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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Admitting an addiction

By Dick Hirsch
I’ve never been very good at returning items that have disappointed me. Oh, sure, if the soup is lukewarm or the toast too soggy, I will point it out and ask for a replacement. But I don’t go much further than that.
If the chicken is overcooked and tough or if the shirt I just bought doesn’t exactly match well with any of the the sweaters I have at home, I’m likely to accept the situation without a complaint. Some people are unrestrained when it comes to rejecting and returning things, whether it involves French fries that aren’t crispy enough or a skirt that makes them look too hippy.
For me, it’s always a challenge to decide when the fault is serious enough to warrant a return and when it is modest enough to be accepted. Returns are a sensitive subject because most customers are not anxious to criticize the product of a supplier, yet they don’t want to accept less than the standard for which they are paying.
The question of returns became an issue when Peter Pan announced the national peanut butter recall. I have had a serious relationship with peanut butter since childhood. As the years passed, I have been waiting to outgrow that yearning, believing that when a person reaches a certain maturity the taste buds will no longer react to peanut butter with the same exuberance.
Maybe it works that way with some people, but not with me. I still love peanut butter, even though I have memorized the nutrition information on the label, announcing, among other things, that a serving size of two tablespoons is 200 calories, of which 140 are the dreaded fat calories. When that fat statistic is mentioned, as it sometimes is, I always respond by pointing out that peanut butter has zero milligrams of cholesterol.
With that as background, consider the question of the Peter Pan recall. I understand that Peter Pan is the leading brand, and it is a fine product, but I prefer another brand. In fact, I actually endorse another, having made it a policy to tell friends who are peanut butter aficionados to try the private label brands produced in Fredonia by Carriage House Foods, formerly Red Wing. I am not compensated for this endorsement, except for the grateful response of friends, one of whom continually expresses his appreciation, saying the switch was a life changing event.
However, I must admit that at the time of the recall, I had in my possession the second of two large jars of Peter Pan, creamy, not crunchy. (I have been told that crunchy has been making spectacular gains in recent years, but I still prefer the traditional smooth variety. I will, of course, accept a serving of crunchy whenever that is being served.)
The Peter Pan was a special purchase, an acquisition for the pantry not sanctioned by me, but I accepted it in a positive manner and soon opened one jar and put it into play. There are those who, over the years, have threatened to force me to submit to a blind taste test, with my Fredonia brand facing off against national brands like Peter Pan or Jif. They claim I could not tell the difference. I have thus far refused the challenge, not out of concern that I would fail the test, but because peanut butter is a very serious topic and such a test would be a charade.
The announcement of the recall was accompanied by the news that many customers had been sickened by Peter Pan. Some jars were contaminated with Salmonella, a food borne bacteria that can cause illness and serious discomfort. At the time, I had just finished one large jar of Peter Pan and still had another in the cupboard, unopened, imprinted with the ominous code number---2111---on the lid of the jar. I assumed the first jar was from the same lot since they were purchased at the same time and were actually wrapped as a twosome.
Yes, of course I knew I should discard the unopened jar and apply for a refund. Yet, I must have the latent instincts of a conservationist, and since I had consumed the first jar without incident, wasn’t it likely that the companion jar was untainted? It seemed a shame to toss one of those jars in the garbage, leaving the pantry barren of peanut butter.
But that’s what I did; tossed it out, with considerable remorse and reluctance, and mailed back the lid to Peter Pan for a refund. However, on my way to the mailbox, I did stop at the supermarket...



At 7:07 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Thanks for the pointer to Fredonia - I'll be on the lookout for that. Do you recall ever having Planter's Peanut Butter? They stopped marketing the product many years back, but 35 years ago and more it was the best available in the supermarket. Any chance you recall this product or - better yet - that the Fredonia is along similar lines?


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