Category Archives: “Dog Days” Diversions

Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

Why there is a shortage of Dijon mustard in France

First, find the seeds
The Economist – August 9, 2022

For the past few months, France has been gripped by the mystery of the Dijon mustard shortage.

The sharp pale-yellow condiment, a French household staple, has all but disappeared from the country’s supermarket shelves. When scarce deliveries arrive, some shops resort to rationing purchases to a single pot per person. On social media, amateur cooks swap ideas for an alternative ingredient to Dijon mustard in order to prepare vinaigrette, mayonnaise, or steak tartare, a French dish made of raw meat also seasoned with egg yolk and capers.

The sauce has a long history. In Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and home to the mustard that bears its name, the craft of the moutardier dates back to 1634. Yet even in this town, pots of the stuff are near-impossible to find.

The French consume a kilo of mustard per person each year. Much of it is the Dijon variety, a condiment that comes with a nose-tingling kick, not the milder and sweeter sauce slathered on hot dogs in Britain or America. Continue reading Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

Kansas Kartoons & Updated Classics

After Tuesday this week, I read about a political “earthquake” in Kansas. And a thunderbolt.  Even a “tsunami.”
Naaaah.  What happened there was a real surprise, for sure. Maybe a game-changer? ?

We’ll see. But the proper metaphor had to be what the hired man shouted to Dorothy and Auntie Em in the classic taught and watched in all true-blue American schools worthy of the name. Right?

But there’s more . . .

And pushback these days even comes through the mailbox . . .

But of course, the Original is still the greatest! Here are two, with minor updates:

 

It’s Wednesday Morning in Kansas, and America . . .

 

Getting Beyond, “Beyond Meat”

NOTE: By the accidents of love, family & history, there are four generations of my kinfolk now living near enough to crowd occasionally into our compact living room.

Here are three of the four generations, experiencing cultural transmission.

Such assemblies always prompt reflections, from the cosmic to, well, the comestible. And one recent recurring internal query has been: how many of the younger tier will reach adulthood still eating meat, in particular, beef?

I’m no vegetarian, but hardly ever buy beef. My eldest, not shown above, eats a lot less than formerly. No high principle here; cost and calories loom larger. As the youngest sisters mature, the price of beef seems likely to increase, a lot, especially as water, its main input, becomes scarcer and more precious. Burgers may become the rare gourmet indulgence.

So can technology deliver them acceptable, affordable substitutes? It’s trying, and I’ve given it a chance.

But . . . . There’s a bag of Beyond Meat “burgers” in my freezer, opened but languishing. In our micro-mini home field test, the verdict on them was a resounding: “Meh”: not awful, but not memorable or appealing.

As one analyst in the report below more ponderously put it: “Recruiting your next phase of consumers requires more innovation and better tasting products.” Took the words (except “better tasting”) right out of my keyboard, on a prolix day.

It seems Wall Street is also ready to pass on these patties; back to the lab, all ye in the white coats.


Reuters – Beyond Meat sales under threat as plant-based boom withers

Praveen Paramasivam — Aug 3 2022
(Reuters) – Beyond Meat Inc BYND.O is headed for an unappetizing second quarter as the plant-based food craze withers in the face of several weak product tests at restaurants and mediocre reviews.
Analysts have slashed forecasts for Beyond Meat’s sales on supply-chain concerns and waning demand that pulled down shares of the plant-based meat maker and peer Oatly Group AB OTLY.O from their lofty market debut levels.

“Part of the issue with the adoption of the category for new consumers is that you’re not going to change cultural tastes overnight,” Mizuho analyst John Baumgartner said. “Recruiting your next phase of consumers requires more innovation and better tasting products.”

Estimates for Beyond Meat’s second-quarter revenue have fallen by 10% over the last three months, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

CONTEXT
McDonald’s Corp MCD.N last week became the latest chain to not go through with an immediate broader launch of Beyond Meat products, after concluding its U.S. test of a burger made with the plant-based meat without confirming future plans.

