Modern food merchandising has lightened the housekeeper's once-heavy burden
HELEN G. CAMPBELLApril151939
Modern food merchandising has lightened the housekeeper's once-heavy burden
HELEN G. CAMPBELL
Director, Chatelaine Institute
THIS MONTH the grocery trade of Canada is celebrating "National Brands Month" and the improvement that has been made in quality, protection and convenience of its offerings. Maclean's pays tribute to these dealers of food and other grocery products for their service to the public and their contribution to healthful and enjoyable living.
Modern food stores, with their bright, neat interiors, their attractive displays and convenient arrangements, and their alert, well-informed attendants, are right up in the forefront of those services which have emancipated the housekeeper.
Your grocer contributes to your comfort in many ways. He gathers products from the four corners of the earth in the interests of more diversified and more interesting meals. He stores them on easily accessible shelves, in conveniently designed floor racks, or in refrigerator cases. He offers them, in and out of season, in sanitary containers and protective coverings which meet the standards of the most discriminating and enlightened customer.
In the march of time, retailers of food supplies have kept pace with progress and new knowledge of sanitation, nutrition and health. In fact, they have often led the way, for by smart merchandising they have popularized improved items and modern services, shown the advantages of Government graded and branded products in cans, packages and bottles over the old bulk goods, and have helped to create a demand for those foods which are essentials of a satisfactory diet.
And housekeepers reap the benefit of this service in elimination of uncertainty in their buying, in freedom from drudgery, and in high standards of purity and uniform quality maintained by the manufacturer, distributor and dealer.
When the bride of the nineties came home from her honeymoon and settled down to practice the housewifely arts, she usually faced a long succession of disheartening, costly failures, borne up by the belief that tribulation was the lot of women, that trial and error was the only method and that in due time her grandchildren would call her a "born cook." She was expected to start from scratch and produce many of her own raw' materialsto make her own bread, put down or do up her own fruit, make her own pickles, and spend many tedious hours baking and stewing both herself and the dishes she concocted. She shopped from the meagre variety of the times, and with meagre knowledge, comparatively shaking, on her own part and that of her grocer. And she did the best she could with the recipes handed down to her—with their indefinite amounts and casual directions.
Housekeeping Made Easy
\yf UCH water has passed under bridges since then. Andthank our lucky stars! the old order has given place to the new. Nowadays the young housekeeper steps straight from her typewriter to the kitchen, takes up a simplified regime, and is off to a more efficient and less tearful beginning. With the help of modern facilities -Government inspection and grading, brand names, labels which tell her what she needs to know, and arrangement of goods within sight and reach—she can get full value for her money, and stock her shelves with an array of well-selected products in containers w'hich provide protection to their contents and convenience to the cook. And she uses them to the best advantage, with recipes so concise and clear that anyone who reads can cook.
True, her smaller kitchen will n >t accommodate large quantities, but shopping for groceries is now' so easy and such an inspiration in menu planning that she prefers to order frequently, in person most of the time, or by telephone almost as satisfactorily, if a trip to the shop is not convenient.
Many new products and many old favorites in modernized improved forms have made their appearance within recent years, to banish the monotony of the oldtime cuisine and reduce the effort and time required for its preparation. Soupmaking in times past began with a ham bone hours before its completion; now’ the turn of a can opener results in an economical and tasty first course of a type and flavor to suit its purpose in a particular menu. Cereals have thrown off their former strict limitations, to include a long list of grains, processed to produce variety, ready to serve or partially prepared in
packages which retain their original freshness. Biscuits have left the open barrel for the carton, and have added dozens of new varieties to their ranks. "As slow as molasses in January" hasn't much significance now that it’s sold in cans, but it had when it was poured from a keg into whatever container w’as taken along to receive it. Flour is no longer an allinclusive term in these days, when hard and soft wheat are blended and milled to suit their culinary purpose—for bread, pastry or cake-making--and when biscuit and pancake flours are ready mixed with other ingredients, requiring only the addition of liquid to prepare them for the final cooking. Syrups to accompany them are labelled pure maple, corn or sugar, according to their source.
