Saturday, April 25, 2020

Still Life with Robin: Coronavirus and the Meaning of Life (Cereal, That Is)

by Peggy Robin

People are using the lockdown period to discover some deep inner truths about their lives. They are learning about what it means to be “essential.” They are gaining a truer understanding of the value of family, friends, and other human connections in a time of social distancing. They are coming together in spiritual ways when physical contact with loved ones is taken away. These insights are important gains amid all the losses.

And me? Yeah, I’m getting all that deep stuff, too. And on top of all that, I’ve been finding out out what brand-name products really are better than the generics.

Sometimes the trivial things occupy a space in your brain that keeps you from focusing on the actual …. and sometimes terrifying … larger and more important things in life. So here goes:

A Bounty paper towel really is the “quicker picker upper.” Can’t wait till I can get my hands on the good stuff again!

There is no toilet paper on earth as soft as Charmin. It’s not just brainwashing by that bear in the Charmin commercials. That bear is the Bearer of Truth.

There’s nothing like Claussen Hearty Garlic Pickles, found (if there were any to be found) in the refrigerated section of the store. Crisp! Haven’t seen them once since the shelter-in-place order began. If I did, I’d buy a dozen jars. Yes, I admit it, I would turn into a pickle hoarder. Selfish, selfish, I know, and believe me, I hate myself for it. But I also hate eating mushy, flavorless pickles.

When it comes to canned tuna, sorry Charlie, but Bumblebee’s three-pack of individual-sized cans are the best thing going. And you can’t beat the convenience of pulling back the pop-top of just one of those mini-cans and scooping out the right amount of tuna for a single tunafish sandwich. Add a dollop mayo,a bit of chopped celery and onion, and you’ve got quick, tasty lunch with no leftovers to mess with, and virtually no cleanup.

And now for the meaning of Life. And Total. And Raisin Bran. It’s hard to fathom why the generic cereals sold under store brands fail so badly to live up to the standard set by the brand-name originals. Is it just the placebo effect on the taste buds of seeing the cereal come out of brighter, better-designed, more familiar brand-name boxes? Why is a no-name corn flake so much worse than a Kellogg’s corn flake? Why is a fake Cheerio never as Cheery?

I would rather ponder these questions than worry about how long the lockdown will go on, and will it be long enough to flatten the curve? I’m not equipped to analyze the more serious questions, in any case. So I sit with my bowl of fake Cheerios and dream of the day when all the shelves of the nation will rebound with an explosion of brand-name bounty….and real BOUNTY, too.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.    


  1. Gosh. It’s good to know that Bounty is the “quicker picker upper!” That’s all I have bought for the last umpteen years. Costco sells them in 12-pack bundles and I got one weeks ago.

  2. Loved your piece. Thanks to some of my favorite items gone from Giant's shelves, I've found myself trying variations of my standbys -- i.e. a different version of sardines by King Oscar, exposure to cherry tomatoes or apricots au naturel.... My food horizons (limited though they are) have somewhat expanded...some new consumption patterns emerging.... So, one unexpected consequence of our changed food consumption options.

  3. Until you are able to find the real thing, I'd like to suggest Bubbe's Kosher Dills. I found them in the cooler at the Yes! organic market in my neighborhood and they are probably available where you are, as well. They're pretty crispy, loaded with garlic and salt. Good luck. Be well, stay safe.