Tests at Panda Express and Yum Brands Inc’s YUM.N KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have also yet to lead to a permanent or U.S.-wide launch, while Dunkin, Hardee’s and A&W have discontinued products after launching, according to brokerage Piper Sandler.
Reviews for Beyond Meat’s plant-based jerky also indicate skepticism about the taste of the product, stoking concerns about the sustainability of its sales momentum, Piper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery wrote in a note on Friday.

The company has had to discount more to encourage inflation-hit consumers to pick up its products over those of competitors at grocers, leading analysts to say its expectation for average revenue growth of 27% for 2022 now appears steep.

FUNDAMENTALS
* Beyond Meat is expected to post a marginal increase in revenue for the second quarter, when it reports on Thursday, with loss per share widening to $1.18.

* Wall Street expects Beyond Meat to lose $4.48 per share for 2022, much bigger than the $2.88 it expected on April 27, when the company reported results for the first quarter.

Take THAT, Inflation! (COSTCO Keeps Its Cheapo Hot Dogs. And Pizza.

My apologies in advance to those readers who are not COSTCO members, for whatever reason. Many folks I know live out of range of a store, and I comfort them when I can.

But I also wax enthusiastic about the place. I was first drawn to it because of reports that COSTCO paid store workers well above the other big box rates, yet still managed to have good prices and stay seriously profitable; almost a capitalist dream-come true. Wall St. likes it, and those reports seem to be accurate.

But a big box store, however well-paying, is still a big box store; which is not my favorite environment. Yet COSTCO knows that, and has psyched out ways to draw in folks like me. And the main way to my heart, these days (as of old, for that matter), is through my tummy.

Here, COSTCO’s slimmed-down version of a food court is a winner. And the company aims to keep it that way.

The heart of its menu is big hot dogs; the soul is pizza.  There are a couple other items, tho they move much more slowly. But the dogs are big, the pizza is bigger, and comes in any combo you want, as long as it’s cheese or pepperoni.  (You can get some frozen yogurt if you’re feeling flush; otherwise, a bottle of very cold water is a quarter.)

And the dog plus a soda is a buck-fifty flat. A whole large pizza, on which they’re not stingy with toppings, is $10; you’d pay $20 or more at the chains.

This is not cuisine for Whole Foods picky eaters (tho COSTCO  carries plenty of organic stuff too). Instead, it’s an inflation-fighter’s feast for less than two bucks, or two-three big gooey pieces each for a family of four, a budget banquet at barely a buck a slice.

I read a clip that said the hot dog price goes back to the 1980s, when COSTCO was just starting out. It figures; the dog is not only a cheap meal: it’s an icon, a sacred edible object.

Normally, icons are not to be messed with; but “Hello, COSTCO, meet your new neighbor. He’s in a hot new band:  N. Flation and the Supply Chain Stickups. You’ll be hearing a lot from him.”

True enough, lots of prices at COSTCO have gone up. But as of the end of July, their CEO is holding the line on lunch:

In a July 25 interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” CEO Craig Jelinek had a one-word answer when asked whether he would raise the signature food court item’s price: “No.”

Costco has continued to put up strong sales, even as other retailers have spoken about consumers becoming more budget-conscious and spending more on services instead of goods. It’s also avoided another recent problem for many retailers: excess inventory that’s racked up in warehouses and stores, which must now be packed away or marked down.

Yet amid nearly four-decade high inflation, Costco has raised the prices of some food court staples. Earlier this month, its chicken bake jumped from $2.99 to $3.99 and its 20-ounce soda rose by 10 cents to 69 cents. That prompted speculation that its hot dog’s super low price could be due for a hike, too. The hot dog and soda combo . . . was the subject of a Mental Floss article from 2018 that recently began circulating again.

