I thought, “Did somebody die??”

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