Tom Clyde: An overdue change
The dogs woke me up very early Wednesday morning. One of them decided he need to go out, right now, and there was no convincing him that he could wait a while. While he was pawing my face, he reminded me that the new carpet was not quite a week old, and it would be a shame if something happened to it. So at about 5:30, we were up and at it. I opened the door and it was snowing. Hard. Like a January blizzard. There were 2 inches of snow on the roof of the car. The grass areas were white. By the time the dogs decided to come back in, my teeth were chattering, so I turned the heat on. I decided to eat breakfast, and turned the TV on to see what weirdness had hit overnight. It was all garbled. I mean the picture, though the content lately is pretty messy, too. It’s June 17, and I’m brushing the snow off the satellite dish.
It might slow the rate of growth around here if Realtors were required to make a written disclosure on every property that it will snow in June and even July, and that, by normal standards, the climate here is uninhabitable. You might die of the plague in New York, but at least it doesn’t snow in mid-June. Could be worth it.
The big news overnight was an announcement from PepsiCo that they have decided to retire the Aunt Jemima pancake brand. For 130 years, Aunt Jemima pancakes have been a grocery staple. But in a sudden fit of cultural awareness, officials at PepsiCo decided that maybe selling a product branded with racial stereotypes that relate back to slavery was a little bit tone deaf. Ya think? Fifty years ago, the Aunt Jemima branding seemed all wrong, and it hasn’t improved with age.
Meanwhile, at the Mars corporation in London, they announced they were looking into the Uncle Ben’s rice branding. No changes were announced, but they were “evaluating all possibilities” for “evolving the brand,” which has all the same issues surrounding it as Aunt Jemima.
Cultural changes happen slowly, until they happen, and then they seem to happen literally overnight. One day, the 130-year old, uncomfortably racist image of Aunt Jemima is acceptable on our pancake mix, and then the next morning, it’s not. Office towers full of marketing people are supposedly studying this stuff, making sure the brand has broad appeal in the marketplace. Somehow, they missed this one. Like so much in culture, if it’s been that way for five generations, it becomes invisible. It’s just always been that way, which explains so much of where we are right now.
By the way, has anybody seen Betty Crocker recently? All the attention on the Aunt Jemima situation got me thinking about that. I have a serious brownie habit, and my go-to brand has always been Betty Crocker (which I upgrade with chocolate chips and walnuts). I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way, Betty’s portrait vanished from the package. She’s been replaced by a red spoon. I looked at the box of the most recently purchased brownie mix, and Betty Crocker has gone missing.
A little research showed that Betty Crocker has gone through some serious changes, from her early incarnation as a sort of austere grandmother, to a corporate look, then more of a younger, working-mom vibe. The latest makeover was in 1996, when she took on a little softer, more approachable look. The power suit was replaced with a red sweater, and the pearl necklace became a gold chain. There were kind of disturbing blogs where people expressed clear preferences for one version of Betty or another. People care. And then she vanished. There was nothing online mourning the passing of Betty Crocker, or explaining that cake mixes do not require an ethnic identity behind them. She’s just gone. This seems like something Fox News should be looking into. What did those protesters in Seattle do to Betty Crocker? What’s the Hunter Biden connection?
Anyway, I’m sure the creative minds at PepsiCo will soon come out with something new to replace the Aunt Jemima pancakes, and I will probably still prefer to use the Bisquick mix — even though the sinister Betty Crocker disappearance lingers over the entire General Mills family of products. If you’re going to eat pancakes, you’re going to eat them the way your mother made them. In our house, it was Betty Crocker all the way. If Bisquick was good enough for Betty Crocker, it was good enough for us.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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