OM293 - Generic Food

This week, Ken and John talk about:

Dr. Pepper and Root Beer (OM293)

John likes Dr. Pepper and Ken drinks Diet Pepper. They are probably not going to advertise on the show. John’s great-grandfather was a Pepper and in 1932 he would go to Van Wert Ohio and while his wife went to the Woolworth to buy chicken feed he would buy a single Dr. Pepper and stand out on the corner of 1st and Main and savor his drink for an hour and every one in town would pass by. Having his Dr. Pepper was his opportunity to talk to his fellow town’s people because he lived on a far way out in the middle of BFE (Bum Fuck Egypt). The only drinks available at the time were Dr. Pepper and Sarsaparilla.

When Ken was a kid he read some Encyclopedia Brown mystery that hinges on Root Beer and Sarsaparilla tasting exactly the same, but that is not true. If you go to the United Kingdom and talk to people about Root Beer, they will tell you that Root Beer and cough syrup taste exactly the same, but of course they are wrong. We have tricked a generation of kids into thinking that root beer is delicious by giving it to them as a sparkly soda, whereas if you told them that it was for their throat, they would be saying: ”Don’t make me have that!”

John loves a Root Beer, but he is not a Root Beer brand purist. He will drink 6 different brands, even at the same time, stirring them together in a big vat because that is how you make Dr. Pepper.

John being a Delta airline loyalist (OM293)

John is an airline loyalist. For decades he was buying the cheapest ticket until he realized that his life was twice as hard and unpleasant as necessary and he needed a system. The only reason he chose Delta is because friends of the show John Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton sat him down 12 years ago, shook him by the lapel and say: ”You need to get right with the airlines! Get on this milage program!” Ken wonders if that is Delta’s multilevel marketing program and if Hodgman gets a few cents on the dollar every time John buys a ticket.

They were traveling a lot together and Hodgman's magic platinum power got John in first class over and over and if John wouldn’t be saving up those Delta points he was just throwing money on the ground, which sounded like a dumb thing, so he signed up and got caught in this whole craziness of trying to get his status every year and he felt like he had been duped twice because he lost the ease of just buying the cheapest ticket and because he somehow joined a cult without even wanting it. It is a terrible cult because once you are in their cult they can treat you as badly as they want.

One time John got upgraded to first class and the flight attendant opened a can of pop for the guy next to him and a little drip got on the guy's pants. He was totally cool about it, but the flight attendant was like: ”Oh, sir, I am so sorry! Why don’t I give you 10.000 miles on your Delta card?” and John said: ”Some got on me, too!” and they both laughed. On subsequent flights John had flight attendants spill hot coffee on him and he would say: ”Well, you could make it right!” - ”Sorry!” and they would just skate off.

They can upgrade you to gold status or they can pee in your coffee. That guy might have been something special. They have a chart about that. Every once in a while John did have to fly on American or United and he realized that there are worse things than being on Delta. Being on American is worse, but being on United? John doesn’t even see how people can live like that.

Brand-loyalty, store-brands, Mindy's no-recipe rule (OM293)

John doesn't want to give free advertising to half a dozen products that have not paid to be on the Omnibus, but he is wearing Mack Weldon underwear right now. He only likes a certain brand of frozen pizza (DiGiorno) and if he can’t get that one he won’t get any others. He has driven Fords and Chevys, he has played Fenders and Gibsons, and a lot of other things where people become super-dedicated to one of a bicameral universe. You are either a Fender or a Gibson person, but a lot of these choices are tribalism.

John is not a brand-loyalist for coffee and he will drink whatever coffee you have, but he can tell if one coffee is less good than another. The real coffee fashion people really love Ethiopian super-acidic light roast coffee, but John doesn’t like it. He likes dark roast, Central American chocolate-tasting coffee, your old-fashioned dad coffee, the darker the better.

Any time you are in a long-time or temporary poverty you are very aware of which brands are $0.08 less on the shelf. During college time Ken would always buy the $0.19 store-brand Macaroni & Cheese and it was terrible. There is a big difference between Kraft and Foodtown Macaroni & Cheese. That orange color is not found in nature, except maybe in Trinity New Mexico.

John could not possibly use store-brand raspberry jam. He will spend extra for good jam because the gulf between good jam and bad jam is so broad. Ken buys the weird French ones in the plaid little jars, and so does John because that stuff is delicious and the Mamans (Bonne Maman) are so much better! The handmade raspberry jam you can buy at the Oregon country fair or up in Skykomish is really good, but it is also $14 a jar.

Ken asked Mindy which things she will buy the store brand of, and she was very poopooing store brands. He went through the cabinets and said: ”You bought this can of beans!” - ”Sure, beans!” - ”What about ketchup?” - ”I would never buy store brand ketchup!” Ken doesn’t think he would taste the difference in a lot of these no-frills brands.

