Vermont Cheddar, how could anything be terrible about that? The terroir and tang of regional cheeses with a great bottle of wine sound delightful. I’m in, who knows maybe too much wine will help with this month’s Terrible Poetry Contest! About that, Chel asks us to write a terrible limerick about this regional cheese. Two months ago I said let them eat cake, now I say let them eat cheese!!! on to the terribleness again…
From Vermont came a cheddar, behold Legend has it, one heck of a mold Big cheese curd not forstall The coming Woodchuck brawl. For a chance to taste Green Mountain gold.
And I’m off to make some nachos with melted cheese (and maybe chili!)
Ever waste a day waiting for a delivery that never comes?
Every Monday Paula gives us an opportunity to vent and this week marks a milestone. The 100th Monday Peeve of the refreshed era! My peeve fits in quite nicely with the one she published herself although the TARGET is different!
I purchased a new electric snow thrower online. It could have been a useful tool over the winter considering how much snow fell but the price was crazy. Of course, now that it seems spring is in the air and the majority of the snow is in the rearview the unit is on sale for half price. I probably could have bought a gas-powered unit or another electric brand for cheaper but this one works on the same battery packs as my mower, blower and weed wacker making it the logical and environmentally friendly choice.
Clearance bonanza pricing is not my peeve although it is annoying enough in itself. You could make the argument that if you can sell at half price now that is all it was ever worth. I know, as a business major I understand it is not that simple. I remember learning a lesson from my marketing professor about inventory costs. Before taking the teaching job he had worked as a marketing consultant for a firm hired by Sears Canada to build a new warehouse facility. They found items that had been sitting in warehouse inventory for years. Their recommendation to Sears was to burn all the excess inventory and use that space for inventory that was turning over more quickly. Sears ultimately didn’t need to build a new warehouse with all the money and space they were saving. The cost of storage per square foot meant that they had already sunk something in the range of 40 to 50 times the retail price for many of the products sitting in the warehouse. So I understand the reasons for getting rid of inventory. Ultimately getting anything is better than warehousing it until next year. Especially in today’s world where a newer, better, shinier model is scheduled to come off some Chinese production line next year.
No, my beef lies solely with the courier company. The tracking number I’d been given showed the goods were to be delivered today, and even the shipment history showed the goods were “out for delivery”. That seemed pretty clear to me. I’d been told the driver would call to confirm we were home because a signature was required so I called my office to let them know I’d be late.
When the courier company called I answered and said, “We are waiting, how long until you get here?”
The woman on the other end said, “No delivery scheduled for today, I am calling to set up an appointment for tomorrow. Will you be available between 9am and 3pm?”
At first, I said, “Tomorrow, your tracking information says it is to be delivered today?”
She insisted their system didn’t say that even as I was reading it off my phone screen to her. “No Sir, we would never have delivered without an appointment first. The supplier insists that we set appointments up.”
“Ok but your system says…” I wasn’t going to win so I shifted my attention to the delivery window, another losing battle. The courier companies just can’t seem to get it right ever. What is worse, they can only provide me with a six hours delivery window. They call me to set up an appointment and the best they can do is provide a six-hour window? That doesn’t really even approximate the definition of an appointment, it’s more like, we will show up whenever the <bleep> we bloody well feel like it and if you don’t like it or aren’t there well too <bleepin’> bad!
Look, I get it for my relatively low-value Amazon shipments. If I am not there and some porch pirate nabs it, annoying but oh well. This is an $1800 piece of machinery that I have to be present to receive. Some organization on your tracking website and tighter delivery windows should be the norm! Mister Courier, you should be at my beck and call not the other way around.
As inflation continues to grip most of the free world thanks to COVID, Russia, China and our own western governments’ decisions to expand the money supply to record levels in an effort to combat the negative effects of the first three scourges on western economies, very few giant box businesses have NOT chosen to take advantage of the situation to bolster the bottom line. None is more prevalent than the oligopoly held by the three major players in the Canadian grocery business. Loblaw’s Companies Ltd. (Superstore, Loblaws, Fortinos, No Frills), Empire Company Ltd. (Sobeys, Freshco, Farm Boy) and Metro (Metro, Food Basics) have seen profits explode far beyond the rate of inflation or the normal margins for the grocery business.
What gives? Yes, we all agree that inflation has increased prices at our local store. Partially because of economics, disruptions of supply chains, and loss of crops due to weather but that is only part of the picture. It is becoming apparent that greed in an industry that the government has left relatively unchecked for decades is a major driving force. They believe they can get away with anything and truth be told they can.