The article recounts a time when Jelinek approached Costco co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal. He told him the company was losing money over the iconic food item.

“I came to (Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty,” Jelinek said, according to the Mental Floss article, which cites 425Business. “We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ That’s all I really needed.”

Another aspect of Costco’s business has also been under scrutiny: When its membership fee might increase. Costco membership costs $60 a year or $120 a year for an executive membership, a higher-tier option that includes additional discounts and perks.

The vast majority of Costco’s profit comes from the annual fees rather than from selling items. It has historically raised it every 5½ years and the last increase was in June 2017, putting it on track for a rise soon, according to Corey Tarlowe, an analyst at Jefferies. Its membership fee typically increases by $10.

Jelinek told CNBC that a membership fee hike is “not on the table right at the moment.”

“I made it very clear,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right time. Our sign-ups continue to be strong.”

Note that Jelinek didn’t mention pizza. But this weekend when I came in, it was the same price too, and still just as gooey greasy good.

Of course, their strategy is obvious: we come for the cheap dogs & pepperoni, and stay for less dramatic bargains on organic tofu bits, computers and couches.

Taking on inflation is a kind of trench warfare, and few emerge unscathed. Checking mine against the menu marquee, it seemed clear that while the dog was as big, the bun was an inch or maybe two shorter.  Plus, the chopped onions, which I used to heap on and call salad, are gone.

But war is hell. In a battle of inches, they’re fighting the good fight. Add in a well-paid and highly efficient staff, and COSTCO works for me.

PS. I did not get paid for this rave review.

Liz Cheney: Running for Her Life

A Life & Death Race. Not Exaggerating.

AP News: Liz Cheney braces for primary loss as focus shifts to 2024

BY STEVE PEOPLES AND MEAD GRUVER —  July 24, 2022

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Three weeks before the most significant election of her political career, Liz Cheney was nowhere to be seen as thousands of voters gathered for a massive midsummer rodeo and cowboy festival in Wyoming’s largest city. Continue reading Liz Cheney: Running for Her Life

Banning & Suppressing Books: Part of Our (Not Very) Brave New World

New York Times: There’s More Than One Way To Ban a Book

[COMMENT:  I read Lolita some years ago. Creepy. Unsettling. Perverse, but hardly prurient. Not for kids; but ban it? Nope.

I never read Darwin, but if anyone still doubts the nub of his argument, then don’t worry about the latest COVID variants; God created each of them specially for YOU. Banning Darwin’s book, stupid; ignoring it, stupider.

I also read Maya Angelou’s Gather Together in My Name; powerful. I can see why some don’t like it: earthy, unvarnished, but for me, a fine tale of survival.

I expect to skip Mike Pence’s tome; though you never know. . . .]

July 24, 2022

PAUL: In the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” was banned in France, Britain and Argentina, but not in the United States, where its publisher, Walter Minton, released the book after multiple American publishing houses rejected it.

Minton is part of a noble tradition. Over the years, American publishers have fought back against efforts to repress a wide range of works — from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Just last year, Simon & Schuster defended its book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence, despite a petition signed by more than 200 Simon & Schuster employees and other book professionals demanding that the publishing house cancel the deal. The publisher, Dana Canedy, and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, held firm.

I might read Pence’s book, if it comes clean about this Bernie meme.

The American publishing industry has long prided itself on publishing ideas and narratives that are worthy of our engagement, even if some people might consider them unsavory or dangerous, and for standing its ground on freedom of expression.

But that ground is getting shaky. Though the publishing industry would never condone book banning, a subtler form of repression is taking place in the literary world, restricting intellectual and artistic expression from behind closed doors, and often defending these restrictions with thoughtful-sounding rationales. As many top editors and publishing executives admit off the record, a real strain of self-censorship has emerged that many otherwise liberal-minded editors, agents and authors feel compelled to take part in.

More Weekend Humor

Stephen Colbert

“He chose not to act,” Colbert added. “Same review he got for [his cameo role in the movie] Home Alone 2.”

