All my life I’ve been told that Duke’s Mayonnaise is the only real mayonnaise. But the other day I cast caution to the wind and bought Food Lion’s store brand—also labeled as Real Mayonnaise, no less—and I liked it just fine. So I saved money and kept that mayo-slathered monkey on my back.
Timberley warned me, though, that once tomato season arrives, we will not have anything but Duke’s in our house. No Kraft Mayo, no Blue Plate, no Hellmann’s and—not even if it’s the only jar of mayo-like spread left on the shelf—absitively, posolutely no Miracle Whip Salad Dressing.
Whenever I read anything by or about Henry David Thoreau, my favorite philosopher, I start looking for ways to simplify our lives—or to economize, at least. Right now we’re reading aloud our friend Jeff Cramer’s book Solid Seasons, about Thoreau’s friendship with his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. Only about 50 pages into the book, we’ll probably need a week to finish it, because we pause every page or two to discuss an issue that we can apply to our own lives or relationships. That’s a good thing.
Still, Timberley has learned from my years teaching Emerson and Thoreau to 10th graders that she needs to temper my enthusiasm for economy lest I “cramp [her] style, because it always seems to be when the biggest and best sales of the year happen.” (Yes, she just said that. I typed it word for word. And now she’s scrolling through her Amazon home page to check the “Deal of the Day” and other recommended purchases. Have I said I’m thinking about canceling our home Internet?)
Anyway, back in my bachelor days before I met Timberley, I never had a problem with store brands, mainly because I was a poor working man who tried to stretch my paycheck as far as I could. I kept a minimum of pocket money to get from one payday to the next. I actually had a budget, even if I kept it in my head. And back then, magic money machines—ATMs—didn’t exist. Running out of cash money meant either going to the bank for a withdrawal or finding someone who’d accept a check.
In those days—the early 1980s—I developed a taste for cheap peanut butter (and still prefer it to premium brands) on day-old bread, as those sandwiches were mainly what I survived on. The peanut butter was the Lowe’s Foods store brand; the bread came from the Waldensian Bakeries outlet store in Valdese—the Waldensian Bakeries store, where day-old Sunbeam bread tasted better than what was called fresh anywhere else. Ah, the smell of Valdese in the morning. It smelled like … bread.
But when Timberley and I got together in 1982, she warned me that there were two grocery products that she would never let me replace with store brands—Campbell’s Tomato Soup and Van Camp’s Pork and Beans—and I have never questioned her wisdom. We have come into contact with store brands of those goods, be they Thrifty Maid, Laura Lynn or some other off-brand product, usually at the home of a friend or relative, and we’ve never let slip our disdain. But, Lord have mercy, they weren’t fit to eat.
Just the other day, we added another product to our Accept No Substitutes List. Now we do most of our grocery shopping at Food Lion, because the company’s stores are everywhere—three in Morganton, two in Boone, one of them only about a mile from our house in the Rutherwood community—and because our grocery receipts are always lower at Food Lion than at Ingle’s, Harris-Teeter, Walmart Express, Lowe’s Foods, Publix or Food Matters Market. I don’t know why, but it’s true.
That addition to our list is non-dairy creamer. We drink a lot more strong coffee now than we did as newlyweds. I don’t know why, but it’s true. And the other day I made the mistake of trying to save some money on Coffee-mate by buying the store brand creamer. We’d already marked the Ingle’s store brand of creamer off our list, but we quickly learned that the Food Lion store brand ain’t fit to drink, either. I know what you’re thinking—we shouldn’t be drinking any creamer. But we do.
Lately I’ve been posting photos on social media of all the different roses that are blooming in the yards of our houses in Morganton and just outside Boone. Tea roses. Heirloom roses. Knockout roses. Red, pink, purple and yellow roses. We have no white roses … yet. All are beautiful. Only a few—usually heirlooms—smell as sweet as one expects of a rose. Hybrids look good but usually have no fragrance. Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
But would it?