Case in point. In 2018 it came to light that the significant players listed above plus Walmart, Giant Tiger and Canada Bread were being investigated for anti-competitive practices in the food sector. The companies had been y colluding to fix the price of bread well above market value for at least 16 years. Loblaws and its parent company Weston Foods, one of Canada’s largest bread producers operating under the banner Weston Bakeries, admitted to the scheme but insisted it was concocted by a group of rogue employees who never revealed the scheme to the top brass. The employees were allegedly released and Loblaws agreed to the reimbursement program. Consumers were required to register at the Loblaws website, where they were asked to provide personal information and images of identification, such as a driver’s licence (a massive breach of privacy laws) to receive a $25 gift card. The admission and card program was instituted in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Keep in mind that the price-fixing scheme had taken place over a 16-year period. The other players denied any involvement in the scheme and five years later (21 since the scheme started) are still being investigated by Canada’s consumer watchdog, the toothless federal Competition Bureau. The price of bread has not dropped, in fact, it is more expensive than ever.
In 2019, less than a year after the scandal came to light the Trudeau Liberal’s awarded the hugely profitable Loblaws Companies Ltd. a $12 million grant to replace their in-store refrigerators with new environmentally friendly models. The grant was awarded through an Environment and Climate Change Canada program that did not include any checks and balances to ensure the grant was ever used to upgrade the aging equipment. A loophole that effectively had taxpayer cover large portions of the bread scandal rebate program. I admit none of the allegations I make have been proven but if it walks like a duck…
This week the federal government has called upon the CEOs of these companies to appear before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food which is probing the causes of an 11.4% increase in the price of food. Consumer costs have sky skyrocketed to their highest levels in decades, increasing at almost twice the 5.9% rate of inflation. The CEO’s responses to the committee questions were as expected:
“We are not profiting from inflation, it doesn’t matter how many times you say it … it is simply not true.” – Michael Medline, CEO of Empire Foods.
“Our food profit margin has actually decreased, focusing on grocers will not solve the problem of food inflation because we are not causing it and we’re not benefiting from it.” – Eric La Flèche, CEO of Metro Inc.
“So no matter how many times you read it on Twitter, the idea that grocers are causing food inflation is not only false, it’s impossible. Our retail prices have not risen faster than our costs,” – Galen Weston, CEO and President of Loblaws Group of Companies.
In the media scrum following his testimony, Weston played for sympathy suggesting his company loses money on every chicken breast it sells. I was so moved I almost pulled out the world’s smallest violin.
“It is folly to suggest that an unprofitable grocery business is somehow better for customers. Like all Canadians, we look forward to seeing the end of this tough inflationary period.” – Michael Medline, CEO of Empire Foods.
I say this to Medline and the entire group. No one is begrudging grocers for turning or even maximizing profits, but fair profits are not the same as gouging Canadians to a tune that far outstrips the rising costs so that you can line your pockets with as much gold as possible. Pockets that are so full, inflation is nothing more than an annoying mosquito buzzing about on a warm summer night.
It was an interesting exercise that I’m certain will amount to a big nothing-burger. Considering their past indiscretions I’m not sure we needed to cart out the dog and pony show to hear them insist they are not to blame for inflation and that the larger profits margins are a result of Canadians’ increased spending on other discretionary goods sold in their stores. The track record speaks for itself but I’m sure their word will be good enough for our limp-dicked politicians. None of them will ever be required to open up the books to back those claims. I suspect a well-timed donation to party coffers (3 companies, 3 political parties, you do the math) and the government will consider the matter closed.
In related news…
“The price of tea is going up.” Galen Jr. was heard uttering to his fartcatchers as they boarded the Weston family jet. “I’m not sure who these politicians think they are questioning me. They will pay through the nose for the cost and inconvenience they’ve caused. Take that Canada!!!”
Ellie sat shaking in the corner. She’d drawn a facsimile of the tattoo on her hemp fiber apron. All the other baristas could find for her was a Sharpie but no paper. Across the now-empty cafe, she could see the paramedics frantically working to save a man’s life. He was laying in a pool of his own blood. A police officer stepped around the commotion to approach her table.
“May I have a seat?” She asked as she pulled the chair out.
Ellie nodded approval to the officer who was already halfway seated. “Is he going to be okay?” her voice weak and distressed as she spoke.
The officer didn’t respond. Cynthia, Ellie’s manager delivered a pumpkin spice latte, setting it next to the canvas drawing and taking Ellie’s hand in hers. The officer looked annoyed but could see Ellie calm a bit with Cynthia’s presence.
“I know this is difficult but could you tell me what you saw? Include every detail no matter how insignificant it seems. It could be important.”
Ellie started, “I was behind the counter when I heard the roar of the pipes. I looked up to see a man dressed in denim and leather pull up on a Harley. He parked in that first spot over there. When he came to the counter his arms were covered in tattoos but I can only remember the one.”