The committee retraced Trump’s steps for the whole of January 6, including the afternoon spent watching Fox News in the White House. “Nothing unusual there – just an elderly man, parked in front of Fox News all day, confused about where the president is,” Colbert quipped.

Seth Meyers

On Late Night, Seth Meyers previewed Thursday’s primetime hearing with a teaser from the committee, in which it confirmed Trump spent the afternoon of January 6 sitting in a White House dining room watching television. “You’ve got to give it to Donald Trump – he was somehow both the most dangerous and also the laziest president in American history,” said Meyers. “Donald Trump, in the dining room, with the television, that’s the answer to every mystery in a game of Trump Clue.”

Meyers replayed depositions from several White House staffers, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, confirming that Trump spent all afternoon watching TV. “. . .  “He was cheering them on like he was watching Sunday Night Football. I’m shocked we don’t have a photo of him in the Oval Office wearing a hat, a foam finger and jersey that says Team Insurrection.”

Regardless of what aired on Thursday, “so much crazy shit has happened that it’s easy to forget the details of any specific Trump scandal,” Meyers added.

“I really hope that particular sequence of events is seared into history for ever. Normally, our history textbooks all have boring names, like Modern America: 1950 to the present, but when they get around to writing a book about this, they should just call it The Dude Tried to Get His Own Vice President KILLED, I MEAN WTF!!!”

And a PS. From Friday: Steve Bannon was convicted of contempt in federal court. The trial was a quickie — the Justice Department lawyer was reportedly aiming to make the Guinness Book of  World Records for The Shortest Prosecution Evah. One account I heard said it went something like this:

Prosecutor: Your Honor, the government will show that the defendant Bannon showed utter contempt for this court. (To the witness): Ma’am, did you send this subpoena to Mr. Bannon?

The witness: Yep.

Prosecutor: Did Mr. Bannon appear at the appointed time and place?

The witness: Nope.

Prosecutor: No further questions. Your Honor, the prosecution rests.

[This testimony has been edited and reimagined, but not all that much.]

But alas, weekends don’t last very long . . .

. . . Then, it’s “back to business” in the hallowed halls . . .

 

 

Another Monarch Butterfly Doom & Gloom Report

Washington Post: Why monarch butterflies, now endangered, are on the ‘edge of collapse’

The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the migratory insect on its endangered species list Thursday.

 

By Dino Grandoni
 — July 21, 2022

The migratory monarch butterfly, a North American icon with a continent-spanning annual journey, now faces the threat of extinction, according to a top wildlife monitoring group.

Thursday’s decision by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to declare the species endangered comes as years of habitat destruction and rising temperatures have decimated the fluttering orange itinerants’ population.
The species’ numbers have dropped between 22 and 72 percent over the past decade, according to the new assessment. Monarchs in the Western United States are in particular danger: The population declined by an estimated 99.9 percent, from as many as 10 million butterflies in the 1980s to fewer than 2,000 in 2021.

“It is difficult to watch monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration teeter on the edge of collapse, but there are signs of hope,” said Anna Walker, an entomologist at the New Mexico BioPark Society who led the butterfly assessment.

The loss of monarchs underscores a looming extinction crisis worldwide, with profound implications for the humans who have caused it. One million species could disappear, according to the United Nations, a potential calamity not just for plants and animals but also for the people who depend on ecosystems for food and fresh water.

The IUCN is a network of governmental and nonprofit organizations that comprehensively tracks the status of species. Scientists from around the world work together to produce assessments.
 Continue reading Another Monarch Butterfly Doom & Gloom Report

Annals of Inequality: Bulletins on How the Other Half (of 001%) Gets By

What the Eco-Conscious Oligarch Will Soon Be Driving

CNBC: — AUTOS

Here’s what Cadillac’s new $300,000 electric sedan will look like

KEY POINTS
  • GM on Friday unveiled the Cadillac Celestiq, previewing an upcoming car that will cost $300,000 or more when it goes into production by late 2023.
  • The car marks a pivot for Cadillac into hand-built vehicles, which are typically reserved for high-end sports cars and uber-luxury models.
  • GM did not release any technical details about the Celestiq such as its electric range, performance or other metrics.

