Tennessee Mountain Stories

A Pound’s a Pound, Right?

Am I the only one that’s flabbergasted at the soaring costs of food?  I recently remarked that either we are eating a lot more or the prices have really gone up – could be a little of both and I need to work on one of those! 

I made a birthday cake this week – a chocolate robot and his arms and legs were Swiss Cake Rolls.  I decided to use the Swiss Cake Rolls after buying a box of strawberry filled Shortcake Rolls.  Then we had a little communication breakdown and two of us bought two different boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls.  They were both the same brand so imagine my surprise when the cakes in one box were considerably larger than those in the other box.  It’s the sort of thing where you think one store has a better price until you look really closely at the details. 

I’ve seen a similar trend in restaurants.  Of course, in America our portion size is so large that we could do with a little downsizing.  However, the price didn’t come down with it and that kind of makes you feel short changed, doesn’t it?  I used to frequent a little tea room where the Victorian Tea Service would more than feed two adults.  Imagine my surprise when I took my young teenage neice and we ordered that standard meal only to discover there was barely enough for one.  More food had to be ordered and the bill was significantly higher than on previous visits.  Smaller portions is an easy way for restaurants to raise their prices without reprinting their menus – or alerting patrons too quickly. 

A quick internet search shows me other folks have been noticing this since 2009 – about the time I started noticing that portions were smaller in restaurants.  But that was a tough time for business, they were doing whatever they could to stay afloat.  Anybody want to comment on whether the portions have increased with the growing economy?

Well you know I’m always comparing these realizations to history.  It occurred to me that our grandparents would not have had such a surprise because buying a boxed cake was nearly unheard of on our rural plateau.  Even in more metropolitan areas, purchased foods would have been made by a local baker to whom you could clearly voice your complaint if you suddenly thought you weren’t quite getting your money’s worth.

The packaged cakes we all take for granted now came about in the mid twentieth century.  Little Debbies started in the mid-1960’s and Twinkies were first created in the 1930’s but I wasn’t able to learn when they were first boxed.  More likely they were sold in a bakery.  Remember that grocery shopping as we know it, strolling along aisles and filling a cart, didn’t come about until the early 1930’s and their growth followed the popularity of the automobile.  Just think, have you ever seen a picture of a Kroger parking lot filled with horses and wagons?

Still, the question at hand is whether shrinking product size and rising prices is a modern invention.  I doubt it.  After all, King Solomon declared way back in 947 BC (according to the Reese Chronological Bible’s [Bethany House, 1977] estimation of the timeline) that there is nothing new under the sun. 

Businesses and businessmen have always had a reputation of fairness or the lack thereof.  Wiley housewives have long known that the cornmeal lasted a little longer if this mill ground it or that a pound of coffee made an extra few cups if you got it from that grocer.  Again, not a new problem.  Moses addressed fair weights and measures in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 25:13) as an absolute command – “Thou shalt not have in thine bag divers weights…” and verse fifteen gives a promise of long life for fair dealings.

I didn’t mean to get started on a sermon, but I wonder if the snack cake manufacturers ever read those verses?