Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grammy's Pot Pie and Wild Buffalo Grill

I've promised reportage from Europe, complete with photographs and descriptions and what do you get? Musings on pet food.

At times, I can be such a tease.

The most recent excursion, which likely will get a follow-up post, is to Princeton, New Jersey to catch an exhibit of Kurt Schwitters' work. This 562-mile journey was estimated to take 9 & 1/4 hours, but owing to a tire blow-out on the Interstate, incredibly rusty lug nuts and a missed turn onto Highway 9 instead of 11 in Pennsylvania, the trip took stretched out to 13 hours. Some of those hours included driving rains at night, complete with gusty winds, thunder and lightning.

While waiting for the mounting of 2 new tires the next morning, we wandered the upscale strip mall. The shop that caught our attention was named Utopia for Pets. It featured trendy toys, garments and foods for Fluffy and Rover, or more likely Horace and Killer, Garfield and Bear, given the recent trends in pet-naming.

Marketing strategies that play right into our anthropomorphic tendencies were on full display. Check out the very masculine and feminine appeal of these dry dog foods by Solid Gold. See if you can figure out which is which:

Say, this is kinda hard.

The full line of Merrick's was particularly intriguing. They produce expensive canned cat and dog foods retailing in the neighborhood of $2.49 a can. While the Merrick pet foods are highly rated for their nutritional content, their marketing is decidedly tailored to a specific clientele. Besides the main lines of canned and dry food, there are seasonal varieties. Canned dog and cat food made especially for spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Check out the description written for Burger Pie and Sweetie Fries and the other summer seasonals:
"The summer beckons all of her children to shake off the shackles of spring and frolic in her warm ways. Sun screen, sand in your toes and deliciously healthy outdoor meals are in the sights, sounds and tastes of Summer. Merrick's Summer Seasonals are the very essence of fine Summer cuisine, captured in a can. Give your dog a treat - let him dine outside!"

When I asked the clerk whether guys purchased the more manly sounding varieties like Cowboy Cookout and Working Dog Stew, she pointed out that shopping for dog food is a task that most often falls to the lady of the house. That may help explain why the most popular variety is Grammy's Pot Pie.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

More regulation, less filling

Anyone that follows this column knows of my great disdain for the current governor of Wisconsin, the state where I grew up. Scott Walker's misguided attempts to reshape a state once known for its progressive politics into a bastion for corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of everyone else takes some bizarre twists and turns.

You've gotta love this latest move.

Tucked into the latest state budget is a little-noticed provision to overhaul regulation of the beer industry.

In a state known for beer, the provision will make it more difficult for Wisconsin’s burgeoning craft breweries to operate and expand their business by barring them from selling directly to restaurants and liquor stores, and preventing them from selling their own product onsite.

The state currently has about 60 craft breweries and they sell about 5% of the beer consumed in Wisconsin. The new provision would treat craft breweries like their mega-corporate competitors. Small breweries would be required to use a wholesale distributor, a.k.a. a middleman, to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for say, a brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire and pay a third party to do it instead.

Not surprisingly, this provision was quietly slipped into the massive budget legislation without any consultation from independent craft brewers, who are justifiably outraged by the proposal. One group that did have input is one of the world’s largest beer makers, MillerCoors.

Chicago-based MillerCoors, which operates a brewery and eastern division headquarters in Milwaukee, supports the proposal because it shares concerns with wholesale distributors about the possibility of Anheuser-Busch buying wholesalers throughout the country, according to company spokesman James Wright.

Craft brewers contend that the real competition MillerCoors is trying to protect itself against the growing craft beer market.

It does not go unnoticed by this blogger that the reason that Governor Scott Walker, who calls himself a champion of small business, has sided with the big boys may have something to do with their largish campaign contributions. MillerCoors, which is a joint venture with foreign-owned SABMiller, contributed $22,675 to Walker's campaign.

As for me, you can rest assured no Miller or Coors products will grace my lips or be purchased by this household.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

1,114 Photographs Later

I'm back - in fact, I've been back for two weeks. An embarrassment of riches and some minor technical issues have kept me from my blog. Pesky things, those technical glitches.

Just to bring this tale up to speed, my one and only child just finished a gig teaching English in France. She was working in the public school system of a small town called St Etienne. She was an employee of the French government and had a 7-month contract.

As her contract concluded, I met her in France and we spent 24 days traveling in Europe together. The trials and tribulations we encountered were a result of various travel conditions and the two of us weathered those few storms rather well, and I hope to tell those stories here bit by bit.

Our travel itinerary included southern France, London, Berlin and 3 cities in Sweden.

Join me soon for the forthcoming travelogue.