The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

DETROIT – General Motors on Friday previewed what its most expensive Cadillac ever will look like as the automaker attempts to redefine the quintessential American luxury brand into an electric vehicle leader.

The Detroit automaker unveiled a “show car” version of the Cadillac Celestiq, an upcoming hand-built sedan that will cost about $300,000 or more when it’s expected to go into production by late 2023. Cadillac is calling the vehicle its new “all-electric flagship sedan.”

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Celestic show car

The car marks a pivot for Cadillac into hand-built vehicles, which are typically reserved for high-end sports cars and uber-luxury vehicles such as Rolls-Royce exclusive models. Cadillac aims to exclusively offer EVs by the end of this decade.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

GM did not release any technical details about the Celestiq such as its electric range, performance or other metrics.

The vehicle will feature five LED interactive displays, including a 55-inch-diagonal screen spanning the front cabin of the car; a “smart glass roof” that includes customizable transparency options; and Ultra Cruise, GM’s next-generation advanced driver-assist system that the company has said will be capable of driving itself in most circumstances.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

GM confirmed such technologies will be part of the production car, however declined to provide additional details. The Wall Street Journal first reported the expected price and production of the Celestiq, which CNBC also confirmed through a person familiar with the plans who spoke anonymously because they haven’t been made public.

A show car is meant to preview an upcoming production car. As opposed to a “concept car” that automakers typically use to preview certain elements or design direction of a car or brand that may or may not be produced. Cadillac leveraged a similar launch strategy with the electric Lyriq SUV, which recently went into production.

GM said designers drew inspiration from well-known cars such as the bespoke V-16 powered “coaches” of the era before World War II and the hand-built 1957 Eldorado Brougham.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

“Those vehicles represented the pinnacle of luxury in their respective eras, and helped make Cadillac the standard of the world,” Tony Roma, chief engineer of the Celestiq, said in a release. “The Celestiq show car — also a sedan, because the configuration offers the very best luxury experience — builds on that pedigree and captures the spirt of arrival they expressed.”

GM is investing $81 million at its tech center in suburban Detroit to hand build the upcoming Cadillac Celestiq. It marks the first time GM will produce a vehicle for commercial sales at its massive tech campus in Warren, Michigan.

Highlights from a Jan. 6 Late-Night

NOTE: Normally I don’t watch late-night TV. That’s less from snobbery than the fact that normally I’m asleep by then. But I make an exception when the January 6 Committee show runs til almost midnight.

(Full disclosure: I didn’t watch those late shows last night either. But the New York Times did, as a special service for its less hardy subscribers, providing these tidbits.)

 

“He did not call them from a box.
He did not call while watching Fox.

He did not help out Uncle Sam.
His brain is made of eggs and ham.
But, in his defense, it is possible he forgot the number for 9-1-1.”

— STEPHEN COLBERT, on news that Trump didn’t reach out to any security officials on Jan. 6.

“Yes, he is a stain on our history — and thanks to these hearings, we know that stain is ketchup.”

— STEPHEN COLBERT, referring to Representative Adam Kinzinger’s referring to Trump’s inaction as “a stain” on our history.

“The White House announced that President Biden has a mild case of Covid. On the bright side, it’s the first positive news Biden’s gotten in months.”

— JIMMY FALLON

And, the winner’s trophy in the Capitol Underground 100-Yard Dash goes to Jumpin’ Josh Hawley, the Sprinting Senator from  Missouri.

Why is this man smiling? Timothy Miller’s book just hit the NYTimes bestseller list.