NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Still scrambling for a last-minute holiday gift? Perhaps a Secret Santa offering for a colleague you hardly know? Then buy a scented candle, a decorative paperweight, a coffee mug with a stupid cartoon on it — buy anything except a gift box or basket filled with deluxe gourmet luxury versions of everyday foods. These make cruel presents, especially for recipients trying to be frugal about their grocery costs.
Recipients like me. My landlady sent me a gift box filled with pricey gourmet English muffins — $20 for 16 muffins, compared with the five bucks a dozen I usually pay. And I tried one of the designer muffins yesterday and OMG THIS IS FREAKING DELICIOUS, so now I’m guaranteed some unfulfilling breakfasts once the new year breaks: what will I eat after these upscale muffins are gone?
I am not replacing my household’s usual brand of English muffins with a thrice-the-price alternative; that alone would increase my grocery costs hundreds of dollars per year. But those ordinary mass-produced muffins I’ve eaten and enjoyed all my life simply don’t taste good to me anymore.
It reminds me of those dastardly drug dealers the schoolteachers of my childhood used to warn their students about: “First they will act all friendly, and give you some for free. Only when you’re hooked do you learn how expensive it is! And if you want any more, you have to pay.”
Yeah, that really is a business model. Except drug dealers aren’t the ones who follow it. Drug dealers don’t offer free samples of their enticing wares anytime I try innocently going about my business. No: It’s the gourmet-food pushers doing this, and hellafino how to visit a supermarket or shopping mall this time of year without running a gantlet of them.
In my broke-student college days, eating cheap English muffins, I was perfectly content to cover them with inexpensive margarine-based dairy spreads. But those have tasted bad to me for years now, ever since “they” got me hooked on real butter. Still, a pound of real butter every month is a small indulgence compared with tripling the cost of the muffins I spread it on.
Meanwhile, someone else gifted my husband a bottle of incredibly precious microbeer with a name like Pretentia-Brau, costlier even than my luxury muffins because those were handmade by ordinary people (who just happen to work in the gourmet breakfast biz), whereas the beer was handmade by monks living in a remote monastery under a vow of silence, and the beer is delivered on the backs of donkeys reputed to be direct male-line descendants of the original Christmas-story beast that carried Mary and Baby Jesus into Bethlehem.
Or maybe I’m confusing this year’s monastery gift beer with last year’s monastery gift jars of jams and jellies. Either way it’s the thought that counts, like how I once thought my mass-produced English muffins with margarine spread and store-brand strawberry jam all tasted good, until these luxury handcrafted gourmet food boxes thoughtfully showed me I was wrong.