New and Improved  . . . Not Really


Back in the day, you didn’t have to ask if the gefilte fish was “free range.” You knew it was because the carp had been swimming free in your bathtub the day before.

When we were kids, we didn’t know from “locally sourced.” We didn’t think about where our food came from; it just appeared on the kitchen table three times a day. In the summer, the supermarket was loaded with blueberries, cantaloupes and peaches; in winter the selection dwindled to oranges and grapefruit. There were certainly no year-round grapes from Chile or avocados from Mexico. You couldn’t get raspberries in January.new5

Now, if you are one of those people who will only eat food that is locally sourced, you’ll be eating the mushrooms that spring up in your backyard after a rainstorm. If you’re lucky, there’s a cilantro farm down the road and your neighbor has a goat whose milk makes the most delicious cheese. We don’t have any of that.  Finding locally sourced food isn’t always easy in the suburbs. That’s why when we signed up for a community-supported agriculture program, we got beets and turnips in our box week after week.

If you wait long enough, everything old comes back around – but it’s not always new and improved.

TV dinners have come full circle. We have fond memories of the Swanson turkey dinner with whipped potatoes in a divided aluminum foil tray. Our moms would heat it in the oven for 45 minutes to undo the deep freeze. We never touched the little compartment of diced carrots and canned peas; our favorite part was the apple cobbler dessert. We felt so space-age and cool eating dinner on our snack table in front of the

Now, single-serving, ready-to-eat dinners are available everywhere – from Wawa to the new hip chain Snap Kitchen. Snap’s takeout meals include Bison Quinoa Hash and Grilled Kale Hoppin’ John. All of their “nutrient-dense, portion-controlled” meals come in plastic, microwave-ready containers with calorie counts on the label. For dessert, their 160-calorie Chia Seed & Date Pudding is advertised as “gluten-free, non-dairy, paleo, sodium conscious and vegan.” If we eat that for dessert, we’d be back in the kitchen to hunt for a cookie at 10 p.m.

Then there are kitchen trends. Along with electric knives and fondue sets, Crock-Pots were a popular bridal shower gift some 30 years ago. The Crock-Pot would come with a tiny booklet of recipes: Chicken Mexicana that called for chicken thighs and canned green beans, Dr. Pepper pulled pork, and beef stew with Lipton’s onion soup mix and ketchup as the main components of the sauce.

While we blinked, we discovered that slow cookers are back in style with busy millennials. There are 97 Pinterest boards filled with organic recipes, vegan recipes and ways to use your cooker to make everything from bread pudding to cinnamon rolls.

All this hype sent us to the store to buy a new model. Ours was 33 years old – a shower gift. It was harvest gold with a tasteful daisy design and one switch for off, low and high. You dumped in the ingredients and hoped it cooked all the way through and didn’t burn on the bottom.new2

Nowadays, slow cookers are silver and sleek and digital and programmable. You can set them to cook dinner while you’re at work building a new app. We bought one, read the 23-page instruction booklet, and returned the cooker to the store the next day. If we can’t figure out where our favorite show is — on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu ?  — how can we set the digital timer for “delay start” to cook lemon bourbon chicken for dinner?

Everyone knows that fashions come back around. After a 30-year hiatus, jumpsuits are back in style. For women our age, it’s not a good idea to make it any more difficult to get to the bathroom. Remember when you stopped putting your toddler in overalls so they could make it to the potty in time? That’s just one of the reasons why we don’t wear a jumpsuit.

If you saved your acid-washed denim jumpsuit from 1982 hoping it would come back in style – and you can still fit into it – congratulations. However, we have some bad news. You’re not Beyonce. When a style comes back, it’s meant for your daughter, not you.new4


Our daughters have asked us if we’ve saved any cool clothes from the 1970s. Do we have white vinyl go-go boots and hot pants, a fringed leather vest, or a gold lame disco dress that we could pass on to them? No, we gave them to Goodwill long ago. We never thought they’d come back in style.




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3 Responses to New and Improved  . . . Not Really

  1. Hope Fastman says:

    This is a great read. Best yet!


  2. “Right on!” Or as my kids said about five years ago, “Word.”


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