Ketchup, luggage, hot chocolate, and bras: “We’re Beatrice.”

Remember that ad campaign from about thirty years ago? Annoying, right? What were they thinking, anyway?!

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According to Wikipedia, The Beatrice Creamery Company was founded in Beatrice, Nebraska in 1894. They purchased butter, milk, and eggs from local farmers and graded them for resale. In 1905, the company was incorporated as the Beatrice Creamery Company of Iowa. By the turn of the century they operated nine creameries and three ice cream plants, and shipped dairy products across the US. In 1913 the company moved to Chicago, and in 1939 acquired the city’s other major dairy company. During World War II, its “Meadow Gold” milk and ice cream brands were known across the country. In 1946, they changed their name to Beatrice Foods. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, they expanded into Canada and purchased several other firms, eventually amassing (to put it mildly) a diverse array of consumer products.


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Ironically enough, in 1984 simply nothing would do for the Beatrice marketing geniuses but to inform the public that they controlled every single thing that could ever be bought. They appended their wordmark logo to everything they owned. And all their TV ads ended with the red-and-white Beatrice wordmark and the soothing jingle, “You’ve known us all along.” The clip below was a “brand-building” ad, an attempt to meld all the company’s beloved products into one idyllic soft-focused dream featuring clowns, puppies, and Thanksgiving dinner. (I think that may be Kid in the Hall Dave Foley reading the storybook to the sleepy child.) Eventually every ad ended with a shorter version, a woman’s seductive voice saying “We’re Beatrice” and the wordmark.

“We’re Beatrice” ended up on ads for the most mind-boggling, surreal mix of products you could imagine: Avis rent-a-cars, Peter Pan peanut butter, Tropicana orange juice, Rusty Jones car rustproofing, Dannon yogurt, Swift Butterball turkeys, Krispy Kreme donuts, Wesson oil, Samsonite luggage, Playtex bras, Swiss Miss hot chocolate, Orville Redenbacher popcorn, and so many many more. Even Hunt’s ketchup. From Wikipedia:

It was during both the Winter and Summer Olympics this year (1984) that the corporation flooded the TV airwaves with advertisements letting the public know that many brands they were familiar with were actually part of Beatrice Foods. These ads used the tagline (with a jingle) “We’re Beatrice. You’ve known us all along.” After the Olympics, advertisements for its products continued to end with the catchphrase “We’re Beatrice” and an instrumental version of the “You’ve known us all along” portion of the jingle, as the red and white “Beatrice” logo would simultaneously appear in the bottom right hand corner. However, it was soon determined that the campaign alienated consumers, calling attention to the fact that many of their favorite brands were in fact part of a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air by autumn.

That summer I worked at a social service agency in the north Minneapolis suburbs. The PR person took maternity leave, so I edited the agency newsletter in her absence. The newsletter got sent to community members, clients’ families, similar agencies, public officials, and other stakeholders. A big distribution. So for that summer’s edition, in teeny tiny text on the back of the newsletter, right above the address block, I wrote “We’re Beatrice.” I thought it was hilarious. The executive director was not as amused.

Beatrice eventually went under, but not because of the annoying ads. It got so big and ungainly that it had to sell its divisions off. Plus its leather tannery division was charged with allegedly dumping toxic waste in the water supply of a Boston suburb. (“Your tap water: We’re Beatrice.”) Eventually the conglomerate was split up, and its most familiar food products were absorbed by another conglomerate, ConAgra.

The “We’re Beatrice” campaign may have been smart on paper, but it was annoying in practice. It came off as smug; and let’s face it, Americans don’t want to be told that one single company controls every one of their purchases. Even though it may be the truth, don’t rub our noses in it. In other cultures it may be tolerated or even welcomed, but it reinforces the preoccupations of the most paranoid tinfoil-hat-wearing American people. According to blogger John McKenzie at Food Network Humor:

“In the 80s it seemed like Beatrice Foods owned EVERYTHING, and wanted EVERYONE to know it, and stuck that annoying little voice-over at the end of all their products’ commercials. ‘We’re Beatrice.’ I always expected that woman to continue to say, ‘… and you’re not!’ Then blow a raspberry.”

Name-Brand Ketchup. We’re Beatrice. You’ve known us all along.

Sad to note the passing of Stompin’ Tom Connors.

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I think everyone in Canada can sing at least one of his songs. From CTV:

Canadian country legend Stompin’ Tom Connors, whose rousing songs of Canadian life covered everything from Sudbury nickel miners to P.E.I. potato farmers, has died at the age of 77.

One story has it that in 1964, at the age of 28, Connors found himself at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ont., short five cents for a beer. He made up the difference by playing a few songs, and that turned into a 14-month contract.

He was known as “Stompin’ Tom” for tapping his boot on a wooden board in rhythm to his playing, and was rarely seen in public without his signature black cowboy hat.

Connors made a point of writing songs about Canadians, and as a result his music transformed him into a cultural icon. Some of his songs have become closer to national anthems, most notably “The Hockey Song.”

If Gordon Lightfoot is Canada’s Johnny Cash, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Stompin’ Tom is Canada’s Merle Haggard.

I wouldn’t be true to Name-Brand Ketchup without featuring Stompin’ Tom’s “The Ketchup Song.”

Home-brewed ketchup. NOM NOM NOM

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Man, I seriously cannot believe I made this myself.