“Can you describe it?”
Ellie pointed to the canvas apron. “I remember reading it to myself as he ordered a pumpkin spice latte.”
“This is the tattoo?”
“Best I can remember it.”
“Did you take a name for the order?”
“I didn’t take his order Sam did, but his name was Dale. I remember calling it out when I finished making his order. He had ordered it in a ceramic cup and I thanked him for choosing the reusable option. He commented on my foam pumpkin’s evil grin and then in a cute but patronizing way told me I should have been an artist. I noticed a patch on his jacket that said ‘CUTTER’ as I smiled back at him.”
“What did he do after he got his coffee?”
“He took the latte,” she replied as if calling it coffee was an affront to anyone’s better senses, “…and went over to that table.” She gestured towards the far wall. I didn’t pay much attention after that but I assume he sat and had a few sips. It was maybe ten minutes, I made a couple more orders, and then Cynthia asked me to wipe down the tables.” Cynthia and Ellie’s eyes met for a moment and then she continued, “The next thing, I hear a loud commotion behind me. I spun and looked to see a table and chair fly across the store towards me. I jumped out of the way as he grabbed the person sitting on the bench. I remember the man cowering as he wailed on him. He was screaming something at him.”
“What was he saying?”
“I don’t know, I can remember, it’s all muffled in my head. I just remember the horrified look on the other guy’s face.” her lip quivered as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“Did he have any weapons?”
“Not that I saw but with all that blood, maybe? He picked him up, threw him to the ground, and began kicking and stomping on him. Finally, he spits on the man, and then like a switch being turned off he runs his fingers through his long unkempt hair and calmly walked back over to his latte. When he was done he tossed the mug in front of the man laying on the floor. He left the store as it shattered into hundreds of pieces that skidded across the brown tiles and into the heap. The roar of his bike echoed in the background as he rode off.”
“Anything else that stuck out?”
“Yeah,” her voice tailing off as she cocked her head, eyes glazed as though she was staring right through the officer, “I was struck by the juxtaposition between the violence and his order. Pumpkin spice just didn’t seem appropriate.”
With summer has come a lot more time outside and less spent on the computer blogging or organizing and editing my photo archive. I am certain as the seasons turn I will return to the screen again to find a treasure trove of great content posted by all of those I follow. Until then I will be in the garden, at the diamonds, fields, and swimming pools watching the kids, or riding my bike around town and along the riverside trails. I will drop the occasional post when the mood strikes (like today) and both my photo series Backyard Beautiful and Queens of the Diamond will continue to update.
When you live in the Great White North summer is fleeting and the growing season too short to maintain a year-round garden. Most of the fresh food we consume comes from far-off places like California, Mexico, and South America. Of course, the war in Russia and government pandemic spending practices have sent fuel prices sky high and driven inflation upwards at a pace not seen in decades. The cost of food has not been immune to these upward pressures and is becoming unaffordable for many around the world.
The following is written in response to Chel Owen’s Terrible Poetry Contest. The challenge asks that we channel our inner Shakespeare and write a terrible sonnet about everybody’s favourite one-pot food, soup.
What Is Soup?
The sorcerer’s mirepoix, the witches roux, with bone and water forge a mystic blend, add salt and spice, merely a pinch or two, elements together, combine, transcend.
Cast iron cauldron yields to fiery kiss, stir and simmer, cooking slowly in time, bubbling, boiling, with wisps of steaming bliss, filling the fragrant air with spells sublime.
Chick’n noodle, chowder, gazpacho on ice, mullugatawny, bisque and gumbo too, potatoes, pasta, or a spot of rice, some so thick they’re more akin to stew.
What is soup? You’ll find you have to conclude, soup is the liquid version of solid food.1
“This cake is exceptional.” Ana gushed while taking another bite. “The citrus balances perfectly with the blueberries and rich creamy icing. How do you get it to shine through the sweetness?”
“A tablespoon of lemon zest.” I replied sipping my tea.
I must admit I do love me some lemon blueberry anything. What could go any better with a cup of Murchie’s Afternoon blend (formerly the Empress blend served exclusively during tea time at the iconic Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.) The recipe for the absolutely delicious Blueberry Lemon Cake pictured in this post can be found on The Preppy Kitchen blog.
I have never been a drug user, not even recreationally. It was a scene that never appealed to me. Yeah, there was alcohol filled college parties and plenty of early mornings where the room would spin from the after effects. I never graduated to anything harder. Truth be told I had friends who swore by the chemical high but I didn’t like what it did to them. Quite honestly the other shit bloody well scared the hell out of me…Continue reading →