John will almost always buy the generic medicine because in Sudafed or the Bartell’s version Acetaminophen is still Acetaminophen, there is no government B-grade of it. That was Mindy’s bright line test, too: ”Anything with a recipe!” A can of kidney beans doesn’t have a recipe, but she is not going to buy store-brand Oreos because they will just taste like college and poverty.

John’s friends drinking only Schmidt-beer in college (OM293)

During his college days John had some reverse-snobbery in he form of beer. He and his friends became absolute loyalists of Schmidt beer, which is pretty often the cheapest beer, and hey fought for Schmidt. If you had bought really nice beer and a half-rack of Schmidt, they would have absolutely gone to the Schmidt first and it became a cult among John’s little group of Alaskan friends. They just decided that Schmidt was their emblem. They would drink Schlitz, they would drink Oley, but Schmidt was where they lived.

Later generic beer appeared on the market and John’s friends reasoned that if Schmidt is good then generic beer is going to be great, but it really tasted like whatever was left in the vat after they put the Schmidt in cans was put into a plastic garbage bag, left it in the parking lot for a week, and then poured into beer cans. It gets more sour and tastes more like underwear funk.

Generic beer should have sold the concept of generic brands because 15% of the beer-buying public just wants beer and they do not care. John’s recently deceased brother (David) drank the cheapest Keystone Ice Light that he could get because beer is a thing you want to consume in mass quantities. Nobody asks you if you want a Michelob unless you are in an ad. What you say is: ”Hey, can I grab you a beer?” and if you are with fancy people you grab a fancy beer.

John not eating cereal (OM293)

Ken likes the big bags of cheap cereal and it feels like he is getting away with something by not paying for the mascot, the rabbit or the leprechaun. He is a cereal eater, but John is not. He is pretty alone in the don’t-eat-cereal world, but: ”Cereal? Am I a horse?” You just put some food coloring, sugar, and milk on some horse food! Ken eats it with milk, that is the whole thing, and he eats it in small mini-bowls so that it doesn’t get soggy.

It is all about the texture: You want hard horse food with cold milk. To his day Ken always buys the big bags of off-brand cereal. He will turn down Lucky Charms, even if they are on sale, in order to get a big bag of Marshmallow Mateys, which is just Lucky Charms with a nautical theme, and as he told that to a girl one time she agreed to go out with him on the strength of that.

John did eat cereal when he was a kid and it does feel like kid food to him. Ken does feel that way about bubble gum. John liked Cocoa Pebbles, which are like Rice Crispies, and they were the low-rent Cocoa Crispies, but John really liked it and it is where his taste developed. Later they became like the treasure of the Sierra Madre and you couldn’t find them anywhere and John had his mom drive from grocery store to grocery store and wouldn’t settle for less than the worst Flintstones-based foods.

Cocoa Puffs, corn balls dipped in cocoa powder, had a lot of knock-offs and so had Cheetos, which are the cheese version of Cocoa Puffs. There are many store-brand-versions of Cheetos and they are all inedible, but Cheetos are the greatest of all foods. Ken doesn’t understand why store-brand-versions are bad like that because these recipes have to be simple. Why can no store make a good store-brand Oreo or Storeo? They are probably not using the right quantities of Xanthan Gum or the additives are expensive enough that they are just going to leave out the Sodium Benzoate or the Lecithin and that is what does it. It is always something in the acidity or some combination of Umami and sugar. Maybe they leave it in the sun too long in a bag in the parking lot.

Ken’s brother collecting Dr. Pepper knock-offs in his office fridge, store brand soda (OM293)

Ken’s brother was working at a tech company and he had a fridge in his office where he would stock nothing else but store brands of Dr. Pepper. Every no-frills brand has a Cola equivalent and a Dr. Pepper equivalent, but they can’t say that, so they call it Dr. Thunder, Dr. Safeway, Dr. Sierra, Dr. Cragmont, or Dr. Pooper, and Ken's brother would just fill a fridge with these awful Dr. Pepper knock-offs. It was entirely meant as a bit and when somebody in his office wanted a soda he would offer them a Dr. Shasta or a Dr. Mountain. This is why we can’t tax the rich: All the humor of life goes away if they don’t have the free time, the resources, and the disposable income to put gags like this together.

Ken and John grew up in the West and they both drank Shasta. John loved Shasta and RC Cola, but Coke is one thing where Ken gets annoyed when it doesn’t taste like Coke. In Seattle they have Jones Cola and it just tastes like bubble gum because they are using real sugar and real extracts of whatever, and it just tastes like a candy store. What about Mexican Coke? Ken is not racist and he is not going to separate a family.

Ken thinks about what Mexican Coke has done for this country: It chose to be here, while we are here by coincidence. There was an anchor Coke that came here and brought Mexican Coke later. It probably was Jarritos, a Mexican Soda that is beloved in Ken’s house for its fun flavors. Even Fanta is not making a Tamarind or a Pineapple version, but now they are probably going to get letters that there is a Pineapple Fanta in the Philippines and Columbia and they are going to have to issue an apology.