New’comers to our grocers’ shelves include the healthful and popular tomato juice, juices of other fruits, bottled beverages in variety, convenient and quick-setting jelly powders, ice-cream mixes, and a range of other dessert preparations, vegetable oils and shortenings, sandwich spreads, salad dressings, canned pork and beans, spaghetti and macaroni ready to heat and serve, peanut butter, many new flavorings and colorings, strained foods for babies and the new "Junior" foods, also for children. A fewyears ago there was no packaged cheese with its uniform quality, no decaffeinated coffee, no sweet pickles and only a limited variety of relishes in bottles, no commercial pectins to take the guesswork out of jelly-making, no bacon shorn of its rind and cut in thin even slices, no loaf sugar and none in a fine state of granulation, no raisins without seeds or dates with the stones removed, no salt that was unaffected by damp weather, and no frozen products which have lengthened and levelled the seasons.
Improved processing has now given us many convenient versions of well-known staples -hams which require little or no parboiling, tapioca wrhich cooks in a few minutes without hours of preliminary soaking, and a wide range of canned fruits and vegetables, quality controlled from the very beginning, even in some cases to the supervision of the seeds.They are packed to preserve their nutritive value vegetables in different styles, fruit in syrups of varying densities—and sold under Government grades as Fancy, Choice or Standard, according to their quality. Milk that was formerly raw is now pasteurized and germ-free, and is available from your grocer in condensed, evaporated or powdered form. Graded creamery butter in cartons supersedes the dairy product which was sold by faith, bought in hope, and often eaten with charity. Similarly, scientific feeding and care of hens has increased the “lay” and tended to stabilize the price, while grading tells the inside story as to the contents of the shell.
Other staples are presented in better form-—chocolate marked in squares for your convenience and accuracy, gelatine finely divided and prepared for quick action, coffee ground to suit different methods of making, bread wrapped and even sliced in different thicknesses, spices already ground and tightly sealed against loss of strength, extracts designed for easy dissolving, flavors of many varieties plainly marked as “pure” or “artificial,” tea blended for uniform flavor, cocoanut packaged to retain its freshness for a longer time, prunes graded for size and meatiness, and peel moist, whole or chopped for your holiday baking.
Canned meats, poultry and fish include the old favorites, and there have been added many other varieties which have since become the stand-bys of this genera-
tion. Fresh products along this line, which your grocer carries, wait for your selection in refrigerated display counters. You know the quality of fowl by the tag which bears the Government grade— A, B or C—and you’re sure of “tops” in beef if it’s a red or blue branded piece. Fruits, vegetables and other perishables in their travels from near and far are protected by modern cold storage unless packed in tins or designed by nature to withstand climatic changes.
All these and many more once-expensive luxuries that are now a regular part of our bill of fare, and foods which are still delicacies on account of their rarity, are the manufacturers’, distributors’ and retailers’ contribution to more diversified, satisfactory and interesting meals. In the same w'ay, the makers of cleaning supplies and the retailers of them offer labor-saving and time-saving products—packaged soap chips, flakes and pow'ders, as well as bars, cleansers in handy cartons or pressed into cakes, waxes and polishes designed for many purposes and easy use.
Nor is that the extent of your grocer’s service. He has equipped his store with slicing machines, choppers, electric coffee grinders, computing scales and other facilities to provide promptness and satisfaction. He displays his wares in cans, cartons, bottles and packages with uniformity in their contents and useful information on their labels, in transparent coverings, in tin-tie bags, or with waxed paper wrappings as appropriate. And he plans his store for easy and selective shopping by his customers.
Not the least of our blessings, when we take the trouble to count them, are the improved methods of production, packing, shipping and merchandising, which have brought about the uniform-quality era, simplified housekeeping and added to our enjoyment of life.
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