Next time: vine-ripened tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, maybe a little bit of lime zest. And a splatter screen for my trusty cast-iron dutch oven. And a bigger blender.

After that: home-brewed mustard.

Heinz Ketchup with Balsamic Vinegar

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Limited edition only. Get some while you can.


You’ve probably figured out that I kind of like ketchup.

I hope the day never arrives when I am too jaded and world-weary to get jazzed up about REALLY REALLY good ketchup. He who is tired of ketchup is tired of life. There is something so singular, so ennobling, so almost Zen-like about taking something that many use every day and embellishing it, making it as good and unique and exquisite as it possibly can be.

Gourmet ketchup? Craft ketchup? Microbrewed ketchup? Artisinal ketchup? Fancy-pants ketchup? I have no idea what to call it. All I know is I haven’t laughed as appreciatively at a website in months as I did at the site for Sir Kensingon’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup.

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How exactly does the quality of Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup trump that of what you currently know? Well, you may begin by asking, “What’s in ketchup?” When Sir Kensington broaches the subject, most are quick to be puzzled, imagining that “tomatoes and salt” are the key ingredients. Some wily characters will suggest “sugar,” and those with a breadth of culinary knowledge will keenly answer with, “vinegar.” All viable answers, but none quite correct. You can imagine the shock that Sir Kensington felt when he realized that common ketchups did not even contain real sugar, but rather, industrial goo: high fructose corn syrup.
As a result of this shock, he did not merely acquire the basic ingredients of Heinz from natural sources, but rather returned to the annals of history in search of the secrets to creating high caliber ketchup. Sir Kensington referenced the original recipes from by Dutch seamen returning from the South China Sea where Europeans first encountered such sauces. After procuring the original parchment manuscripts from sailors’ family estates at auction (along with the actual estates for good measure), Sir Kensington developed eight prototype recipes. These recipes, he then blindly proffered at his ongoing symposiums with world leaders, asking his guests to rank them against each other and against the current market offering, bringing the ketchup to its current incarnaton.

And no discussion would be complete without an homage to Sir Kensington himself:

Sir Kensington himself likely invented the very fabric upon which you sit, among numerous other things. Below is a short compilation of his fantastic achievements:

  • Sir Kensington does not domesticate animals. He joins feral ones for wild adventures.
  • Sir Kensington invented Thanksgiving so he could levy fees on the Pilgrims who celebrated it.
  • Sir Kensington has his shoes resoled with old top hats.
  • Sir Kensington does not buy antiques; he antiquates objects for later resale.
  • Sir Kensington invented the British Pound Sterling because his silos were overflowing with gold bullion.
  • Sir Kensington invented apathy when he grew bored with emotion.

I gotta try this.

Think I’ll find in on the shelves anywhere near? Have you looked up Mora, MN on the map lately? No. I’ll be placing an order on their website, probably hanging by the door when I see the UPS truck head down the street. Like the Wells Fargo Wagon in “The Music Man.”

A review will follow.

I suck at journaling. So why a blog?

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Beats me. I’ve sucked at journaling all my life. Picked up a blank book, gotten really diligent about writing in it for several weeks, then drifted away. I’ve started and abandoned at least a dozen journals this way, then beat myself up for a slacker each time. My undiagnosed ADHD butts heads with my undiagnosed OCD.

So what’s different now? A little more focus, a little more motivation. A nifty notepad computer, courtesy of my sister Colleen, that I can tote around and key in stuff wherever I grab me some wi-fi. Plus I’ve been blogging without realizing it on my Facebook page. I dunno. If this page drops off the radar in a few weeks, you’ll know I haven’t yet mended my errant slacker ways. We’ll see.

About the blog title: I was frugal when frugal wasn’t cool, before the current day when broke is the new rich. Frugality is the song of my people. My folks practiced it, mostly because of six kids in the family. And I’d like to believe that my Scots roots have a wee bit to do with it as well. I’ll obsess over big significant purchases waaaaaay more than most people will.  So maybe I’m just a cheap-ass?

My ex-wife was a frugal Jedi master: her tightwad nature put mine to shame. We threw nickels around like they were manhole covers. We ate store brands galore. I loved the bit on “Roseanne” when Roseanne was giving shopping lessons to her daughter Denise’s home-ec class: advising them to buy just one box of name-brand cereal, then keep the empty box and pour in some budget bagged cereal of the same type. “Nothing but second-best for MY family!”

Despite all that, with certain items I always buy the name brand. Ketchup. Cola. Coffee. Beer. TP. Toothpaste. Everybody has stuff they won’t compromise on, and those are mine. And already I can hear the responses: don’t you know that the store brands are exactly the same as the name brands? The story goes that “they” run them on the same lines in the same factories, just slap a different label on, and there you are. I call shenanigans on that theory. Why would Heinz spend billions of dollars on recipes, procurement, production, infrastructure, labor, promotion, marketing, and copyright infringement – – just to let Cub or Rainbow or Safeway or Kroger fill some bottles with the same stuff, label them as “Our Very Own Ketchup,” and plunk them on the shelves? Store brands are not identical to name brands. It’s a rationalization.

So, name-brand ketchup only. Certain items in your home, anyone’s home, must always be top-shelf. Hence the name of this blog. (“Yeah! Hence!”) And I hope also to put you onto some top-shelf things that you may not already know about. We’ll see.