Ken wearing Kirkland clothes from Costco, Consumer Reports (OM293)

John thinks that there is enough of Libertarianism in Ken that he would reject brand loyalty because he is not going to be held in prison by Cocoa Pebbles, but Ken actually has quite a bit of brand loyalty to Trader Joe’s although it is hard to park there and the stores are not arranged in a square grid. A lot of their products come off the same assembly lines as name-brand products, and they just run the second half of the run with Trader Joe’s brand.

It is the same as Costco and Ken also loves Costco. The fleece he was wearing was Kirkland because the regular ones at Target were $18, but this was $16.50. Whenever he pulls into the charging station for his Nissan Leaf that Kirkland fleece really keeps the breeze off. Ken’s car is actually a Chevy Volt. Costco is less evil and it pays its employees well, but their house brand rule is that it has to be as good as top-of-the-line stuff and this fleece is a good fleece.

The triple-distilled Kirkland French Vodka that they put right next to the Grey Goose is probably Grey Goose, they are just not allowed to call it such. It feels a little bit Consumer Reports, that is what Ken loves about it. It got the circle with the nipple in it, which is the best Consumer Reports thing. You don’t want the red half-circle. ”Don’t buy the Magnavox!”

For a couple of decades people reading about which toaster was better than that toaster, although they never were actually shopping for a toaster. When Ken and John were kids they both read Consumer Reports cover to cover. Ken loved it when it was something he actually had an opinion on. He would read the car stuff, but he was not buying a car, but occasionally they would have: ”Who has better French Fries? Wendy’s, Burger King, or McDonalds?” John read the car things avidly, but he would read an entire review of weed trimmers and be rooting for one when it got the green circle for reliability.

John only eating cheese when it is cubed on toothpicks (OM293)

At the start of the 1970s John was always riding in the cart in Supermarkets. By the end of the 1970s he could go there by himself and he remembers distinctly the feel of those aisles. Ken always got a free cookie when he went to the Safeway on 65th. One time John went to the grocery store and there was a woman in a uniform holding a tray with little cubes of Cheddar Cheese with toothpicks in them and she asked John if he would like to try a piece of cheese.

The cheese tasted so much better that for 5 years after that John only wanted cheese cubed and served with a toothpick by a blonde in a flight-attendant uniform. It tasted twice as good as cheese in any other form. John’s mom continued to fool him and rather than giving him a birthday cake she just cubed some cheese and put some toothpicks in it and John felt like it was the most deluxe thing you could get.

Ken wearing $1 sunglasses from the dollar store (OM293)

Ken has brand loyalty to dollar stores sunglasses. He loses sunglasses so often that he will just wear $1 sunglasses because he knows he is going to leave them on a restaurant table next week. John has a lot of brand fascination with sunglasses, and because he is a glasses wearer a part of his brain is designed to keeping something on the bridge of his nose and that is why John doesn’t loose his sunglasses. John says he does lose them also, and that sucks.

John dating Naturopathic doctors (OM293)

They make fun of homeopathy, but it is out of love. John has dated enough students at Aster College and he doesn’t want to get into any more trouble than he already is and he doesn’t want to screw up his dating pool of Naturopathic doctors. Ken also doesn’t want people to die by thinking that you can put a little penicillin in water and then just drink the water. If it is required that you die in order for John’s Naturopathic doctor dating pool not being restricted, then there is a number of people he is willing to see go, it is a risk-to-reward ratio and John is willing to risk a certain number of people in order to continue to date Naturopathic doctors.

Cheap toilet paper (OM293)

Mindy kept buying the Kirkland toilet paper until Ken eventually said: ”Mindy, I am a millionaire now, you can buy real toilet paper!” John has this problem with his East Cost friends. No matter how well they do in life, they still buy Scott toilet paper because they see it as thrifty or good enough, but Scott tissue paper is prison toilet paper and if there is one thing you are going to spend money on it is the softest cushiest toilet paper that money can buy.

The creek in John’s backyard (OM293)

John’s backyard has a small creek and somewhere upstream there is a cistern and the local government is managing the water in such a way that every once in a while John would be down in the creek, catching Pollywogs, and the flow will increase by 50% like if someone had hand-cranked a valve. All of a sudden the creek has all this water and an hour later it subsides and goes back to its regular flow. John doesn’t know what city agency is responsible for this, but he is super-curious who somewhere upstream is in some coveralls and is making decisions that are affecting John’s life.

Other (OM293)

The number of people who dislike potatoes is 0.5%, which means John is 1 in 200 and in a room full of 200 people he is the only one. It confirms what John knows about the world: Everyone else is wrong!

When Ken opened listener mail he discovered he had brought a Pokémon card for John’s daughter, a Feraligatr, but that did not come in the mail and just happened to be in Ken’s bag.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License