Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, March 17, 2006

Eating Our Old 

"Orphan brands" are famous or one-time famous brands that were gobbled up by conglomerates and then when their conglomerate was gobbled up by a bigger conglomerate, spit out as tired, worn-out, obsolete, old fashioned and not fit for the demographic du jour.

So sad.

But in this wonderful capitalistic snake pit of ours, there are conglomerates that specialize in snapping up expectorated old-fashioned brands and keeping them alive.

Colby Cosh links to a Telegraph story about British orphan brands. He calls them "objectively horrid and useless British groceries", but I prefer orphan brands. Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie isn't going to moisten many eyes on this side of the pond, but apparently it was once a big part the nutrition pyramid over there. Camp Coffee is mostly sugar and chicory, but in the post-war era it was all many people could afford. Now its sales are soaring and it costs more than most major brands.

And that's what this is all about: nostalgia eating. Nostalgiac unguents and potions are big, too, but, of course, the things we once put in our mouths are the things we're most attached to.

Anone who's ever gotten the Vermont Country Store catalog in the mail knows this. There's an on-line version, but I can't imagine surfing around looking for the kind of things they sell. But if you see Bit-O-Honeys sitting right there on the page you're much more likely to have to have one. What about Boston Fruit Slices? Those were pretty good. Quite tart, but coated in sugar chunks the size of your fingernail. And Necco Wafers. Now I think I've actually seen them in the movies recently, but not in this size.

There's two other candies on their list that have a kind of post-modern appeal. You may or may not remember eating them. I don't. I think they were before my time, or, possibly, like Malomars they were regional items. But Walnettos are more likely to be remembered as the basis of TV catch phrase from thirty years ago than as an actual treat and Squirrel Nut Zippers were actual candies, not just an idiosyncratic band.

They've also got some toys you haven't seen in awhile, antiquated underthings, little mechanical devises with which your grandmother manipulated various personal areas to remove unwanted items like hair and bunions and things humans don't even have anymore, like wens.

The Goddess uses the catalog to get her Bag Balm. It's an item farmers use on dairy cow's udders to prevent cracking. The Goddess uses it on her feet. At least that's what she tells me.

What happens usually with nostalgia is that the trip it takes you on quickly becomes labored and the delight becomes a joke and fondness veers off toward contempt. Now the Vermont Country Store catalog has been around for many years, but the signs were there, right on the front page of the internet version with this featured item: I don't think Grandma ever used Tired Old Ass Soak.

Could be wrong, but I think this is a faux Orphan Brand.

I had to add this one. It's Tetterine Ointment. "Tried-and-True Tetterine Relieves Men's Personal Discomforts" by which they mean athlete's foot, jock itch, and ring worm. Okay, but why make it green?

Finally, This stuff is great, So buy a case, It takes the hair, Right off your face. Burma-Shave.
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